Song Of The Day 6/15/2014: The Spinners - "Just Can't Get You Out of My Mind"


Black Music Month/Philadelphia Week: Let's say you were manager of a community radio station and wanted me to do a weekly show (it would have to be public radio -- no way I'd last past 2pm on a comm station). But instead of the format-free show I specialized in at KAOS, you wanted me to pick a specific genre and chronological reference point. I'd protest, of course, but if your position was immutable, I'd grudgingly say, "Fine. I'll do R&B from the '60s and '70s." That's my "home music" -- it's what I always return to. However, if you, the station manager, were really persnickety and forced a gun to my head and said "Too general! Get more specific!" -- well, first, you're picking on the wrong kemosabe. But were I desperate enough to agree to that, I'd say, "Okay. Philly soul. Are you happy now?" And you probably wouldn't be happy because you apparently have way too many issues to be truly happy, but at least you'd have an answer, you sick sociopath.

Philadelphia soul was slick. Its producers placed a lot of stock in expertise and presentation. Maybe some would have thought it too compressed to merit its soulfulness, and there's still a lot of people who blame Philly soul for disco, as if that were something bad. For me, the stuff that came from Gamble & Huff and Thom Bell was too beautiful to be passed up. They also doused their songs with strings, which I will always swoon for, and Philly soul strings may have been the best such ornaments ever in pop music. And while the process had an calculated order to it, there were a bunch of unspeakably great singers in Philly that get maddeningly unheralded: Eddie Levert, Teddy Pendergrass, Russell Thompkins Jr., the Three Degrees. I mean, seriously, you haven't lived until you've heard Pendergass go off on Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes' "Yesterday I Had the Blues." I was effectively unborn until that happened.

Then you had the Spinners, whose alternating lead singers Phillipé Wynne (once managed by Alan Thicke!) and Bobby Smith sounded so eerily similar that I'm not sure who's handling the lead on "Just Can't Get You Out Of My Mind." I thought it was Wynne at first, but it could be Smith.* Or maybe both. I have no way of knowing for real and my plundering research hasn't turned out a definitive answer. This is the first track on their 1973 album Spinners, which came loaded with hits ("I'll Be Around," "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love," "One Of A Kind [Love Affair]," "Ghetto Child") and is one of the ten or so greatest soul albums of the '70s. Actually, make that five.

*(After listening closely, I'm inclined to think Smith is handling lead on this one.)


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