(Written by Clarence Paul)
This is more like it.
Mable John’s Motown farewell – she’d been the first woman to record for the label back in 1960, but musical policy was changing sharply in the face of the tastes of young America – had been an unsatisfying remake of her first single, a pop-inflected version of Who Wouldn’t Love A Man Like That, a somewhat misjudged attempt to market Mable alongside Motown’s other pop acts.
It didn’t work – “Motown was just turning so pop, and I knew I wasn’t pop”, she says in the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 3 – but here on the flip, teamed with another hotshot writer/producer in Clarence Paul, she got one last chance to do something more in keeping with her R&B/blues heritage.
Opening with a strident, slightly offbeat “Deceive me!”, this is a meandering, bluesy number on which Mable sounds far more comfortable. Backed up with some neat guitar, brushed drums and extremely complementary male backing vocals, it sounds really good.
The song doesn’t actually go anywhere, but it’s extremely well-performed, and the bit at 1:54 where Mable exhorts her lover to Kiss me, kiss me, kiss me – nightly! is absolutely charming. The song itself is pretty thin, but it at least gives her an opportunity to be herself.
So, Say You’ll Never Let Me Go isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s still heartening to hear Mable in her own environment. Slightly rough around the edges, the band track wasn’t a bespoke creation for Mable – it was prepared the previous year for an otherwise-unknown act called the Dualtones, who posterity seems to have overlooked – but it fits her much better than the “square peg/round hole” feel of the A-side, and it accurately foreshadows the direction she’d move in for her greatest commercial success in the future.
Because her stint at Motown, history-making as it was, was a false start for the career of Mable John. Finding herself unappreciated, she left the company (ironically enough, immediately before Motown set up Soul Records to release product with apparently limited pop appeal, where she would have been a perfect fit). Instead, she moved on to Stax, Motown’s only credible independent rival in the mid- and late-Sixties, where she came into her own on a grand scale. Mable smashed the R&B Top Ten with the magnificent Your Good Thing Is About To End in 1966, which I could listen to all day, and released a string of follow-up singles for Stax before joining Ray Charles’ backing group in the Seventies. The best of her Motown recordings are collected on the compilation My Name Is Mable, which is well worth checking out. But for us here on Motown Junkies, this is where we part ways.
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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“Who Wouldn’t Love A Man Like That” (version 2)
“Farewell My Love”
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