B-side of Looking For The Right Guy
(Written by Smokey Robinson)
Kim sounds just as ill at ease with the material here as on the chaotically misjudged A-side, Looking For The Right Guy, so much so that on first listen I assumed this bluesy scribble was another castoff number written with Mary Wells in mind (if not actually written for Mary Wells, if you get me). But no – it’s an old piece from the archives, recorded more than a year and a half previously (back when Kim was just a fresh-faced new teen signing), unexpectedly dusted off for service as a B-side.
As with several other new signings at Motown in 1963 (when this was cut), Kim was assigned to Smokey Robinson as writer and producer, joining the likes of Linda Griner, Connie Van Dyke and Mickey McCullers in fighting Mary Wells and the Miracles for Smokey’s prime material. This probably explains Feel Alright Tonight being selected for use on the flip here, a pair of Smokey songs to push Kim in a new direction. It didn’t work, of course, and while there’s plenty that’s riveting here, as a whole this 45 still adds up to easily the weakest pair of sides of Kim Weston’s (otherwise virtually faultless) Motown career.
This is a weird little record, really. As one of the first numbers Kim ever cut at Motown, she quite noticeably hasn’t yet developed the assured, powerful delivery she’d later be famed for, and her lead vocal here is strangely hesitant, almost trembling. Like the A-side, it’s certainly out of keeping with the backing track.
In this case, rather than an ill-conceived bouncy pop number, the track of Feel Alright Tonight turns out to be a thickly-painted R&B ballad heavily coloured with the blues, rather like some of Hattie Littles’ poppier moments. Or maybe it’s more like the early Vandellas’ grittier moments. Either way, it’s the sort of material that should suit Kim down to the ground, but she’s never completely in key with what’s going on around her. The song is built around a haunting vocal swoop on the title phrase and some very clever, very Smokey chord changes, but Kim’s vocal is much softer than it needs to be and she never quite gives it the sort of wallop the song asks of her; even if it’d probably be spellbinding on its own, it’s a performance that ends up leaving something to be desired.
The overall effect is to make her sound unduly nervous, and to make the whole thing sound like a demo with a rough guide vocal rather than a finished record. (Which it might well indeed have been, I don’t know.)
It’s strange because I get the feeling that if you could separate out the vocal and the track, you’d end up with the foundations of two excellent records – if you finished them both anew, gave the track a ballsier contralto vocal, and gave Kim’s vocal a deeper, more enveloping track, then I feel like there are two distinct hits to be had here, one for Kim and one for, ooh, say, plucking a name out of thin air, Mary Wells.
It’s memorable and striking, but also jarringly misaligned; if it’s less of a mess, in its own way, than the half-hearted A-side, it’s still not as good as it should be, sounding unfinished and underproduced, even shambolic in places. But at least this time everyone involved has a good excuse, Kim still being so new at Motown when it was recorded; they hadn’t decided what to do with her yet, so the rough edges and off-centre backing are understandable enough. Plus, of course, from the singles that we’ve already covered, we know Kim would get into her groove without much further ado, so there’s no reason to dwell on this and wonder what might have been.
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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“Looking For The Right Guy”
“Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)”
|Motown Junkies presents the finest Motown cuts, big hits and hard to find classics.
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