Nineteen years after The Spinners were formed in Detroit in 1954, commercial success and critical acclaim came their way. It had been a long time coming and many groups would’ve walked away from music. Luckily, The Spinners were made of stronger stuff. Their determination and perseverance was eventually rewarded in 1973, when they released their third album Spinners, which was rereleased by WEA Japan on 26th March 2013. Spinners reached number fourteen in the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts. This was the first of five consecutive Spinners’ albums to be certified gold. Not only that, but Spinners featured a trio of number one US R&B singles, I’ll Be Around, Ghetto Child and the Philly Soul classic Could It Be I’m Falling In Love penned my Melvin and Mervin Steals. For The Spinners, this was the start of the most successful period of their career. Commercial success and critical acclaim were ever-present until 1976s Happiness Is Being The Spinners. However, this commercial success and critical acclaim wouldn’t have happened without two men men, Phillip Wynne and Thom Bell.
Before The Spinners released Spinners in April 1973, commercial success had eluded them. Their recording career started in 1961 with That’s What Little Girls Are Made Of. It reached number twenty-seven in the US Billboard 100 and number five in the US R&B Charts. During the next few years hit singles were scarce. Apart from 1965s I’ll Always Love You and 1970s It’s A Shame the majority of The Spinners’ singles failed to chart. During this period, The Spinners released just two albums. Their debut albums was 1967s The Original Spinners, which was released on Motown. It failed to chart. Then three years later, in 1970, when 2nd Time Around was released on V.I.P. Records, it reached just number 199 in the US Billboard 200 and number forty-six in the US R&B Charts. Then in 1972, a new member joined The Spinners, Phillip Wynne. This was just the start of a change in The Spinners’ fortunes.
1972 proved to be an important year in The Spinners’ history. It was the year that they signed to Atlantic Records and the year Phillip Wynne joined The Spinners. Before Phillip joined The Spinners in, Bobby Smith had been the lead singer. When Phillip joined, Bobby and Phillip would share lead vocals. This was the case on their Atlantic Records’ 1973 debut album Spinners. As if signing a new member and signing to a major label Atlantic Records, The Spinners were about to work with a successful and innovative producer and songwriter Thom Bell.
For The Spinners Atlantic Records’ debut, Spinners, a number of songwriters worked on the album. Vinnie Barrett penned Just Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind, Bruce Hawkes wrote I Could Never (Repay Your Love) and Joseph B. Jefferson contributed One Of A Kind (Love Affair). Yvette Davis wrote three tracks, Just You And Me Baby, We Belong Together and How Could I Let You Get Away. The songwriting team of Jerry Akines, Johnny Belman, Victor Drayton and Reginald Turner cowrote Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You. Melvin and Mervin Steals’ contribution was a love song they’d written a few years earlier. Originally, they envisaged the track as an uptempo track. Producer Thom Bell disagreed. He decided that Could It Be I’m Falling In Love should be slowed down and transformed into a ballad. This was a masterstroke that was the finishing touch to a Philly Soul classic. Thom Bell cowrote the other two track. With Phil Hurtt he cowrote I’ll Be Around and with his songwriting partner Linda Creed, he cowrote Ghetto Child. These ten tracks would become Spinners, which was recorded at Joe Tarsia’s Sigma Sound Studios.
Joining the five Spinners, Henry Fambrough, Billy Henderson, Pervis Jackson, Bobby Smith and lead Phillip Wynn at Sigma Sound Studios in Philly, were Philadelphia International Records’ house-band M.F.S.B. This included the Baker, Harris, Young rhythm section plus guitarists included Bobby “Electronic” Eli and Roland Chambers. They were joined by vibes virtuoso Vince Montana Jr, percussionist Larry Washington, Don Renaldo’s string and horn section and the Sweethearts of Sigma, Carla Benson, Evette Benton and Barbara Ingram. Once recording of Spinners was completed, it was released in April 1973. Little did anyone realise, that Spinners would transform The Spinners career.
On the release of Spinner, it was released in April of 1973. It reached 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.
I’ll Be Around see 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.
One Of A Kind (Love Affair) is 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.
Ghetto Child was written by Thom Bell and Linda Creed. It 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, written by Melvin and Mervin Steals. 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, The Sweethearts of Sigma accompany them, while grand strings swirl and sweep. Meanwhile, 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.
Playing their part in the success of The Spinners’ first album for Atlantic Records Spinners, was Philadelphia music royalty. Along with the five Spinners, M.F.S.B. and The Sweethearts of Sigma contributed towards making the The 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 of rasping, blazing horns and in M.F.S.B. the greatest house band in Philadelphia.
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. Spinners which was rereleased by WEA Records on 26th March 2013, was the album that established The Spinners reputation as a member of Philly Soul royalty. Standout Tracks: Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You, I’ll Be Around Ghetto Child and Could It Be I’m Falling In Love.
THE DETROIT SPINNERS-SPINNERS.