B-side of Soul Stomp
(Written by Berry Gordy)
B-side of Soul Stomp
(Released in the UK under license through EMI / Stateside Records)
A first writing credit for Motown president Berry Gordy in nearly sixty sides – though it’s hard to know how much the boss really had to do with this one, as Hot ‘n’ Tot is pretty much a showcase for the house band to have some fun jamming together.
Again, like the A-side Soul Stomp, while the name on the label is bandleader and keys man Earl Van Dyke, he’s just one ingredient in the record; this is a Funk Brothers cut, and more so than the A-side. Indeed, where Soul Stomp felt a bit like an ordinary backing band track augmented with a new lead from Van Dyke’s barrelling organ almost as an afterthought, this one is a band effort all the way, the first such Funk Brothers release we’ve seen on Motown Junkies since the Twistin’ Kings’ long-forgotten Congo back in the prehistoric mists of 1961.
Once again, this is anything but an Earl Van Dyke solo record. Sure, Earl gets the party started with a ripping organ lead for the first 45 seconds or so, but then he gives way to tenor saxophone which takes us to the middle of the record, and then finally an amazing guitar attack (named as being by Robert White in the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 4) picks up the torch for the second half.
It’s a good-natured duel, the Brothers trading blows; you can almost imagine Van Dyke finishing his bit and giving the others a look as if to say “Okay, match THAT!”, only for each of them to duly oblige.
More free, less restricted than the topside, and a lot slinkier as a result, it’s also paradoxically more laid back, the proto-funk charge of Soul Stomp replaced by a kind of blues-jazz session strung over a basic groove. It’s actually something like a slower, less frantic precursor to Junior Walker’s later Pucker Up Buttercup, but here the rippling sax and (especially) White’s bright, ringing guitar are all kinds of fun, showing off rather than making a point.
The spirit of camaraderie, the jokey, friendly interplay of a legendary studio band pushing each other to greater heights – the myth upon which the Motown Story is built – was largely missing from the topside, but it’s present in spades here. It serves no real purpose other than to let three prominent Brothers do their thing for posterity (the liner notes posit the sax man is Henry Cosby, which seems reasonable), it doesn’t really go anywhere, and it’s great fun as opposed to just great – but there are moments that set the pulse racing, and you don’t really want it to end. Not as quickly as it does, anyway.
Unfortunately, this is kind of the exception rather than the rule for the 7″ sides released under Van Dyke’s name over the next couple of years, many of which are just hasty resprays of existing band tracks with Earl’s organ dubbed over the top in place of a vocal. Those are largely pointless; this one is definitely a keeper.
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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