B-side of I Like It Like That
B-side of I Like It Like That
(Released in the UK under license through EMI / Stateside Records)
Rather a different kettle of fish from the slinky, soft-shuffling A-side I Like It Like That, which actually is “fine and sweet”. Instead, this one is a straightforward, pounding uptempo dancer – and for the first time on any Miracles single going back to the Fifties, the lead vocalist isn’t Smokey Robinson.
It’s hard to believe a lot of thought went into this one; recorded the same day as the A-side, but not subjected to the repeated overdubs that Smokey lavished on I Like It Like That, You’re So Fine And Sweet comes across more like an afterthought than anything else.
Check out the writing credits for this one on the label up there: “Miracles-Marv-Spike”. Which is to say: every singer in the Miracles (with the apparent notable exception of Claudette, who doesn’t appear in the expanded credits featured in The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 4), plus their legendary guitarist Marv Tarplin, and their sometime drummer Donald “Spike” Whited. Everyone in the room. Coupled with the sound of the thing, which is as carefree, careless and energetic as the increasingly-polished Miracles ever got these days, it’s very tempting to think of this as the product of an extended jam session, the group letting their hair down after a hard day working on I Like It Like That by cobbling together a semi-improvised rock-out.
(Which isn’t to say that as if it were a bad thing – it’s often good to have a bit of spontaneity, some spark of energy – but it doesn’t really sound much like the Miracles any more. In fact, what it really sounds like, to me anyway, is the Contours.)
The Miracles had recorded a few cuts with people who weren’t Smokey Robinson singing lead – there are a whole bunch of them on the group’s 1962 LP I’ll Try Something New – but while Bobby Rogers, who takes the lead on this, does a decent enough job here, these Robinson-less cuts are the best available reminder of how much Smokey the vocalist brought to the Miracles, quite apart from his songwriting and production duties.
Bobby’s deep, slightly rough-edged delivery is a world away from Smokey’s high, tender singing voice, and the lead gives the record a more raucous, almost bluesy flavour compared to the stylistically-similar likes of Mickey’s Monkey, for instance. That flavour permeates the whole track – the blistering gutbucket horns and belting drums are the best part of this, rather than anything the Miracles themselves do. Bobby’s vocal eschews the smoothness, the beauty of Smokey’s contributions – yes, even on stuff like Mickey’s Monkey – for a grittier, harder-edged sound, but it ends up pushing all the Miracles’ usual best points (like the group’s wonderful harmonies, say, or Smokey’s clever, intricate lyrics, or the inexpressible wit in the timing and phrasing of the backing vocals) to the back to make room for all the energy that’s crackling around the place. Even Marv’s deftly-plucked guitar – which makes a prominent early appearance right at the start, displaying the same richness of tone as on the A-side – ends up getting absorbed into the background compared to the drums and horns.
For all of that, it’s not by any means a bad record. As a throwaway attempt by the Miracles to try their hand at making a loud and hearty dance record, it’s arguably more successful than some of their more considered attempts. But it’s got its sights set pretty low, and it’s almost defiantly dumb. Would I rate this higher if it actually were by the Contours, or the early Temptations? I don’t think so – it’s just not that strong a song.
For a start, the lyrics are completely forgettable (in the truest sense of the word, i.e. I have forgotten them, apart from the lines Neat neat neat neat / From your head down to your feet / Charm charm charm charm / Like to hold you in my arms, and the great first line which rhymes Fine and dandy with Sweeter than candy and so fine with cherry wine… which gives you a good picture of what we’re dealing with here, I suppose.) The tune is pretty generic, driven along almost entirely by Whited’s kicking drumbeat and those horns (the Funk Brothers letting off steam), rather than anything I suspect was actually written on the charts. If there actually were charts for this thing.
Plenty of fun as far as it goes, but that only really lasts for as long as it’s playing – you wouldn’t dig it out on purpose for repeated listening, and it fades from the memory literally ten seconds after it’s done. Still, it is fun, and as an example of the Miracles’ little-seen raucous side, it makes a welcome little change of pace. I just rather hope they don’t do this again.
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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“I Like It Like That”
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