Stevie Wonder - Until You Come Back To Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)
Mr. Stevie Wonder!
The middle of the week is upon us. Despite the fact that I have a couple of burners in the on deck circle (and I’m chomping at the bit to get them posted) I’ve decided to change things up and work in a ballad*. Back in 1973 (when I was but a sprout of 11), Aretha Frankin had a big (#1 R&B/#3 Pop) hit with the tune ‘Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)’. I loved the song then (unusual, I know but the melody really grabbed me), and I always turn up the radio when it comes on. It was years before I found out that the tune was actually written by the one and only Stevie Wonder. Of course I started tracking down the original version, but in the pre-internet days I was - how do they say - stymied. As time went on I figured that Wonder had written but never actually recorded the song himself. A few years ago, when it was included on a CD compilation, I realized that Wonder had indeed recorded, but never released his own version of the song (I had yet to hear it). I decided in the last year or so that I was going to try to track down the recording... About a month ago I had some spare time on my hands and started to pull out some records to make a funk/soul mix. One of the LPs I removed from the old Expedit was a 3-LP Stevie Wonder collection from 1977 called ‘Looking Back’, one of several similar Motown reissues from the 70's. I had grabbed it at a garage sale in the neighborhood a few years ago, and it had basically been gathering dust on the shelf since then. I had taken it out to see if it included the funky 1968 number ‘You Met Your Match’ (another fave) which I didn’t happen to have on 45. So, I’m scanning the track listings in the awkward tri-fold LP jacket, when, much to my surprise there on the second disc was ‘Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)’. My initial shock was soon exceeded by a feeling of “Boy, am I ever a rube” (this of course goes back to the “too many records to keep track of problem”). I started doing some research and discovered that this was the only time the recording had ever been issued on vinyl. Wonder co-wrote the tune with Clarence Paul and Morris Broadnax**. Paul was the man that initially brought Wonder to Motown, and served as his mentor/father figure for many years.
Wonder recorded the song in 1967, and the full arrangement suggests that it almost certainly was intended for release at one time (as opposed to being solely a “publisher’s demo”). Apparently there was also another 60’s recording of the tune – also unreleased at the time – by Junior Walker & the All Stars (it was eventually issued on a Best Of CD in 1993). Wonder’s recording opens with lush strings and a subdued rhythm section. His vocal is of course wonderful, and the arrangement a little slower and more romantic than the hit version by Franklin. Her recording has a soulful kick to it, especially with the taut call and response exchanges between Aretha and her backup singers. I still haven’t decided which version I prefer, but I suppose since they’re both excellent, it doesn’t really matter. The tune was later covered by Johnny Mathis, Paul Young, Basia and – believe it or not – the Captain & Tennille. If your not the type to haunt garage sales, flea markets or dusty used record stores (where you could probably find a copy of ‘Looking Back’ for a few dollars), ‘Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)’ is included on the Stevie Wonder boxed set ‘At the Close of a Century’. Considering the greatness of Mr. Wonder, you’d definitely be getting your money’s worth.
* There'll be some nice, upbeat soul on Friday, but I will be returning with another ballad next week.
**The trio also wrote ‘Just A Little Misunderstanding’ for the Contours NOTE: I’d like to extend a special note of thanks to reader Matt M., who found a copy of the Four Larks ‘Groovin’ At The Go Go’ (long an unrequited highlight of my want list), and sent it to me, gratis. For this extremely cool move, I will be forever in his debt.