B-side of I Gotta Dance To Keep From Crying
(Written by Smokey Robinson)
B-side of I Gotta Dance To Keep From Crying
(Released in the UK under license through EMI / Stateside Records)
I’ve been doing this site for a year and a half now, and it’s continued to grow in popularity throughout that time. Which is nice.
Still, now that there are actually thousands of people reading this stuff (hello out there!), I know that whenever I give a record a mark that’s lower than people were epxecting, there’ll be some disagreement and some hurt feelings. So, when something like Such Is Love, Such Is Life hoves into view, I get a sense of trepidation. I find it pretty enough in its way, but for the most part just blandly nondescript. However, I also know this is very highly regarded among Miracles fans (one person I know actually names this as her favourite Miracles record, which just blows my mind.) I’m hoping – as I always hope when I give a record a mark below five out of ten – that people will pop up in the comments to defend it, to give a fuller picture. Because I’m listening to this right now, and if there’s anything truly remarkable in it, I’m just not hearing it.
It’s possible that I’m judging this harshly because we’re in the middle of a great run of Motown singles and this is the first sub-par effort to trouble that run, or because it’s Smokey Robinson and I’m always tough on him. Possible, but I don’t think that’s it. Rather, this just sounds like a blast from the Miracles’ past, and not in a good way.
This is yet another track from the Miracles’ fourth studio LP, The Fabulous Miracles, exhumed for use on a Motown 45 (this was, astonishingly, the seventh track from that album to feature on a single, and Motown weren’t finished with it yet). The recording itself had actually been made more than a year and a half before it was issued on this B-side, and it sounds even older than that. It’s the sort of thing that might have appeared on a Miracles B-side three or four years previously; doo-wop inflected balladry, a flute bouncing jauntily all over the track, Smokey’s youthful, quavering falsetto more vulnerable than we’ve heard it for years.
(As if to drive the point home, Motown opted to close out The Fabulous Miracles with Your Love, actually a track from their début LP Hi! We’re the Miracles and probably dating from at least 1960; Such Is Love, Such Is Life is almost a note-for-note retread of that earlier song with new lyrics, something the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 3 readily acknowledge. Unfortunately, Youtube doesn’t seem to have a copy of Your Love – one of only 2 songs on The Fabulous Miracles not featured on any Miracles single – available for your ease of comparison.)
It’s basically just a mess; as with so many early Miracles songs, it’s a bunch of great ingredients nobody’s actually bothered to put in the oven. That it works at all (and it kind of does, in a way, which is why I’m not completely savaging it) is down to the singing – Smokey sounds decidedly young here, high and tremulous in places, but it’s highly engaging, while the rest of the Miracles are on fine form; all in the service of a song featuring nothing but a one-line hook (the title, obviously) where a great chorus should be, and even then not enough happening in between, the rest of the record spent wasting time getting to the next hook.
The gist of the song’s lyrics – a muddled second-person story about a love triangle that boils down to nothing more than “Relationships, eh? Sheesh!”, Smokey advising us to give up with a shrug and a smile because we can’t win ’em all – has something of the kindly advice feeling of Everybody’s Gotta Pay Some Dues, only about a tenth as affecting.
Without a great emotional punch, this ends up as a lot of shapeless, aimless meandering, an intricate vocal chart laid out for a plodding jam session and a lyricist off his game. It works well enough in the context of The Fabulous Miracles, but left exposed on its own it feels very thin indeed. It’s not terrible – there’s something in Smokey’s pained, awkward delivery which always brings me back for more, so they must be doing something right at least – but it’s very much a remnant from an era Motown was already leaving behind forever, and I doubt I’d put it anywhere near Smokey’s top hundred, let alone the very top.
Over to you, readers.
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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“I Gotta Dance To Keep From Crying”
“I’ve Got That Feeling”
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