B-side of Wild One
B-side of Wild One
(Released in the UK under license through Stateside Records)
More evidence that Motown didn’t really know how to handle Martha and the Vandellas in the wake of Dancing In The Street and the rise of the Supremes. This B-side is an attempt to recast them in a new role, to make listeners see them in a new light: no longer the sassy, whip-smart dance leaders of the past, driving by with frenzied Spector Charleston cuts, from now on they’re going to take advantage of Martha Reeves’ excellent smoky voice, and serve up some hip-swaying jazz bar ballads. Even the title is a statement of intent: we’re still dancing, sure, but we’re dancing slow. Hold each other very close out there, ladies and gentlemen. Closer than that. Yeah, now you’ve got it.
It’s only partially successful. It’s nice enough and everything, but it’s paper-thin – the generic tune is almost exactly what you’d come up with given two minutes to write a riff called “Dancing Slow”, and at barely two minutes long it’s gone before it can make any real kind of impression. Hard to think of this as anything other than an opportunity for the ladies to take a breather on stage between rowdier numbers; it appears very early on their dance-themed 1965 LP Dance Party, but if ever a song screamed “end of Side One”, this is pretty much it.
Still, it all sounds quite nice; Martha gives another excellent lead performance, deliciously stretching out the end of each line (“I don’t really CARE if the people stop and STARE, we’re floating on AIR“), ad-libbing a semi-spoken interjection halfway through (“Slow and easy, baby!”), and when the girls come together for an unexpected three-handed group chant that winds up the end of the record, punctuated by big, echoing handclaps –
Lights are low!
Nothing as sweet
As a groovy beat!
We don’t care
If the people stop and stare…
…it’s a pleasant surprise, sparking the song out of its slow circling torpor.
Otherwise, there’s just not very much to report, except that it shows the Vandellas could clearly handle slower, sexier cuts just as readily as barrelling, energetic dance numbers. Even for fans who prefer Martha in this lower-key mode, the mix still wasn’t right; there wouldn’t be another midtempo Vandellas A-side for over a year, by which time they’d really mastered the art. For now, this pretty little scribble would have to do.
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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