B-side of Candy To Me
(Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Edward Holland Jr.)
When I started this project, I’m glad I chose to give each side of every Motown single its own review. Hidden, forgotten gems get their long-awaited moment in the spotlight along with the stuff that sold a million copies, and if I can turn just one reader on to an underappreciated treasure, then it’s all been worthwhile.
But there’s also a drawback to doing things this way, in that I also have to cover some pretty generic B-sides, often right after doing a lengthy review of a big-ticket statement single. It’s not just a case of “after the Lord Mayor’s show” (although there is an element of that), it’s also difficult to say a proper goodbye when the time comes to cover an artist’s last Motown appearance. In this instance, it would have been better to wave Eddie Holland’s performing career into the sunset with the topside, Candy To Me – which, while I don’t consider it to be his best work, was at least a fitting and representative send-off. This, on the other hand, feels like a sketch, a half-finished idea; nice enough in its way but almost taking delight in its complete lack of substance.
It’s all rather pretty, the Andantes again right to the fore (and again comprehensively singing the pants off Eddie on his own record); a sort of composite of two earlier, very similar HDH scribbles, the Four Tops’ Call On Me and Holland-Dozier’s own What Goes Up Must Come Down. It’s slow, meandering stuff, laden with strings, as though Brian and Lamont were just keen to try out this sound again: a studio experiment with Brian’s older brother as the guinea pig.
Eddie himself, as if knowing this was the last time most people would ever hear him sing (though this was actually recorded a few months prior to release, unlike the A-side which was rushed from studio to store in less than a fortnight) takes the opportunity to recap his performing career, reminding us all both of what he did well and what he didn’t do so well. The good is outstanding – a quite splendid Jackie Wilson impersonation, and a touching quaver in the voice as he sings And it’s breaking my heart! at the end of each chorus. The bad, not so much – his precise, mannered diction, so often Holland’s downfall as a vocalist, makes an unwelcome return, such that he sometimes sounds as though he’s reading from a script rather than pleading from the heart.
Ultimately, it’s this last point which continues to frustrate me whenever I’m listening to Eddie’s records; the likes of the A-side, or, say, Jamie, or Leaving Here, all swaggering tunes which seem to call for a more ragged, raw, emotional delivery, are all let down to an extent by Eddie’s singing. I’m not really talking about the strength of his voice, which is usually fine, but rather the way he phrases his words: forming each individual syllable, then forcing them past his lips on a bed of air so that they seem to deflate on their way to the mic, reaching the listener just before they evaporate into a whisper. Jackie Wilson had used this technique to fabulous effect, and Eddie apes Jackie with remarkable (and probably unintentional) accuracy – but without the gay abandon Wilson always threw into the mix. When it’s a softer, more reflective number, the effect is magnificent – the superb Just Ain’t Enough Love, the majestically wounded Take A Chance On Me, the astonishing semi-spoken word bit in the otherwise-mediocre If Cleopatra Took A Chance, corkers like I’m On The Outside Looking In, and so on – but the final verdict on the singing career of Eddie Holland will ultimately record that he fell just short of joining the pantheon of the Motown greats, either commercially or artistically. That he himself didn’t really give too much of a toss about that means I don’t feel bad for underlining it; after all, he still gave us some really good records, and as a writer he’d give us a whole truckload more.
Which just leaves us with If You Don’t Want My Love. Nice enough as far as it goes, but that turns out not to be far enough. A paper-thin Andantes showcase rather than a blaze of glory, and so probably not the best way to close out our coverage of Eddie Holland here on Motown Junkies, but those are the breaks. Thanks for the memories, Eddie – now a higher purpose awaits you. (Hey, look at that, we did manage to say a proper goodbye after all!)
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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“Candy To Me”
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