Reviewed on this page:
Spinners - Mighty Love - New And Improved -
Pick Of The Litter - Happiness Is Being With The Spinners -
Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow - Spinners/8
The Spinners originally came from Detroit, and languished at Motown for most of the 60s before
they scored a couple of Stevie Wonder-produced hits in 1970, with G.C. Cameron singing
lead. But they really broke through when they replaced Cameron (who stayed under contract to Motown) with falsetto
Phillipé Wynne, hooked up with producer Thom Bell and became a Philly Soul act, making heavy use of
strings, slow tempos, and celebratory love themes. Song for song, I prefer Bell's other main act,
The Stylistics, but this group gets points for endurance and versatility: a couple
of songs per album were sung by other Spinners, giving you a break from the falsetto.
Around 1977, the band suddenly stopped cracking the charts,
Wynne split (he later cut a solo album with George Clinton's Funk Mob), and Bell
eventually abandoned ship.
I've avoided the later non-Bell albums but they did have two hits in that period, both
covers: 1979's "Working My Way Back To You/Forgive Me Girl" and Sam Cooke's "Cupid" the following
G.C. Cameron, lead vocals; Henry Fambrough, Billy Henderson, Pervis Jackson, Bobbie Smith,
vocals. Cameron left 1970, replaced by Phillipé Wynne. Wynne left 1977, replaced by John Edwards.
The Original Spinners (1966)
I suspect this consists of failed single sides, like most Motown debut albums; "That's What Girls Are Made For" and
"Truly Yours" were the least unsuccessful.
2nd Time Around (1970)
Features both the Wonder-produced singles, "It's A Shame" and "We'll Have It Made" - I have them
both on 45 but I've never seen this LP.
The group's last album with lead singer G.C. Cameron, who remained under contract to Motown when the group
The group picked up new lead singer Phillipé Wynne, moved to Atlantic, and began working with producer Thom Bell,
whose lush, romantic arrangements - the same sophisticated strings he'd used with the Stylistics, but with more reliance on vocal harmonies - define the disc. But
with writing partner Linda Creed busy planning her wedding, he didn't contribute many of the tunes, opening the door
for a bunch of other writers. Two of them - Joseph B. Jefferson (the stirring "One Of A Kind (Love Affair)") and Bruce Hawes
("I Could Never (Repay Your Love)") - would collaborate on many future hits for the group, while -
Yvette Davis ("Just You And Me Baby"), Vinnie Barrett ("Just Can't Get You Out Of My Mind") - more or less
fell by the wayside.
Strangest of all, the transcendent hit "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love" was written by two brothers - Mervin and Melvin Steals -
who never hit again.
Bell did write the huge hit that put the group on the map, "I'll Be Around," and the clumsy message tune "Ghetto Child";
there's also one remake, the Wilson Pickett hit "Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You," done incongrously as big band jazz.
The musicians are the Philadelpia International house band: Earl Young (drums),
Ronnie Baker (bass), Norman Harris, Roland Chambers and Bobby Eli (guitars), Bell (piano),
Vince Montana (vibes), and Don Renaldo (strings).
Mighty Love (1974)
Bell's followup also has some fine tunes: the title track is a powerful anthem; "Since I Been
Gone" makes good use of fluttering strings; side two has some uptempo numbers that are funky but still carefully arranged and melodic ("Love Has Gone Away"). In several cases, though, the tunes
and arrangements are so bland they don't capture your attention ("Ain't No Price On Happiness").
Wynne's pure high tenor suits the gentle numbers better than the faster, more rhythmic
material: when he starts singing "gotta, gotta, gotta," he sounds like Otis Redding on helium.
Bell and Creed only wrote one song here ("I'm Coming Home"), with most written by the team of Jefferson, Simmons and
New And Improved (1974)
It's improved all right, with crisper, more memorable tunes (the smash duet with Dionne
Warwicke "Then Came You"; the nostalgic, heartstring-tugging "Sadie").
However, the album sticks to mid-gear - faster than a ballad but slower than a
dance track - and though the arrangements are lovely ("Smile, We Have Each Other") and the melodies are engaging ("Sitting
On Top Of The World"), the overall effect is slightly monotonous.
As usual, produced, arranged and conducted by Bell; Jefferson, Simmons and Hawes wrote most of the songs, while
Bell and Creed wrote two: the minor hit "Living A Little, Laughing A Little," and the pleasant trifle "Lazy Susan."
The rhythm section is fellow Motown refugees Andrew Smith (drums) and Bob Babbit (bass), with Eli and Bell's brother Tony on guitar.
