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  1. #1

    Martha & The Vandellas- My Baby Loves Me

    Was listening to this today, first time in quite a few years. Now that I'm a few years older, I'm really struck with just how amazing this song truly is. I always liked it, but now more than ever, I appreciate that Motown put this out. It kind of resides in its own space- not a ballad, but not a dance tune [[well, maybe it was good for slow dancing.)

    One thing that struck me was the backing vocals. I always thought it was really an unexpected step to replace the Vandellas, not just with the Andantes, but with a full male vocal group as well. I'm sure it was nothing more than the producer just wanting a different sound for the record, but honestly, you'd swear this was a Martha Reeves solo record.

    I remember thinking it was the Four Tops backing Martha but I really had nothing more than my ears. Then, years later I read some books saying that very thing. But now I'm wondering if they too just surmised that for the same reason I did: the blend of male vocals with the Andantes sounds very much like Four Tops backing vocals. So is it REALLY the Tops and Andantes here or is it The Spinners and Andantes? At any rate, I think the choice to used male and female vocals really works to great effect for this particular record.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    I remember thinking it was the Four Tops backing Martha but I really had nothing more than my ears. Then, years later I read some books saying that very thing. But now I'm wondering if they too just surmised that for the same reason I did: the blend of male vocals with the Andantes sounds very much like Four Tops backing vocals. So is it REALLY the Tops and Andantes here or is it The Spinners and Andantes? At any rate, I think the choice to used male and female vocals really works to great effect for this particular record.
    According to the notes for "My Baby Loves Me" from TCMS-1966 as well as info from Wikipedia, those backing vocals are by The Andantes with The Four Tops [and none of the other members of The Vandellas are on that record]. And IMHO it sounds familiar since The Andantes also did the backing vocals on many of The Tops classic records from that era and it became a such signature of their sound.
    Last edited by Motown Eddie; 11-05-2022 at 07:10 AM. Reason: corrections

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    I always LOVED Marthas' performance on this, but when she did it LIVE with ROZ & Betty, I loved it even more. There is a video of them on the Mike Douglas Tv show where Martha Roz & Betty do it LIVE with their own combo & its GREAT.

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    One of their best.

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    You have to remember that My Baby Loves Me was intended to be a Four Tops song hence the Andantes. Then it was reassigned to Martha who added her lead.

    also here’s that clip from Mike Douglas


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    Quote Originally Posted by blackguy69 View Post
    You have to remember that My Baby Loves Me was intended to be a Four Tops song hence the Andantes. Then it was reassigned to Martha who added her lead.

    also here’s that clip from Mike Douglas

    I would have LOVED to hear how Levi would have tackled this song! Having said that, Martha's version is one of my favorite, if not my favorite, Martha tracks.
    Last edited by lockhartgary; 11-06-2022 at 10:55 AM.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by blackguy69 View Post
    You have to remember that My Baby Loves Me was intended to be a Four Tops song hence the Andantes. Then it was reassigned to Martha who added her lead.

    also here’s that clip from Mike Douglas

    AHA!!!! OK, that's the key that makes all of it fall into place for me. I was thinking it was just a stylistic/artistic choice but your comment is like the missing puzzle piece. And I have to say, the live clip is amazing because it shows just how wonderful the Vandellas were as singers in their own right.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Motown Eddie View Post
    According to the notes for "My Baby Loves Me" from TCMS-1966 as well as info from Wikipedia, those backing vocals are by The Andantes with The Four Tops [and none of the other members of The Vandellas are on that record]. And IMHO it sounds familiar since The Andantes also did the backing vocals on many of The Tops classic records from that era and it became a such signature of their sound.
    Thank you for this. Wow! So back when I was a kid, my ears were telling me the truth that it was the Four Tops and Andantes -only at the time I didn't know about the Andantes, I just thought the guys were amazingly gifted with being able to sing ultra high notes!

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    It is a beautiful song, deceptively simple in its melody and Martha's delivery is uncharacteristically understated. I honestly never appreciated how great this song is when I was young, as I only liked the dance or more R&B oriented numbers. But this really shows the kind of range Martha has, and I only wish she had been encouraged to do more such material. Undeniably, one of her best moments! And the Tops only make it that much sweeter.

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    Would the song’s success have been any greater [[than #22 Billboard Pop) if it was recorded with the Vandellas in the background instead?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mowest View Post
    Would the song’s success have been any greater [[than #22 Billboard Pop) if it was recorded with the Vandellas in the background instead?
    I'd love to think so, but perhaps it just wasn't single material. To me, that kind of song takes a while to grow on you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mowest View Post
    Would the song’s success have been any greater [[than #22 Billboard Pop) if it was recorded with the Vandellas in the background instead?
    Motown was a business & because they controlled the artists total career, they would choose to fly only the lead singer back to Detroit to record the new track as the artists were on the road alot, due to their popularity!

