Gordy RecordsGordy G 7029 (B), February 1964

B-side of Can You Do It

(Written by Dorothy Peoples)

BritainStateside SS 299 (B), May 1964

B-side of Can You Do It

(Released in the UK under license through Stateside Records)

Scan kindly provided by Gordon Frewin, reproduced by arrangement.  All label scans come from visitor contributions - if you'd like to send me a scan I don't have, please e-mail it to me at fosse8@gmail.com!Well, first off, apologies for having left things quiet for so long – normal service is officially resumed. Now, back to the Contours.

This B-side, one of the last things this line-up of the Contours ever laid down, is an oddity among those early-Sixties numbers; on the whole, it’s fair to say that the group were better dancers than singers, and their recorded output thus far had reflected their incendiary stage shows rather than highlighting their harmonies. (That’s not to say they couldn’t sing with the best of them when they wanted to – check out the superb It Must Be Love, for instance – but their released material mainly showcased the raucous rather than the tender.) This was only the second “sweet” number in the Contours’ 7″ catalogue, following the execrable Funny back in 1961. Luckily, the horrors of that particular musical aberration aren’t repeated here; this turns out to be a neat, supple little devotional number.

In 1965, the UK Tamla Motown label featured this track as part of a 4-song Contours EP for those who'd missed it the first time around, complete with picture sleeve.There’s more than just an echo of Ben E. King’s Stand By Me about this – it’s apparent in tune, chords, structure and title, as well as a particularly blatant Darlin’, darlin’, darlin’! before each hook line – though it’s more sedate than King’s classic, more lazy somehow. The band performances, especially the piano and percussion – slightly out of time, slightly lethargic – lend it a shuffling gait that pervades the track, as if the group were being roused from a drunken stupor by the clear, almost-acapella lead vocal to come together and deliver the song behind him. (This was produced by professional oddball Andre Williams, which may explain the woozy atmosphere.) The idiosyncratic harmonies on display from the other Contours lend the whole thing a charming, if slightly shambolic aura of vulnerability and believability, going down exceedingly smooth.

These performances – whether by accident or by design – are pretty rather than amazing, and the song is similarly lacking in ambition (and it’s barely two minutes long to boot), but this is a very decent little record – and compared with the nightmarish prospect of a second Funny, to instead get a lovely little group harmony number is to get off extremely lightly indeed. I just wish they’d taken this and run with it a bit more; I can’t shake the feeling that there’s an even better song to be made out of these basic ingredients. Other than the one Ben E. King had already recorded, I mean.

Really rather pretty, and absolutely fine as far as it goes, even if it only goes halfway to where it really needs to get to.



(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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The Contours
“Can You Do It”
Lee Alan
“Set Me Free”


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