A double LP, focusing on the three previous albums: "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love"; "Sadie"; "Living A Little, Laughing A Little."
Oddly, "I'll Be Around" isn't here; Linda Creed fills the Warwicke role on "Then Came You."
There's also a lengthy medley where the group impersonates everyone from the Inkspots to Elvis to the Supremes.
Pick Of The Litter (1975)
More accuracy in album titles: this is indeed the group's finest hour, where the album tracks ("Honest I Do,"
one of two songs co-written by Bell) are arguably better than the singles. There's also more stylistic breadth: fuzz
guitar on "Love Or Leave"; the bouncy, Motown-like "All That Glitters Ain't Gold."
Jefferson/Hawes/Simmons wrote three songs including the big hit "They Just Can't Stop It (The Games People Play)," but
Bell certainly wasn't superstitious about other writers:
Barrett got two songs in ("Sweet Love Of Mine"; "Just As Long As We Have Love"), and T. Life
co-wrote "All That Glitters Ain't Gold."
Barbara Ingram, Carla Benton and Evette Benson are listed on background vocals; Warwick (originally uncredited) duets on
"Just As Long As We Have Love." Same rhythm section as New; strings are credited to "MFSB Orchestra
(including Don Renaldo and His Swingin' Strings And Horns)" - those Philly musicians were an incestuous bunch.
Happiness Is Being With The Spinners (1976)
With dance music driving everything else off the charts, Creed and Bell responded with the seven-minute, irresistably
cheesy "The Rubberband Man," which may be the group's best known hit. Otherwise, though, it's the usual lush, midtempo
romantic soul, and compositionally a big dropoff from the previous discs: the same themes ("You're All I Need In Life"),
familiar-sounding melodies ("Toni My Love"). The big counterexample is Jefferson/Hawes/Simmons's gorgeous "Four Hands In
The Fire"; they also contributed two lesser tunes, while Life co-wrote "Now That We're Together" and M. Burton came up
with the flat "The Clown."
Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow (1977)
Though there are no must-haves here - and nothing cracked the Top 40 - it's a return to form compared with most of
Happiness: a string of lovely, uplifting mellow numbers ("I Found Love (When I Found You)"; "I'm Riding Your
Shadow (Down To Love)").
S. Marshall, who'd co-written "Wake Up Susan" on the previous LP, co-wrote half the album ("Me And My Music," perhaps the
best song); Bell was limited to the mild funk tune "Honey, I'm In Love With You."
Burton's "You're The Love Of My Life" is unexceptional but a step up from "The Clown."
Not a bad song in the bunch; the biggest problem is that the last two tracks - "You're Throwing A Good Love Away" and the smooth ballad "Just To Be
With You" - are ridiculously overextended, running over eight minutes each.
Starting All Over (Philippé Wynne: 1977)
The first album post-Wynne, and John Edwards does his best to sing in the same high register.
No change in Bell's approach, but he has trouble finding memorable songs, aside from the memorably grating "I'm Gonna
Getcha"... The single "Heaven on Earth (So Fine)," by Casey James, isn't much, but there are three standout tracks:
B. Lamb's fast
"Back In The Arms Of Love," James/Thom Bell/Leroy Bell's medium "Easy Come, Easy Go," and best of all, James and Leroy
Bell's slow, anthemic "Baby I Need Your Love (You're The Only One)."
Jefferson and Simmons wrote just one song, "I'm Tired Of Giving."
From Here To Eternally (1979)
The last Bell production, though he didn't write anything: most of the tunes are by James and Leroy Bell, and Jefferson/Simmons contributed "Once You Fall In Love." (DBW)
Dancin' And Lovin' (1979)
The medley of the Four Seasons' "Working My Way Back To You" with "Forgive Me Girl" put them back on the map. It was the brainchild of Michael Zager (of "Let's All Chant" semi-fame), who put together this LP.
Love Trippin' (1980)
Zager promptly whipped up another cover medley: Sam Cooke's "Cupid" run together with "I've Loved You For A Long Time."
Labor Of Love (1981)
Zager remained at the controls, but this time his medley ("Yesterday Once More/Nothing Remains The Same") didn't hit.
Can't Shake This Feelin (1981)
Largely produced by James Mtume & Reggie Lucas, with the usual bunch of Sigma Sound players.
Grand Slam (1982)
Includes a cover of Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away."
Cross Fire (1984)
The last release on Atlantic. (DBW)
Lovin' Feelings (1985)
Mark Liggett and Chris Barbosa produced a Hi-NRG cover of "More Today Than Yesterday."
Down To Business (1989)
Hey y'all, prepare yourself.