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    Quote Originally Posted by mowest View Post
    Would the song’s success have been any greater [[than #22 Billboard Pop) if it was recorded with the Vandellas in the background instead?
    I don't think that not having The Vandellas doing the backing vocals would've had any impact on the Billboard Pop chart success of "My Baby Loves Me". The song did do much better on the R&B charts [hitting #3] and Martha & Co. would enjoy an even bigger hit at the end on 1966 with "I'm Ready For Love".

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    Martha "owns" this song in the same way that Tammi "owns" All I Do Is Think About You.

    Sometimes something magical happens with a combination of an artist and song which is hard to explain but its so obvious when you hear it.

    This in one of my favourite songs by Martha Reeves.

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    thank you blackguy69 for posting that video. I also LOVED the follow-up "What Am I Gonna Do Without Your Love" which there is a video from the TV show "Where The Action Is" of Martha Roz & Betty on the grounds of the Roostertail in Detroit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by motony View Post
    Motown was a business & because they controlled the artists total career, they would choose to fly only the lead singer back to Detroit to record the new track as the artists were on the road alot, due to their popularity!
    I never bought that the acts were so busy they could only fly in the lead. They only did it to the girl groups at Motown. Motown somehow made it work to fly in the Four Tops, Temptations, Miracles, Spinners in to add their vocals to their tracks.

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    Totally agree. And didn’t they ever use local studios to record vocals?

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    In my all time Motown top 5.

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    I definitely hear Levi in the background on the "oh yeah"s. This was always a favorite of mine. Love how jazzy it is.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bradsupremes View Post
    I never bought that the acts were so busy they could only fly in the lead. They only did it to the girl groups at Motown. Motown somehow made it work to fly in the Four Tops, Temptations, Miracles, Spinners in to add their vocals to their tracks.
    I've always wondered about that too, for the same reason. Were the girl groups' backgrounds considered to be more "interchangeable" perhaps? Also, it's not as if Mary and Cindy or Lois and Sandra or Katherine and Anne could tour without Diane, Martha or Wanda.

    In the age-old debate, I still prefer the original groups in the background, even when they might not have been in great harmony. I just love the innocent, unvarnished sound of the original singers.

    Of course, the Tempts and the Tops had voices that were easily recognizable, such as, Melvin, Eddie, Paul, David, Obie, and Duke. There was no generic male backup group, although I have read the Spinners often contributed background vocals prior to their breakout hits, which really didn't happen till after they left Motown. The early male backup, the Love Tones, seemed to be limited to Mary Wells' recordings, at least that is when they were mentioned by name on albums [[and I think on her live album they are mentioned by name by the announcer).

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    Quote Originally Posted by kenneth View Post
    I've always wondered about that too, for the same reason. Were the girl groups' backgrounds considered to be more "interchangeable" perhaps? Also, it's not as if Mary and Cindy or Lois and Sandra or Katherine and Anne could tour without Diane, Martha or Wanda.

    In the age-old debate, I still prefer the original groups in the background, even when they might not have been in great harmony. I just love the innocent, unvarnished sound of the original singers.

    Of course, the Tempts and the Tops had voices that were easily recognizable, such as, Melvin, Eddie, Paul, David, Obie, and Duke. There was no generic male backup group, although I have read the Spinners often contributed background vocals prior to their breakout hits, which really didn't happen till after they left Motown. The early male backup, the Love Tones, seemed to be limited to Mary Wells' recordings, at least that is when they were mentioned by name on albums [[and I think on her live album they are mentioned by name by the announcer).
    I always figured the use of the Andantes or other background singers instead of the actual group members was the choice of the producers. You can hear Ashford and Simpson singing background on some of their productions. There was most likely a sound they were going for and the group members might not have had it.

    That said, why it seemed to happen more often with the females has never been confirmed. Maybe the females didn't kick up a fuss about it. Maybe it did happen with some of the male groups and we just don't know.

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    Quote Originally Posted by reese View Post
    I always figured the use of the Andantes or other background singers instead of the actual group members was the choice of the producers. You can hear Ashford and Simpson singing background on some of their productions. There was most likely a sound they were going for and the group members might not have had it.

    That said, why it seemed to happen more often with the females has never been confirmed. Maybe the females didn't kick up a fuss about it. Maybe it did happen with some of the male groups and we just don't know.
    There are just a few tracks that I can think of where a song is credited to the Four Tops or Temptations and it was the Originals in the background. Again, this amounts to songs I can count on one hand.

    It’s possible the guys spoke up. Maybe the girls did too, but misogyny was prevalent and won out. The girls didn’t have much power. The guys on the other hand could vocally and physically push back. Gordy was more likely to cave to the Temptations demands than the Vandellas. It’s sad because as much as I love the Andantes and I do LOVE them, the unique sound for each girl group was lost. If you listen to “Honey Chile,” Roz and Lois put down some great vocals. They had a great blend and why they weren’t used after that is beyond me.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by reese View Post
    I always figured the use of the Andantes or other background singers instead of the actual group members was the choice of the producers. You can hear Ashford and Simpson singing background on some of their productions. There was most likely a sound they were going for and the group members might not have had it.

