(Written by John Mitchell and Gerald Williams)
The Freeman Brothers, the third in a long-forgotten tbrilogy of one-and-done Motown acts to see their sole Motown single release this month (following the equally obscure Hillsiders and the entirely obscure Hit Pack) weren’t brothers, and they weren’t called Freeman. John Mitchell, once of the Majestics/Monitors, and Gerald Williams had first rechristened themselves “Johnny and Jerry Freeman” to record the genuinely excellent Otis pastiche I’m Counting On You in 1964, which brought them to Motown’s attention.
Their first Motown release, My Baby – not the Temptations song, more’s the pity – seems to have been much anticipated, with company president Berry Gordy and A&R director Mickey Stevenson producing. That sense of anticipation seems to have dissipated pretty quickly; the single was a flop, and the “Brothers” never had another Motown record.
The idea of a big, exciting start leading to something of a damp squib is spookily appropriate here, because that’s exactly what My Baby is like. You’d never in a million years have identified these guys as the ones who made I’m Counting On You; this is a midtempo R&B rocker with nary a trace of tortured Southern soul about it. But after an explosive start, it peters out completely, not only losing momentum but also somehow losing its attitude.
The beginning is pretty exciting, though. Whoever’s on drums – possibly one of the Freeman Brothers themselves, as it doesn’t sound like Benjamin, Allen or Jones (not professional enough, if I’m honest) – starts work by beating the hell out of the snare, a rolling fill leading to a loud, steady beat in flat, belting 4/4 Ringo Starr style, hitting the skins in an amateurish but impressively hard way, mixed right up front and dominating the track, so much so that the tambourine is almost drowned out.
But the drummer’s apparent lack of skill, or finesse, means they end up misinterpreting the mood of the song; their dramatic, direct attack doesn’t really match up to the paddling-pool shallow “song” that follows on, a meandering, almost gentle kind of number, though (perhaps in competition with the drums) the lead singer bellows and screams his lines as if he too was cutting a much hotter joint. He’s appealingly, throatily raw in places, but this isn’t really a cutting-loose kind of record and he quickly loses control, leading to just about the weakest lead vocal performance of any Motown R&B group for about two years. The effect is to turn the whole thing into a dismal, almost wilfully stupid stomper, highlighting the lack of lyrics; nothing to say and nowhere to go.
I’m just not convinced there’s a great deal of song going on here; no real hooks, no real tune, no real chance. Mind you, I bet if they’d given this to the Spinners, it would have worked great.
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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