The Elgins – 1966 – Darling Baby
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Here is Mr.Moo‘s 1st contribution of the year, A classic Motown album.
The Elgins were a great little group on Motown‘s VIP label during the 60s – and they had a sweet falsetto soul style that reminds us a lot of the best work by The Miracles during the same time. Lead singer Saundra Edwards has a style that’s similar to Smokey Robinson’s high vocals – and the heavy production by the Holland/Dozier team provides a nice counterpoint to keep the lyrics from getting too sickly sweet. Features the big hit “Darling Baby”, plus “Put Yourself In My Place”, “No Time For Tears”, “Stay In My Lonely Arms”, “Good Lovin”, and “It’s Gonna Be Hard Times”. A little bit sweet, a little bit heavy – and all nice nice nice!
This is a@320 vinyl rip of the original Motown LP including covers.
A1. Darling Baby 2.34
A2. In The Midnight Hour 2.12
A3. Heaven Must Have Sent You 2.40
A4. I Understand My Man 3.07
A5. Good Lovin’ 2.38
A6. It’s Gonna Be Hard Times 2.23
B1. Put Yourself In My Place 2.25
B2. 634-5789 2.25
B3. No Time For Tears 2.53
B4. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) 2.52
B5. Stay In My Lonely Arms 3.01
B6. When A Man Loves A Woman 3.08
The group’s story begins in 1962 with a vocal trio calling themselves the Downbeats. Johnny Dawson, Cleo Miller, and Robert Fleming had occasionally accompanied Marv Johnson – including their uncredited backing on “Once Upon a Time” – prior to Johnson’s hits for United Artists Records. The Downbeats also cut tracks for the Lupine family of labels before signing to the Tamla label.
Their releases for the Motown family imprint were sporadic, however.
In 1966, lead vocalist Sandra Mallett (a.k.a. Sandra Edwards) — one of the finest vocalists in the Motown Records stable — joined Dawson, Miller, and Fleming. Four years earlier, in 1962, Mallett had recorded “It’s Going to Be Hard Times” b/w “Camel Walk” for Tamla as Sandra Mallett and the Vandellas. Motown was all set to issue the quartet’s debut for their VIP label, “Darling Baby” a Holland-Dozier-Holland production credited to the Downbeats. The song had been adapted from Lamont Dozier’s solo release, “Dearest One” (Melody Records, June 1962). However, before Motown shipped the “Darling Baby” single, they slapped new labels on the 45s with the group’s new name: the Elgins. Berry Gordy – who reportedly insisted they change their name – wanted to use the name now that the original Temptations – Otis Williams, Paul Williams (no relation to Otis), Al Bryant, Melvin Franklin, and Eddie Kendricks – were no longer using the name once they signed to Motown’s Miracle subsidiary.
VIP failed to promote the single outside the greater Detroit area, but it still managed to score a slot on the national R&B charts (number four) and charted at number 72 on the pop charts. Eight months later, the Elgins issued “Heaven Must Have Sent You” which charted Top Ten R&B briefly at number nine and number 50 on the pop charts. They followed up with a full album, Darling Baby, and another single, “I Understand My Man” but chart success eluded them and they disbanded shortly afterwards in 1967.
In 1971, Motown re-released “Heaven Must Have Sent You” in 1971. In the late ’80s, a new group of Elgins was formed by British-born mogul/producer Ian Levine, who had previously worked with the re-formed Miracles and Contours (to name two). Johnny Dawson was the only original Elgin in the lineup. Sandra Mallett – now going by Sandra Edwards – was replaced by Yvonne Vernee-Allen. The other members were Jimmy Charles and Norbert McLean. This newly configured lineup recorded a remake of “Heaven Must Have Sent You,” which had been a major hit for Pointer when she covered it only a few years prior. Levine also recorded a solo effort by Edwards (Bryan Thomas, All Music Guide)
The Elgins’ hit 1965 single Darling Baby provided the title track of their V.I.P. album of the following year, which also included the hits Heaven Must Have Sent You, Put Yourself In My Place and Stay In My Lonely Arms. Saundra shines on all the lead vocals on the album, apart from 634-5789 and When A Man Loves A Woman on which Johnny Dawson sings lead. It was mostly recorded in 1966, but It’s Gonna Be Hard Times dates from 1962, and was the B-side of her solo single on which she was joined by the three Vandellas and Marvin Gaye on piano. Most of the album was produced by Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier, with several original Holland-Dozier-Holland songs from when they were on a huge roll, but one of my favourites is No Time For Tears, which Norman Whitfield produced. The Marvelettes did the great original version of this but that was buried on a B-side, and Saundra here makes it her own (Laurence Upton from Amazon)
Their first Motown release, “Darling Baby” was initially labeled as the Downbeats, but the company quickly corrected the error by slapping Elgin stickers over the misprinted labels. By this time, Sandra’s last name had changed to Edwards. Darling Baby displays the Elgins’ versatility. Half the LP is good classic Motown, while the other half is average Southern soul. A male singer handles the deep soul tracks, which have all the ambience of recordings produced in Memphis or Muscle Shoals. The classic Motown tracks, however, glisten like precious stones. “Darling Baby” is one of Holland, Dozier, and Holland’s most charming creations; its soulful, slinky doo wop beat provides the backdrop for some crafty crooning by the fellas and a soulful lead by Sandra. Sandra’s solo release “It’s Going to Be Hard Times” is a sentimental declaration that borders on blues; “I Understand My Man” has a similar production and is probably a leftover solo track. The rollicking “Heaven Must Have Sent You” is one the finest examples of Motown, and still sounds fresh after more than 30 years. More of that classic sound would have made this a super album (Andrew Hamilton, All Music Guide).
Buy the 2007 two CD compilation included the album and all their singles from Amazon and a vinyl copy from ebay.