Wednesday, July 11, 2007

An Apology, and Part 2 of "An Unfair Assessment?"

Chris Clark - Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)

Internet soul fandom is a fantastic thing, as it allows all of us to share the music we love with one another and to engage in occasional, to be diplomatic about it, spirited debate about various songs, artists, records, record companies, etc. Of course, one of the major limitations of the internet is that absent DJ voiceover work on podcasts and the like, the written word is our only means of communication, and what comes out in print doesn't always match what we mean to say. A couple of recent things have brought this to mind. One came recently in connection with a great, as usual, post by Larry Grogan on his Funky 16 Corners blog about Chris Clark and her Motown record "Love's Gone Bad." In commenting on the post, I mentioned that Clark was dating Berry Gordy at the time of the record's 1966 release. Well, further along the comment trail appeared Ms. Clark herself, and she started by saying "My boyfriends aside ..."

Maybe I am over-reacting, but suddenly I felt like a heel, because the bare reading of my words (followed by Larry's response to my comment) probably appeared to Ms. Clark to be saying that the only reason I thought "Love's Gone Bad" was released was because of her relationship with Gordy, which of course was not what I meant. Did it help her fledgling - and ultimately unsuccessful - recording career? Maybe, but to leave the statement "as-is" denies that Ms. Clark had talent and that "Love's Gone Bad" is a fine record. If by any strange chance that Ms. Clark should read this blog, and if she thinks that's the message that my comment suggested, I apologize for it.

OK, having cleared the air on that score, I'll dive into discussing today's selection. In one of the other comments, a commenter dismissed her version of Frank Wilson's Northern Soul "Holy Grail" record "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)" as "anemic" in comparison to the Wilson original. Like the case of the Sam & Dave Atlantic sides I discussed on Monday, I think that assessment is somewhat unfair. First of all, I think that "Do I Love You" is a great song, but I also think the scarcity of the Wilson 45 (see my post from 2005 about that) has made people think more highly of it than they would, say, if it had been formally released and it had gone on to be a staple of oldies radio like "My Girl" has. The tune is a catchy dancer with pleasant lyrics, like a great many Motown records, but it's not "lightning in a bottle," and it's only natural that another Motown act would cover it at some point down the road. The awesome surging rhythm track stirs the soul on Clark's version of the record just as strongly as it does on the Wilson version, and Clark's vocals are, in my opinion, just fine. I mean, at least her version did get a formal release, which says something!


Larry said...

I agree with your assessment of the Frank Wilson 45, and it's certainly true of many high-dollar 45s in soul, funk and probably every other collectible genre.
While Ms. Clark may have seen the mention of her relationship with Gordy as crass, it's perfectly understandable that it was mentioned in this context. Our blogs (and I hope you don't take offense at my including you in this) tend to approach the story behind the song as much as the music itself, and Chris Clark's relationship with Berry Gordy is certainly one of the more interesting parts of her story.
She may be sick of seeing it mentioned, but since her records are largely unknown outside of collectors and UK soul fans, it certainly bears mentioning in any recounting of her career.

soulpeeps said...

I couldn't have put it better myself. Jason,
I wouldn't get hung up on it. You were giving legitimate history that was written about elsewhere, so why get upset? I see nothing to apologize for.

And as for "Do I Love You", I have to agree with Pete Gloria's comment on the Funky16 post; this performance is anemic and I will be hunting down the Frank Wilson version.

petegloria said...

Thanks Mr, now I'M the heel. :)
I felt bad for saying that about Chris Clark. But to be honest most of that was because she turned up, and suddenly anything other than praise felt mean-spirited. I thought she was very gracious and funny - it was lovely to see a snippet of the person behind the work/fame/media facade/whatever.

However, I would also say that when something is really special it's that last couple of iotas at the top that make all the difference. Added to which I'm perverse enough myself to be more critical of something if it's ultra-rare and people value it more based on that.
With that in mind I'd say that without any doubt whatsoever Frank Wilson's version is eons ahead. He makes it come alive, like his life depends on it, it's got that testifying thing. Even if his version hadn't existed/been uncovered I'd say (man, I hope she doesn't see this one now...) Chris's is a bit lame, the tone of the delivery is all wrong, she almost sounds a bit insouciant. It's like a miscasting - she just wasn't the singer for that song, no fault of hers.
As for it's popularity/rarity - within Northern Soul that track *is* like My Girl on a Golden Mouldies tracklist. But that's the measure of how great it is, familiarity and overplay could so easily kill it but it still does it - for me at least - every time. Somebody else at Motown could have done it justice but I don't think Chris could, it's a power-song (horrible word) and she wasn't that kind of singer.
Pete Gloria/aka Horrible Man