THE DETROIT SPINNERS-SPINNERS.

THE DETROIT SPINNERS-SPINNERS.

Whenever I buy, or I’m about to buy an album, I always check the album sleeve-notes to see who played, arranged or produced an album. Sometimes, this indicates the quality of an album. When you look at the credits for The Spinners’ first album for Atlantic Records, entitled Spinners, the personnel on the album reads like a who’s who of music. Joining The Detroit Spinners, who were Billy Henderson, Bobby Smith, Phillipe Wynne, Henry Farmbrough and Pervis Jackson were the three members of the M.F.S.B. rhythm section drummer Earl Young, bassist Ronnie Baker and guitarist Norman Harris. They were joined by the founding member of M.F.S.B Bobby Eli, the group’s lead guitarist and Vince Montana who played vibes and the marimbas. Producing the album was Thom Bell, who also played the piano on Spinners. Other personnel included Jack Faith, an arranger and producer at Philadlphia International Records, who played alto saxophone and flute and Linda Creed who sang backing vocals. Later, Linda would work with Thom Bell, producing numerous artists, including The Detroit Spinners, The Stylistics and Teddy Pendergrass. As you can see, this was the creme de la creme of the Philadelphia music scene that gathered at the Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia to record the ten songs for The Detroit Spinners third album, Spinners.

Once Spinners was recorded, it was released in April of 1973, reaching number fourteen in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts. Having sold over 500,000 copies, the album was certified gold. This was the first of five consecutive album released by The Spinners that would be certified gold. It was also the first of thirteen consecutive albums The Spinners released on Atlantic that entered the US Billboard 200. As if having such a successful debut album for their new label, Spinners featured five singles of which three would reach number one in the US R&B Charts.

The first single released was in 1972, and was How Could I Let You Get Away WIth It, which reached number seventy-seven in the US Billboard 100 and fourteen in the US R&B Charts. I’ll Be Around was the second single, and the first in a trio of consecutive US R&B number ones. It also reached number three in the US Billboard 100. Could It Be That I’m Falling In Love was the last single released in 1972, and reached number four in the US Billboard 100. Of the two singles released in 1973, One of A Kind (Love Affair) reached number eleven in the US Billboard 100. Later in 1973, Ghetto Child reached number twenty-nine in the US Billboard 100 and four in the US R&B Charts. With five successful singles, and a number one US R&B album, behind them, The Detroit Spinners move to Atlantic had been a huge success, transforming their careers. However, what made Spinners such a hugely successful, album and what did it sound like? That’s what I’ll now tell you. 

Spinners opens with Just Can’t Get You Out of My Mind and has a trademark Philly sound with lush, swirling strings, and the brillinat Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section combining with rasping horns before the heartfelt lead vocal enters, singing about how he can’t get his ex-girlfriend out of his mind. Meanwhile, the rest of the group contribute sweet, tight harmonies, accompanied by chiming guitars, sweeping strings and rasping horns. Together, this beautiful combination combines perfectly with the sadness and heartbreak of the lead vocal, resulting in a great song, with a contemporary, timeless sound.

Just You and Me Baby has a slow, dramatic opening, with blazing horns, a slow drama laden rhythm section, percussion and chiming guitars, before a soft, thoughtful lead vocal enters. It’s accompanied by harmonies from the other four Spinners, while the arrangement has a much more understated, sound, as it meanders along. Slow, strings enter, their sound gentle, as the sweep in the background. This is perfect for the tender lyrics, about being with the one you love. The strings combine with the horns and rhythm section to punctuate the arrangement with occasional burst of drama, which highlight parts of the song. Mostly, however, the songs has a lush, understated sound, thanks to arranger and producer Thom Bell. His arrangement and production results in a tender, quite beautiful sounding song.

It’s a real old fashioned jazzy, big band sound that opens Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You. Blazing horns, a standup bass and gentle jazzy drums accompany a lead vocal that swings along. The rest of The Spinners combine gentle, cooing harmonies, while horns rasp and M.F.S.B. are transformed into a tight little jazz band. They do this brilliantly, with drummer Earl Young and bassist Ronnie Baker seemingly relishing this new role. Meanwhile, The Spinners are swinging too, giving a similar sumptuous, jazz drenched, performance that’s absolutely irresistible.

