b/w My Heart
(Written by Berry Gordy)
b/w My Heart
(Released in the UK under license through Stateside Records)
The end of the line for 15-year-old talent contest winner Carolyn Crawford, as far as Motown Junkies is concerned; this is her third and final Motown release, and after it sank without trace, Miss Crawford and her family declined to continue with the label.
How different it all might have been, eh? In the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 4, Carolyn recalls being called into a meeting where she was told Motown “were planning on moving someone ahead, and there were three people involved: Brenda Holloway, Kim Weston and myself”. The prize was, effectively, to become Mary Wells’ replacement, both as a big-ticket solo artiste and as a duet partner for Marvin Gaye.
By way of an audition for the role, all three ladies cut new singles for Motown during the summer of 1964, of which Carolyn’s effort, My Smile Is Just A Frown (Turned Upside Down), was up with the best (and made the national R&B charts, to boot) – but it was Kim Weston who ended up “winning” whatever contest there was.
“I was considered, but maybe because I was still young, and all the things that go along with that… I don’t know. I wasn’t it”, says Carolyn. You can argue whether the prize was really a poisoned chalice, but the fact remains Carolyn didn’t win it, and the complete commercial failure of this single underlined that fact for her.
If we’re going to pigeonhole Carolyn’s Motown career, it’s more accurate to think of her not as a failed Kim Weston, or a forgotten “new Mary Wells” (Mary was Carolyn’s heroine, whose style she seems to be actively copying here), but rather as a prototype for Tammi Terrell. Their voices are similar, the solo material provided to them was similar (and, in some cases, the same), and Carolyn was seemingly a hair’s breadth from being chosen as a foil for Marvin Gaye. You can absolutely imagine Tammi singing this one.
(Which isn’t really that much of a problem; you might imagine that as soon as you start imagining Tammi singing this, you’d end up wishing it was Tammi singing this, but Carolyn does a nice enough job with another difficult song.)
When Someone’s Good To You was written and produced (for Oma Page, not Carolyn) in one of Motown president Berry Gordy’s increasingly rare trips to the producer’s chair. The songwriting gifts that had once conquered America still hadn’t deserted him – this is a pretty tune with a lovely horn riff as a hook – but his ability to write a hit single must have been in question if this is what he came up with.
This is a floaty bit of midtempo jazz-pop; the clomping drum beat recalls a more laid-back, gentle cover of Gaye’s own Hitch Hike, but the two records are worlds apart. Rather than being a promising 45, really the whole thing sounds like a Mary Wells B-side from two years before. Not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but never a single to follow up a budding young starlet’s first R&B hit.
Oh, Motown fans have taken it to their hearts over the years (especially in the UK, where this was picked up for release – perhaps putting the lie to Carolyn’s fears that Motown weren’t promoting her career), and it commands high prices from dealers today – but I can’t imagine this ever getting near the radio, just because it’s so thin and ephemeral. It drifts by in a blissed-out little bubble, flitting aimlessly from cloud to cloud, and it’s gone before you’ve had a chance to really get to grips with it.
We’ll never know what might have been, as Carolyn left Motown and didn’t really resurface again in the music industry until the early Seventies, first as part of Mickey Stevenson’s girl band Hodges James & Smith (who sound like a law firm, and who were renamed Hodges James Smith & Crawford while Carolyn was in the lineup), and then with Chapter 8 and Bohannon – so it’s impossible to mentally cut and paste her voice into some of Motown’s biggest late-Sixties hits. But it would at least have been nice to hear what she might have done. This is pleasant enough, and it’s nicely done, but it isn’t really the farewell Carolyn’s Motown career deserved.
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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