The Originals – 1972 – Definitions
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The Originals, often called “Motown’s best-kept secret”, were a successful Motown R&B and soul group during the late 1960s and the 1970s, most notable for the hits “Baby, I’m For Real“, “The Bells” and the disco classic “Down To Love Town”. Formed in 1966, the group originally consisted of bass singer Freddie Gorman, baritone (and the group’s founder) Walter Gaines, and tenors C. P. Spencerand Hank Dixon (and briefly Joe Stubbs). Ty Hunter replaced Spencer when he left to go solo in the early 1970s. They had all previously sung in other Detroit groups, Spencer having been an original member of The (Detroit) Spinners and Hunter having sung with The Supremes member Scherrie Payne in the group Glass House. Spencer, Gaines, Hunter, and Dixon (at one time or another) were also members of The Voice Masters. As a member of the Holland–Dozier–Gorman writing-production team (before Holland–Dozier–Holland), Gorman (as a mailman) was one of the co-writers of Motown’s first number 1 pop hit “Please Mr. Postman“, recorded by The Marvelettes.
A1 The Exodus Song 3:47
A2 The World Can’t Stop Me Now (From Loving You) 2:46
A3 The Rovin’ Kind 3:04
A4 Make It With You 3:48
A5 I’ve Got A Need For You 3:16
A6 Love Is Life 3:28
B1 I’m Someone Who Cares 2:47
B2 Lie No. 2 4:04
B3 Come Rain Or Shine 2:51
B4 Keep Me 2:45
B5 Bridge Over Troubled Water 5:44
In spite of their considerable talent including several members who wrote their own material, The Originals were hardly one of Motown’s best known groups. For better or worse, 1972’s “Def-i-ni-tions” gives you a pretty good idea of why they were also-rans for the company. This version of the group featured Henry ‘Hank’ Dixon, Walter Gaines, Freddie Gorman, and C.P. Spencer. While their collective sound wasn’t particularly original, each member was a talented lead singer and collectively their voices blended as well as any other group in the Motown stable (explaining why they were used as backing singers on so many Motown songs). The main problem with this one was the hackneyed song selection and arrangements. Motown management seemingly couldn’t decide if they want The Originals to appeal to a mainstream white audience, or a more contemporary soul audience, The end result was a dysfunctional mess of an album that was cluttered with hideously arranged pop standards like ‘The Exodus Song‘, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water‘, and a cover of Bread’s ‘Make It with You‘. Sadly, far superior soul sides like the original ‘Come Rain or Shine‘, ‘I Got a Need for You‘ and ‘I’m Someone Who Cares‘ came off as afterthoughts. Shame they weren’t treated better by the label.
The opening cover of ‘The Exodus Song‘ encapsulated everything that was wrong with this album. Admittedly their version was far better than most versions (think along the lines of Pat Boone’s version, or the sappy Andy Williams take), but it remained far too MOR-ish for The Originals’ own good. About the best thing you could say is that it was painless. Far better than the first tune, but again, ‘The World Can’t Stop Me (From Loving You)‘ would have been far better with a stripped down arrangement. At least ‘the song had a pounding, upbeat, soul-ish flavor that allowed the group to spotlight their smooth harmonies. Thankfully ‘The Rovin’ Kind‘ presented the quartet in a straightforward soul mode. On any other album this one probably would have been an also-ran track, but here it was one of the better tunes. Nah, it couldn’t compare with David Ruffin’s cover (found on 1973’s “David Ruffin”), but in spite of the sappy lyrics, I could even stomach the flute solo.
Having grown up on the David Gates and Bread original ‘Make it with you‘, I’ll limit my comments saying their version wasn’t any worse than the original. I’m sure this was featured at lost of mid-’70s proms (the Bread original was played at my proms). Stripped of the MOR-ish arrangements the up-tempo ‘I Got a Need for You‘ demonstrated how good these guys could be. The dreadful spoken word intro put you on notice ‘Love I s Life’ wasn’t going to be a standout performance. Bland, over-orchestrated MOR-ish ballad …
The album’s sleeper, ‘I’m Someone Who Cares‘ allowed Gorman and Spencer to open up and show off their chops. Coupled with a nifty melody, this one should have provided them with a big hit. Lie No. 2 is another example of a track that would have been killer had the sappy arrangement been ditched in favor of a tougher sound. The breezy, shag ready, radio-friendly ‘Come Rain or Shine‘ was easily the album’s standout performance. As the album’s lone original composition, given the caliber of the song, you had to wonder why The Originals weren’t allow to record more of their own material.
‘Keep Me‘, I’m sure the fact Berry Gordy Jr. wrote it had nothing to do with their decision to cover the tune, Okay, okay that was needless cynical since their cover wasn’t half bad. With a Soloman Burk-ish church organ and some nice Gospel-tinged harmonies, this was actually another album highlight. I actually like it better than the Liz Lands original. Apparently every mid-’70s recording contract included a requirement that the track listing include at least one Bob Dylan, or Paul Simon cover. With Gorman on lead vocals, The Originals responded with a sappy, overblown, and totally forgettable version of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water‘.
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