A piano slowly plays, while guitars chime, strings sweep in and horns gently, rasp as I Could Never Repay (Your Love) begins. They give way to a gentle, considered vocal while the piano and careful, rhythm section accompany it. This works well, allowing you to focus totally on the vocal, and the beauty of the lyrics, how he’ll never, ever be able to repay the love she’s shown to him. As if the arrangement is good enough, Thom Bell decides to add some deliciously lush strings. Together with the piano they provide the perfect backdrop for an emotive and passionate vocal. Later, a wailing, atmospheric Hammond organ enters, while the other Spinners provide dramatic backing vocals. Over seven minutes, this epic song gets even better, the sound developing and a lush, dramatic and hugely emotive gradually reveals itself.

On the final song on side one of Spinners, I’ll Be Around, Bobby Smith takes the lead vocal, pledging his loyalty to his girlfriend whose left him again, for another man. Still he hopes she’ll return to him. This he does against a mid-tempo arrangement, which has a lovely smooth sound, where chiming guitars play an important part in the sound, while percussion, the rhythm section, organ, rasping horns and sweeping strings all play their part in the success of the song. Female backing vocalists that include Linda Creed, Barbara Ingram, Carla Benson and Yvette Benton punctuate the track, providing a soulful, contrast to Bobby’s hopeful vocal. Together, Bobby’s vocal and Thom Bell’s arrangement and production combine to create one of the album’s best tracks. No wonder this track reached number one in the US R&B Charts, with such a great sound.

Side two of Spinners opens with One Of A Kind (Love Affair), another track that gave The Detroit Spinners a US R&B number one single. Here, the lead vocal is shared by Bobbie Smith and Phillipe Wynne. When the single was released it caused controversy, because there was confusion and debate whether it featured a profanity. This lead to the song being edited, to end this confusion. Regardless of this, it’s still an fantastic song, opening with Earl Young’s brilliant slow, dramatic drumming, which gives way to chiming guitars, keyboards and swirling strings. It’s only then the lead vocal enters, all the time with Earl Young’s dynamic and energetic drumming punctuating the track. There’s a sadness in the vocals, caused by a girlfriend whose left her boyfriend. Adding to the sense of sadness is a combination of swirling, sweeping strings and piano. Their addition combined with the vocals is a masterstroke, that succeeds in tugging at your heartstrings, and brings out a feeling of sadness and empathy. The same goes for the rest of the track. Throughout the track it’s a combination of a beautiful arrangement and vocals that evokes a sense of sadness and empathy in the listener. That a song can manage this is testament to The Detroit Spinners and producer Thom Bell.

A searing guitar, piano, and dramatic rhythm section combine, before the group sing backing vocals, giving way to the sad and thoughtful lead vocal as We Belong Together opens. Bursts of rasping horns, reverberating guitars and lush, swirling strings provide the backdrop for the heartfelt vocal. He pleads to start their love affair again, so it’ll be like it was before. We belong together he implores, as drums  and strings punctuate the arrangement, adding a sense of sadness and drama. Meanwhile, the rest of the group contribute gentle backing vocals. Together, the arrangement, backing vocals and the lead vocal combine to make a track laden in sadness and drama, but one that’s quite beautiful.

My favorite track on Spinners is Ghetto Child, which has a faster, fuller and dramatic opening. A combination of lush, sweeping strings, rasping horns, chiming guitars and a powerful rhythm section open the track, before the lead vocal enters. Quickly, the lead vocal changes hands, with each vocalist contributing a mixture of emotion and passion as they deliver Thom Bell and Linda Creed’s lyrics. Meanwhile, the lushest of swirling, sweeping strings, blazing horns and Earl Young’s dynamic yet thoughtful drumming all play important parts in the success of track’s sound. They all provide a gorgeous sounding backdrop for the vocals, which are equally good, drenched in drama and emotion. Add to this Thom Bell’s arrangement and production and the result is an outstanding track, one that I’ll never, ever tire of hearing.

