B-side of He’s A Good Guy (Yes He Is)
B-side of He’s A Good Guy (Yes He Is)
(Released in the UK under license through EMI / Stateside Records)
A sure sign of a lack of direction, a paucity of new ideas: rather than commission a brand new Marvelettes track to serve as the B-side of their latest single, Motown instead return to a two-year-old LP that had already had six songs pulled from it for use on 45s. Sure, whatever. But at least this way I get to talk about Goddess Of Love for a bit.
One of Wanda Young’s two stellar lead vocal contributions to the Playboy album, this slow calypso-tinged affair is the closest thing in tone on that LP to the work Smokey Robinson was doing with Mary Wells at the time it was cut (e.g. You Beat Me To The Punch, Two Lovers and the like). An early writing and producing collaboration between Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier, this was only two years old in early 1964 but so much water had gone under the bridge in that time that this feels like something approaching juvenilia.
It’s also dominated by the presence of Forever, Wanda’s other big contribution to Playboy, the first time her “true” voice had been heard on vinyl. Formerly the group’s shrill, squeaky-voiced falsetto backup lead, Wanda’s star turn on Forever had displayed a silken mastery of vocal strengths she’d never previously hinted at. Goddess Of Love isn’t as good as that, but it is another fine vocal from the woman who’d soon end up taking over the group for good.
It’s a lovely little song, this. If the calypso touches that dominate the midtempo number both date-stamp it to the spring of ’62 (and the heyday of the Smokey/Mary Wells partnership’s mastery of this kind of material, showing just where Holland and Dozier were looking for inspiration), it’s nonetheless very sweetly and seductively sung, and the tune is a good one. This is a supplication of sorts to the titular Goddess of Love by Wanda, who’s having such an amazing time tonight that she asks for a favour, requesting that this magical night lasts forever; it’s a joyful song of romantic ambition fulfilled, full of hope for the future.
It’s strange to be discussing this out of context, as I really know its natural habitat as the last stop of brilliance on the Playboy LP, sequenced right towards the end of the album; it feels strangely apt out on its own, even though I’d never really considered it as anything other than an album track. Really, though, apart from highlighting a lack of new ideas, its use on this B-side mainly serves as a stark illustraion of the differences between the Marvelettes back when this was cut – full of the confidence borne of a brilliant album and a career revived – and the Marvelettes of 1964, directionless, lacking a unique selling point, and losing ground to their labelmates every day.
None of which is Goddess of Love‘s fault, of course. Save for a bit of loose vocal control on Wanda’s part in a couple of places, it’s a really good little record, small in scale but beautifully formed, and I’m glad I god to praise it in isolation thanks to Motown’s idiosyncratic release schedules.
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!)
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“He’s A Good Guy (Yes He Is)”
“How Can We Tell Him”
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