b/w The Two Of Us
(Written by Ronald Miller and William O’Malley)
b/w The Two Of Us
(Released in the UK under license through EMI / Tamla Motown)
Ageing crooner Tony Martin, signed to Motown the previous year after a long career in showbiz only to be effectively superseded by an even bigger signing in Billy Eckstine, was not destined to be a star of the Motown catalogue, but he was lucky enough to arrive at Hitsville just before the label went supernova. By a matter of weeks, Tony Martin made it in under the cut-off between “artists from the early days of Motown” and “artists Motown could afford to sign and jettison at will”, and so despite the overwhelming failure (on every level) of his début single Talkin’ To Your Picture, he was afforded the privilege of this belated follow-up. Lucky us.
There was absolutely nothing good about Talkin’ To Your Picture, a badly-sung, phoned-in rendition of a terrible song with genuinely creepy lyrics that appear to endorse stalking as a valid courtship technique, a record memorably christened by Motown Junkies regular Damecia as “The Sound of Boring Middle-Aged America”. So, the bar is set accordingly low for this one; unlike his début, here Martin is given the benefit of Motown’s own staff writers, in the form of their newly-designated MOR specialists Ron Miller and William O’Malley.
Their approach, reasonably enough, is to do what they were good at – pastiche. Handed the task of doing something with an audibly past-it former MOR idol, they set about pushing Martin down the same path already trodden by a great many other audibly past-it former MOR idols in the early Sixties, and attempt to turn him into Dean Martin. It doesn’t really work – the results are gloopy and irritating – but it’s quite a lot less awful than Talkin’ To Your Picture, and I’m grateful for small mercies at this point.
Most noticeably of all, while there are far, far too many things stacked on top of it, the tune that’s underpinning all of this is actually (whisper it) kind of catchy. The deep bass bom-bom-boms are engagingly silly, you can whistle the central melody, and Tony seems to be having enough fun with the shrill Hollywood female choir (who at one point briefly and bafflingly break into a full-on Busby Berkeley chorus line routine) that you can just – just! – make out enough personality under the pancake to begin to understand what Motown ever saw in him in the first place.
Hopefully that won’t be taken as any kind of a recommendation; this is still absolutely, pants-wettingly ridiculous in its overdone pomposity, with our Tony – if anything – somehow ending up even more of a parody of himself than we’ve previously heard, the slippery, none-more-stagey slickness of his voice making Bobby Breen sound like Johnny Rotten. You can practically smell the warpaint. And, once again, it’s stuffed full of would-be euphoric moments it hasn’t earned, key changes and angelic choirs and a half-hearted big finish (on a record only two and a half minutes long) that sounds as though everyone involved suddenly became self-aware and realised they were making muzak rather than a symphony.
But for all of that, I don’t absolutely hate it. It’s ridiculous, but there’s the tiniest kernel of understanding buried in here along with the finger-snapping tune; not enough for Tony to really embrace his inner ham in the style of Bobby Breen, and he’s not a good enough singer to tease out the dignity in schlock a la Billy Eckstine, but enough to make me steer away from giving it the lowest score possible.
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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“The Two Of Us”
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