How Could I Ever Let You Get Away is something many people must have wondered at one time in their lives. There will be many people you go through life wishing they’d never let the woman that was the one for them slip away. If you’re one of these people, you’ll think The Detroit Spinners are singing this to you. A slow combination of Earl Young’s drums, quivering, shivering strings, chiming guitars, percussion and rasping horns combine before the vocal enters. It’s full of sadness and regret, at the woman he let slip away. A Hammond organ enters, adding to the sense of sadness, while guitars chime, strings sweep and horns blaze. Meanwhile the group contribute soaring, emotive backing vocals, as the arrangement just gets better and better. By the end of this thoughtful, emotive track, you wonder why, wishing you could turn the clock back, and wonder how different things would’ve been?

Spinners closes with the original version of Could It Be I’m Falling In Love, a song that was covered by David Grant and Jaki Graham in 1985. However, their version is a pale imitation of the original. Again, Bobbie Smith and Phillipe Wynne share the lead vocal on the track. Lush, sweeping strings, blazing horns, the rhythm section and chiming, shimmering guitars combine before the vocal enters. When Bobbie and Phillipe sing lead vocal, female backing vocalists accompany them, while grand strings swirl and sweep and the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section demonstrate why they were the tightest, hottest rhythm section of the time. Later, horns bray, drenching the arrangement with their sound, while the lead and backing vocals similarly soar. When all of these things are combined, and Thom Bell sprinkles some of his magic all over it, the result is a fantastic track, and an uplifting and joyous way to end the album.

Like I said at the start of this article, what was Philadelphia music royalty contributed towards making the The Detroit Spinners first album for Atlantic Records a huge commercial success. With Earl Young, Ronnie Baker and Norman Harris providing the rhythm section and other members of M.F.S.B. like Bobby Eli and Vince Montana both playing on the album, The Detroit Spinners had some of the most successful and most talented musicians in Philadelphia backing them Add to this Thom Bell, who arranged and produced Spinners, who produced ten songs that are a brilliant combination of lush and gritty. Swathes of the lushest strings, a proliferation rasping, blazing horns and in M.F.S.B. the greatest house band in Philadelphia. Together, these talented musicians and producer provided the backdrop for the five Detroit Spinners Billy Henderson, Bobby Smith, Phillipe Wynne, Henry Farmbrough and Pervis Jackson, who were transformed from Motown also rans to superstars on Atlantic Records. This was just the start in a run of thirteen consecutive albums on Atlantic that entered the US Billboard 200. On Spinners, The Detroit Spinners sang beautifully and brilliantly on ten songs, many of which were love songs. Regardless of whether it was love lost, love gone wrong or falling in love, the five Detroit Spinners excelled themselves, giving a glimpse of what would come in years to come. Spinners was just chapter one in the long and successful story of The Detroit Spinners, one of the biggest, most successful and soulful groups in America during the seventies. Standout Tracks: Just Can’t Get You Out of My Mind, Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You, Ghetto Child and How Could I Ever Let You Get Away.

THE DETROIT SPINNERS-SPINNERS.

The Detroit Spinners,Spinners - Quad/Sealed,USA,Deleted,LP RECORD,428271

2 Comments

  1. This album represents the finest hour of the Philly sound. All the elements came together and resulted in magic. Producer/Arranger Thom Bell entered the big leagues. In the past he had been assigned talent, But this was his choice. A new contract, and a great new lead vocalist had revitalized the Spinners.

    As you stated, The musician’s on this recording were soon to be MFSB. The recording and mix by Sigma Sound’s Joe Tarisa is analog bliss. If you can find the quad LP get it!.

    The first time I heard “How Could I Let You Get Away” was unforgettable, Even today the LP is sequenced like a greatest hits.

    Thank you for helping to inform others about some of the greatest records ever made.

  2. Thanks Harold,

    Growing up, the Philly Sound was the soundtrack to my life. I was lucky to be around when there was such great music. Thom Bell and Gamble and Huff were geniuses, producing one great album after another. Thom Bell’s work with the Detroit Spinners as you say, helped him enter the major league, where he belonged. What followed was some of the greatest music of the seventies, music that’s timeless and brilliant. Thanks for your kind comments Harold.

    Best Wishes,
    Derek Anderson.

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