Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas - "Honey Chile" (1967)

This song may have provided more than a bit of a template for bubblegum soul of the later '60s/early '70s. Around the same tempo as "Want Ads" or "Band of Gold" and maybe no wonder that the Jackson Five covered it on their third album.

Construction of this song is so great. You've got these short, four-bar verses with three rhyming lines and then the title words used as a punctuation. Starts off with two of the verses followed by, strangely enough, a bridge already at 0:30.

When the third verse comes in at 0:40, the melody is already elevated into a higher register. You can't push too much, though, so here's where the song does its most brilliant thing. Instead of having two more of the short verses here, there's only one, and then we finally move to the chorus (which temporarily levels the energy out a little bit).

Of course, 0:50 is not a point where you'd normally be talking about "finally" getting to the chorus, but this song has already had a bridge. And by cutting the verses short here (one instead of two), they put that chorus in just the right place.

Topping this off, though, is the fact that the eight-bar chorus is split up into two four-bar sections, each with three lines and then the title words used as punctuation just like in the verses. Wow.

After this, it repeats the whole thing with new words through the two verses, the bridge, and the abbreviated single verse, then plows through the chorus again, after which Reeves finally gets to take a break at 2:06.

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