B-side of The Flick (Part 2)
(Written by James Jamerson, Earl Van Dyke and Robert White)
Yep, that’s right, Part 1 is the B-side. For the third time in Motown history, following the little-heard likes of the Swinging Tigers’ Snake Walk and the Twistin’ Kings’ Congo, a lengthy house band instrumental spans both sides of a Motown single. Once more (just as with Congo) the cutting-in-half is imposed for reasons of technical limitations rather than artistic sensibility, the running time of a 7″ 45rpm record not yet allowing for full reproduction of the musicians’ lengthy R&B-jazz jams.
Most of the history, the stuff I wanted to say about the context and background and reason for this record, we’ve already discussed when talking about The Flick (Part 2), and so this write-up will end up being pretty brief by comparison. Still, I don’t just want to talk about Part 1 here, but also about parts 3 and 4.
A couple of years ago, Motown issued an Earl Van Dyke retrospective, That Motown Sound (pictured left), comprising both of the Motown studio albums released under Earl’s name, plus a crateload of bonus tracks, including a bunch of semi-improvised jams that give further insight into the Funk Brothers’ “true” sound. One of those jams, it would appear, is a full-length run through what became the 7″ edits of The Flick, including the transition between Part 2 (as already heard on the A-side here) and the introductory segment, here released as “Part 1”, not to mention a lengthy extra six-minute coda labelled “Parts 3 and 4”.
(The borders between the different parts aren’t marked, but if you’re curious, the tune gets more laid back after “Part 2” finishes, a piano takes over the lead for a while (Part 3?) – there’s still a hint of organ here and there, so presumably this isn’t Earl Van Dyke himself, unless overdubs were involved; the feeling is more smooth jazz, more relaxed, until finally we’re roused again for the coda (Part 4?), another blaring organ-led section similar to Part 2).
As already mentioned, the two cuts chosen for single release were definitely altered before reaching this 45 (with bar-room crowd noise added to a live-in-the-studio recording). Furthermore, while it was cut on the same day, the full-length “Parts 1-4” version also seems to be a different take from the same session, which would mean at least one of them was a pre-rehearsed joint, which in turn kind of belies the “off the cuff” freewheeling jam spirit the released single version tries to cultivate.
I’m mentioning all of this because Part 1 is a strange beast – much like the first half of another Motown single peremptorily hacked into two pieces, Stevie Wonder’s Fingertips (Part 1), there’s a feeling of warming up here, an introduction to something better (and, like Fingertips on its reissue, we’ve already heard what that “something better” is on the A-side). Part 1 sets itself up even more than Part 2 as a live improvisation, and so the knowledge that it’s not live and possibly not an improvisation makes it hard to hear it the same way again.
It’s also a less good tune than the second part; the killer bass groove that won my heart on Part 2 doesn’t really come to prominence until we’re well underway, and most of Part 1 is taken up with a jauntier, less experimental organ-led pop piece, and that bassline is subdued in favour of a different time signature that changes the emphasis of the whole track. (The transition from Part 1 to Part 2 is missing from the 45, which is why it was such a buzz to hear it on the That Motown Sound compilation; the effortless way Van Dyke, Benjamin, Jamerson and co. segue between what are really two rather different tunes is extremely impressive and would have been a real boon to have here.)
Don’t get me wrong, Part 1 is still funky enough, but it feels less daring, and consequently I found it less thrilling; like a step back towards the likes of Soul Stomp. And what it really says to me, in truth, is that – as brilliant and talented as these guys obviously were, and this record’s more evidence of it – the Funk Brothers simply weren’t built to create hit records on their own after all.
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.
|Earl Van Dyke & the Soul Brothers
“The Flick (Part 2)”
“Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine”
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