This is the kind of album that gave Motown its shoddy reputation when it came to LP's. Though compared to the kind of diseased horse phlegm that gets passed off as R&B nowadays, Motown's album releases of the 1960's are golden, featuring great musical backings from the top-tier Motown house band, along with smooth powerful vocals untouched by the devilishly deceptive hands of ProTools, and songwriting by the same guys who wrote all those Tamla Motown hits.
But Motown is often synonymous with 'safe'. I would've probably coped if they'd been a little less liberal filing all the rough (read: black) edges off their stars, but that's what Stax/Volt and Atlantic were there for I suppose. When it came to singles though, Motown were very much the best of the best for the time - you knew if you were buying a Motown 45, you were going to get a quality product.
But really, Motown albums kinda suck regardless of their quality control standards. 1961's Soulful Moods
had been Gaye's crooning debut, all 'champagne kisses and candlelight dreams', which stiffed mightily, so Stubborn Fellow
was his first R&B release. It sure doesn't hold much for the Soul fan outside of the opening trio of singles.
The title track, "Hitch Hike", and "Pride and Joy" are all great Ray Charles-influenced secular Gospel stuff - "Stubborn" riding on the joyous noises of the background choir, and a backbeat laid so far behind the beat it almost feels backwards. "Pride and Joy" is a buoyant bit of marshmallow fluff, and "Hitch Hike" (as covered by The Rolling Stones) a sort of safe 'ramblin man' stroll tune, where Gaye uses his charms to lead his call-and-response girls around like dogs on leashes.
by Reviewer: Capt Bonanza
(blogging at Capn Marvel's Bonanza [Defunct]