B-side of I’m Hooked
(Written by Clarence Paul, Bunny Paul and Michael Valvano)
We’re Only Young Once is probably more like what Berry Gordy envisioned he might get when he signed veteran white cabaret star Bunny Paul to Motown for a one-shot single deal. A marked improvement over the horrible out-of-key karaoke stylings of the A-side, a mangled cover of the Marvelettes’ I’m Hooked, this lush, soppy ballad is much more in keeping both with the style of Miss Paul’s voice and with the limits of her vocal abilities at the time (she was still recovering from serious brain surgery when she came to Hitsville).
It’s interesting to me that something like this could come out of the Bunny/Motown partnership, reinforcing once again (to me, anyway) that a good match between an overlooked singer and some mediocre material often results in a record greater than the sum of its parts.
The “parts” in question here are both better and worse than I’m making them sound. The Vandellas turn in some nice backing vocals, even if by now they’re palpably phoning it in; the band are now polished enough to cover all bases smoothly and proficiently, turning in a syrupy midtempo bongos-and-horns MOR groove with consummate ease; Bunny herself is in her element, her half-spoken Connie Francis-accented drawl fitting the material so much better than on the A-side.
Beneath all of that, it’s a fairly forgettable little song, a throwaway ditty co-penned by producer Clarence Paul (no relation), Michael Valvano (the “Mike” of Mike and the Modifiers, another one-shot white Motown act) and by the singer herself. Bunny having a writing credit on this probably explains her being more comfortable with what she’s being asked to do here – no R&B ad-libs or shouts, just a smooth, undemanding, laid-back vocal – but it’s all at the expense of making a genuinely memorable song, rather than nice background music.
Hardly a classic or anything, but it does at least have a sound all of its own, and while completely ineffectual, it’s all still rather pretty. Bunny, not yet fully recovered, wouldn’t return to showbiz again, but after the embarrassing A-side, at least this flip gave her the chance to go out with her pride relatively unblemished.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
(I’ve had MY say, now it’s your turn. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment, or click the thumbs at the bottom there. Dissent is encouraged!)
You’re reading Motown Junkies, an attempt to review every Motown A- and B-side ever released. Click on the “previous” and “next” buttons below to go back and forth through the catalogue, or visit the Master Index for a full list of reviews so far.
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