Joel Goldenberg: The Spinners and others

The Spinners

We are now beginning to see the end of the soaring S list tunnel, and we continue with my favourite soul group of the 1970s.

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The Spinners: I can't say enough good things about producer and songwriter Thom Bell. As a whole, he was responsible for some of the greatest songs of the 1970s via the groups he produced— the early years of The Stylistics, the Delfonics and  I just saw now on Wikipedia) as an arranger, on the O'Jays classic Backstabbers.

We will get to the Stylistics in a subsequent article, but I have to opine that in a battle of the vocal bands, The Stylistics win with me for a few songs, but the Spinners win for me as a whole.

The Spinners began as a little known vocal group mostly recording for Motown, but they were lost in the shuffle of the more dominant Supremes, Four Tops, Temptations and Stevie Wonder.

However, it was the latter artist, Stevie, who made the world notice The Spinners, giving them his ultra-dynamic song (co-written with others) It's A Shame.

But the group didn't find its own identity until they signed with Atlantic and hooked up with Bell, who started them on a road of multiple huge hits. The extra cherry on the soul cake was the super-energetic acrobatic vocals of Philippe Wynne.

The hits were numerous — I'll Be Around, Could It Be I'm Falling In Love, Then Came You with Dionne Warwick (actually Warwicke during that time period for some reason) and many others.

Here are my favourites:

The Rubberband Man: Wynne at his scatting (wordless vocals) best on at track from, ironically, the group's worst album with Bell, Happiness Is Being With the Spinners. Get the full six-minute version — the edited single is too little of a good thing.

Games People Play: Not to be confused with the Joe South hit mentioned here very recently. This song has all of the group members vocalizing to very warm effect.

Throwing A Good Love Away: Wynne's second best vocalizing effort on his last album with the Spinners before moving to an unsuccessful solo career. He should have stayed where he was.

Mighty Love: A truly majestic song.

Cupid/I've Loved You For A Long Time: This song was a hit after Bell and Wynne were no longer with the group, and their sound became more disco-oriented. This was one of my favourite songs of 1980, and it was a bit later I found out Cupid was a Sam Cooke original. This was the second of two big hits (Working My Way Back To You/Forgive Me Girl was the first) in which an oldie was medleyed with a new song, and seamlessly too.

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Dusty Springfield: I kinda sorta like this British artist's fragile vocals, which were perfect for songs like the slinky The Look of Love and the soul-drenched Son of a Preacher Man. It just saddens me that she was too stressed to record the latter song with the musicians in Memphis and added her vocals later.

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Bruce Springsteen: Springsteen is one of a long list of artists I respect greatly, but can't really get into that much. I bought the 1980 album The River on 8-track tape for $4 36 years ago at the former Bay store in Place Vertu and I still haven't listened to the whole album. Still, Born to Run and Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out are undeniable, propulsive classics, and Hungry Heart from the aforementioned The River has his best singing, with backing from then-former Turtles Mark Volman and my Twitter buddy Howard Kaylan.

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Terry Stafford: Stafford's version of the song Suspicion was a big hit, but Elvis Presley really owned that song. Why RCA Victor didn't release Elvis's version as a single in 1962, I'll never know.

Next time: One of my top two Canadian groups, The Stampeders. (The other is The Guess Who).

 

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