Monday, January 09, 2006

Gladys Knight & The Pips - You Need Love Like I Do (Don't You)

Gladys Knight & The Pips
Greetings all! Here’s hoping that everyone had a good weekend. First off, thanks very much to Reverend Dan at LA Weekly who included the Funky16Corners blog in his list of ‘Five Blogs for Musical Archaeologists’. It’s nice to know that the word is getting out! Second, I figured that since I went all doo-wop-y and dreamy with the Jive Five on Friday, I’d drop something funky to get the week off to a good start. Back in the day, my knowledge of Gladys Knight and the Pips was mainly as purveyors of sophisticated soul hits like ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’, ‘If I Were Your Woman’ and ‘Neither One of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)’. As good as these songs were, they weren’t (at the time) my cup of tea, and Gladys & the Pips just blended into the Top 40 background. That all changed in my early 20s when I heard their 1967 version of ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’ for the first time. Back then, it’s fair to say that as far as versions of ‘Grapevine’ go, Marvin Gaye’s, slow, sinuous version was the coin of the realm, followed distantly by Creedence Clearwater Revival’s considerably less sophisticated (but rocking) take from their first LP. So...I’m out at a flea market, picking through seemingly endless, dusty piles of 25 cent 45s, and I pull out the version by Gladys & The Pips and POW! Suddenly my respect for Gladys Knight and the Pips shot through the roof. I had never heard Gladys’ voice sound quite so gritty, or the tune on one of her records so funky. Theirs was the original version of the tune, and in my opinion, the best. So...years go by, and slowly but surely I happen upon a few more funky Gladys tracks (especially ‘Nitty Gritty’), so when I pick up a UK ‘Best of’ LP in the racks at the Princeton "used to be good in the old days" Record Exchange (to get that track), I grabbed it, brought it home and blew my mind all over again. There, in addition to the better known tracks, were a few brilliant Northern style cuts I’d never heard (especially ‘Take A Walk In My Shoes’) and a track so funky that it immediately became a favorite. Today’s selection ‘You Need Love Like I Do (Don’t You)’ was actually a hit in 1970 (a few years before I first glued my ear to the radio), hitting #3 R&B and #22 Pop. Featuring a deceptively placid opening, with the drummer starting the beat on the bell of a cymbal, it starts to pick up steam right away, with the clavinet, drums and bass dropping in – until Gladys hits it with a “Well well well!” that just about kicks the door open. The drums are especially hard, and Gladys’ voice keeps moving into that part of her range where it has just the tiniest bit of a rasp to it (and a ton of soul). The song goes into overdrive in the breakdown at the beginning of the bridge. The backing thins out to just the drums and a tight guitar/bass riff, with Gladys and the Pips bringing the heat (gotta love it when the Pips start dropping the “BOOM BOOM BOOM”s in the background. There’s a great moment toward the end of the record where things are building to a climax in a reprise of the chorus and someone starts hitting the chimes in the background (not the little tinkly ones either, but the big churchy ones). It’s a fantastic, borderline absurd addition, but it works. The lyrics are possibly the most boldly sexual thing the lovely Miss Knight ever laid down (at least on a record), and it’s a great example of the kind of killer record the folks at Motown were still capable of at the turn of the decade. Composed by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong (who also wrote “Grapevine”), the tune was also recorded (at Motown) by Temptations (also 1970, not sure who cut it first) and the Jackson Five. Whitfield was the real genius behind late period Motown, injecting a fresh dose of innovation (and rock solid songwriting) to countless sides. There’s another great cover of the tune, done around the same time by journeyman (woman?) backup singer Clydie King on the LP she recorded for the Lizard label (also home to Nolan and Paul Humphrey & The Cool Aid Chemists). It doesn’t have the power of the Gladys Knight record, but King had a great voice and the whole LP is worth picking up if you can get your hands on it.
NOTE: I forgot to scan the record label, so no label scan today....I'll make it up to you, I promise.


Blogger redwineandconfucius said...

i just wanted to say that, well, i also love your blog. i never listened to music growing up, we had a quiet household, but to spare you the long story--i listen to it now. I'm far, far behind but trying desperately to catch up. I crave sites like yours to help me find good music I might not otherwise stumble upon.

an aside--i found an old esther phillips 45 and discovered that, played at actually sounds better. haha..anyway. keep up the good work.

1/11/2006 01:20:00 AM  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Forgot to scan the record? OK, just don't forget to post next, Larry.
Gladys' stuff from this period is hot,and not often heard. Nice pick.

Congrats on the press, too. Hope the bandwidth doesn't explode on you. Now, I'm off to play an Esther Phillips (no relation, sad to say) 45 at 33. . . .

1/11/2006 02:16:00 AM  
Anonymous cj grogan said...

Pretty atomic track man. her voice is pretty fierce and the the horn arrangement is awesome.

1/21/2006 03:19:00 PM  

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