(Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Edward Holland Jr.)
(Licensed for British release via EMI/Tamla Motown)
We’ve seen some good records from Kim Weston up until now here on Motown Junkies, records that marked her out as an obvious star in the making. And yet so far, while most of those records – records like A Little More Love, I’m Still Loving You, or What Good Am I Without You – have been very fine, they’ve never exactly sat easily with the rest of the Motown catalogue. In short, Kim hasn’t yet recorded anything that sounds like a Motown hit.
But this is her first truly great single; here, some two and a half years after signing her up, it seems Motown – at long last – have figured out what to do with Kim Weston. Paired for the first time with the crack Holland-Dozier-Holland team, Kim and the musicians finally get a song that works, a song where they can bring it all together. What do you know? It turns out she’s every inch the star she always threatened to be.
Theories abound – some of them outlandish – as to why it took Motown so long to pair Miss Weston with the HDH team: from a supposedly over-protective love interest (and soon-to-be husband) in A&R chief Mickey Stevenson, to the difficulties of finding the right métier for her uniquely powerful voice (ballads, torch songs, bouncy pop, even jazz or gospel?), to Motown’s craven desire for “crossover” acceptance with white audiences meaning they were less willing to push a particularly dark-skinned lady like Kim (no matter how stunningly beautiful she is), to the top brass simply not being excited enough about her prospects. I think most of those are bollocks, to a lesser or greater degree – the more prosaic explanation would surely just be that almost nobody at Hitsville (including top names like the Vandellas and Marvelettes) got regular mid-Sixties facetime with Holland-Dozier-Holland other than “their” pet projects, the Supremes and Four Tops – but the fact remains that for whatever reason, it took a long time to pair Kim with the company’s top hitmakers. Still, once she got that break, she grabbed it with both hands, and the results are both immediate and astonishing.
Kim is so good here. In many ways, this is unlike a “regular” Holland-Dozier-Holland production; it’s jazzy and muscular and loud, driven right from the start by an insistent snare drum and then a rollicking band track full of jangling guitar and rumbling organ. Does any of this faze Kim? Not even a little bit – she starts off in a deep, breathy, seductive contralto as the drums and tambourine echo off the walls, and then as soon as the guitar strikes up, she takes that as her clearance for take-off, ramping up the energy levels, and away she goes. There’s never any doubt as to who’s the boss here: not a second of Take Me In Your Arms goes by when Kim Weston isn’t absolutely in charge of this record.
Which is strange, when you think about it, because the lyric is very much not about Kim being in charge. The title sounds romantic, but the song is actually desperate, a plea for a second chance from a woman close to the edge. But this is no meek, weepy request, it’s more like a demand: yeah, I’ve messed up alright, I won’t deny it, but come on, man.
So often on this blog I’ve described a record as being electrifying, but this is maybe the one that actually comes closest to that description, positively buzzing with juice to the point you expect the lights to start flickering. Maybe it’s a sign of the times; Kim had won the internal “battle” to become Mary Wells’ replacement as Marvin Gaye’s duet partner (if not in other respects), already showing she was capable of mixing it with Marvin in the rough-housing boogie-woogie thump of What Good Am I Without You, quite able to knock him on his back if the song called for it.
Now, Holland-Dozier-Holland apply a logical extension; if Kim could handle Marvin in their duets, then surely Kim could do what Marvin could do solo, perhaps even become a female Marvin Gaye herself. To that end, tasked with giving Kim something to get her teeth into, they come up with, essentially, a female version of Marvin’s extraordinary Baby Don’t You Do It, a turbocharged romp of a record that sounded like it would never end. Quite atypical for a Golden Age Motown cut, but the recipe does indeed work just as well for Kim as it had for Marvin, and not coincidentally this ends up being more of a gas than practically anything we’ve heard out of Hitsville since… well, since Baby Don’t You Do It.
In fact, if anything, this one’s even more exhilarating; irresistible in its crazed, danceable glory, the giddy rush of rolling too fast down a steep hill in a shopping cart, sandblasting away the cobwebs. The backing vocals are sublime, the tune is catchy and full of subtle changes – there’s even a putative middle eight, complete with key change, that crops up in a vain attempt to calm things down for a few seconds before giving up – but the star of the show is Kim herself, revelling in the spotlight. Honestly, if you’d handed this to me back when I first started to discover Motown, and told me that this lady was Motown’s biggest star of the mid-Sixties, I’d have had no trouble believing it.
I was already won over well before Kim and the band gather their strength for a blazing final all-out attack on the senses – I said I wouldn’t beg, I said I wouldn’t plead!, she roars, the whole thing by now feeling like it’s about to burst, crackling with so much overclocked energy you want to reach over to the turntable and make sure the record isn’t physically getting too hot to touch. It’s sensational.
Not for the first time (and not for the last), yet another record is jipped out of a 10/10 score just because there aren’t enough places in my personal Top 50 to bring another one on board. But listening to this again, and writing down my thoughts like this, I was so, so sorely tempted to do the unthinkable and throw something else overboard to make room. Once again, if you told me this was your favourite Motown record of all time, well, I couldn’t really argue the pick.
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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