    That said, why it seemed to happen more often with the females has never been confirmed. Maybe the females didn't kick up a fuss about it. Maybe it did happen with some of the male groups and we just don't know.
    So, you're on the right track as far as producers wanting a certain sound. I've mentioned it elsewhere [[and probably will keep doing it, so forgive me if it becomes a broken record thing!) how this wasn't just a Motown thing. The more music I'm buying by other non-Motown groups, the more I'm learning this was just an industry thing- using polished studio singers on a group's records. The Exciters' recalled how they were actually happy with having studio singers added to their records because they were young and felt the professional vocals made them sound more professional. I also recently read how with Gary Lewis and the Playboys records, the band was augmented not only musically with the Wrecking Crew, but vocally with Ron Hicklin's vocals blended with the group's vocals. This presented a problem when the group was invited to perform on the Ed Sullivan show. The show had a policy that all acts had to perform live, however, because there had been so much studio wizardry used on "This Diamond Ring," the group couldn't recreate the sound and had to perform to the studio track, with the group mimicking their playing.

    Ivy Jo Hunter, in an interview I read just last week also remarked that a group could sound rough through the studio mics, so they often added the Andantes vocals to smooth out the sound, to give the records a professional sound and polish. I'm sure there are plenty of other examples out there- Phil Spector being the most obvious of all examples. Even Neil young recalled Motown just bringing in singers to record on their records and he remarked that suddenly they sounded "hot."

    As far as the male groups, The Contours have some records where I'm sure not a single Contour outside of the lead is on the final mix- "It's So Hard Being A Loser" definitely has the Andantes in the mix, but I have my suspicions the male voices are the Spinners or Originals. The Monitors, though they aren't an all-male group had many records that used other singers and not the group members, "Since I Lost You" comes to mind. Maybe "Share A Little Love With Me."
    Last edited by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance; 11-07-2022 at 02:27 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    So, you're on the right track as far as producers wanting a certain sound. I've mentioned it elsewhere [[and probably will keep doing it, so forgive me if it becomes a broken record thing!) how this wasn't just a Motown thing. The more music I'm buying by other non-Motown groups, the more I'm learning this was just an industry thing- using polished studio singers on a group's records.
    That's true! According to John A. Jackson's 2004 book about Seventies Philly Soul, A House On Fire, the producers there used background singers extensively on their recordings. They had a female vocal group, The Sweethearts of Sigma [their equivalent to Motown's Andantes], Bunny Sigler and others who either augmented or replaced the background vocals on the classic songs by The Spinners, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, The Stylistics, The O'Jays and so on. The Philly Soul producers were looking for the perfect blend of background vocals on their records and that was how they did it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Motown Eddie View Post
    That's true! According to John A. Jackson's 2004 book about Seventies Philly Soul, A House On Fire, the producers there used background singers extensively on their recordings. They had a female vocal group, The Sweethearts of Sigma [their equivalent to Motown's Andantes], Bunny Sigler and others who either augmented or replaced the background vocals on the classic songs by The Spinners, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, The Stylistics, The O'Jays and so on. The Philly Soul producers were looking for the perfect blend of background vocals on their records and that was how they did it.
    I read A HOUSE ON FIRE many years ago. If I remember correctly, the O'Jays were mentioned as the only act that didn't have additional background vocalists added to their recordings. But yes, this type of thing wasn't unique to Motown.

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Motown Eddie View Post
    That's true! According to John A. Jackson's 2004 book about Seventies Philly Soul, A House On Fire, the producers there used background singers extensively on their recordings. They had a female vocal group, The Sweethearts of Sigma [their equivalent to Motown's Andantes], Bunny Sigler and others who either augmented or replaced the background vocals on the classic songs by The Spinners, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, The Stylistics, The O'Jays and so on. The Philly Soul producers were looking for the perfect blend of background vocals on their records and that was how they did it.
    Now THAT is an interesting piece of information! Reading that made me recall a radio show where one of the Philly producers said that using female voices with the male groups made the backing vocals stand out more; I think it had to do with how the ladies' higher voices cut through the instrumentation better than the males' lower voices.

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    Quote Originally Posted by reese View Post
    I read A HOUSE ON FIRE many years ago. If I remember correctly, the O'Jays were mentioned as the only act that didn't have additional background vocalists added to their recordings. But yes, this type of thing wasn't unique to Motown.
    That's true; producer Thom Bell says in A House On Fire that The O'Jays 'can handle their singing, those boys can sing'. However Bell also states that Gamble & Huff did add additional background vocals to their records [provided by Bunny Sigler & Phil Hurtt] since they were only a trio a they 'needed a forth or fifth voice' just to beef up their sound.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Motown Eddie View Post
    That's true; producer Thom Bell says in A House On Fire that The O'Jays 'can handle their singing, those boys can sing'. However Bell also states that Gamble & Huff did add additional background vocals to their records [provided by Bunny Sigler & Phil Hurtt] since they were only a trio a they 'needed a forth or fifth voice' just to beef up their sound.
    I do remember reading that Thom Bell said the Spinners were bottom heavy - I believe that was the term - so he used the Sigma Sweethearts.

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