Fresh, vibrant and refuses to resort to cliché.
Daryl Easlea 2010-06-22
After starting out as a doo-wop ensemble in the 50s, at the beginning of the 70s, The (Detroit) Spinners left Motown unloved and underappreciated. Although they had scored big with the Stevie Wonder-assisted It’s a Shame, they were frequently overlooked in favour of the label’s other big vocal hitters such as The Temptations.
With the divine Phillipé Wynne taking over joint lead vocal duties (with Bobby Smith) from G.C. Cameron, the group signed to Atlantic where producer Thom Bell created a sound for them that was lush yet gritty. Bell’s insistently soulful orchestral arrangements played perfectly to their harmonic strengths.
Spinners reads like their greatest hits, with vocals shared by Smith and Wynne: One of a Kind (Love Affair), I’ll Be There, Ghetto Child and Could It Be I'm Falling in Love are all here. Fresh, vibrant and refusing to resort to cliché, these hits sound as bright today as they did 40 years ago. Could It Be I'm Falling in Love (later a hit for David Grant and Jaki Graham) is the keynote; sung by Smith, it is beautiful, optimistic, and upbeat.
Tender ballads such as I Could Never (Repay Your Love) saw them update the classic male vocal template, and while other groups were moving away from their roots, The Spinners showed their authority with this climatic number. As it reaches its six-minute mark, Wynne and Smith’s impassioned pleading is accompanied by the rest of the group (Pervis Jackson, Billy Henderson and Henry Famborough) in a fulsome yet subtle doo-wop.
Although often lumped in with The Stylistics, mainly due to Wynne’s falsetto vocals, The Spinners were mostly able to avoid mawkish material. “Mostly”, as it’s best you skip the woeful supper-club version of Wilson Pickett’s jaunty northern soul special, Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You.
Often cited as the birth of the Philadelphia Sound, Spinners yielded five American top 100 hits, and two UK chart successes. For a group that had been around so long, a comeback like this was spectacular and off on a decade of hit-making. Although they had other sparkling successes – such as Are You Ready for Love and The Rubberband Man – this shows best how poignant their mix of orchestra and contrasting voices truly was.