It’s a shame, isn’t it? When Motown mainstays The Spinners departed the venerable Detroit label for the greener pastures of Atlantic Records, lead singer G.C. Cameron didn’t make the switch. Cameron, the unmistakable main voice of The Spinners’ Stevie Wonder-penned No. 14 hit “It’s a Shame,” remained with Motown. Cameron suggested his cousin and close friend Philippe Wynne replace him, and soon watched Wynne and co. score the group’s first ever Top 10 pop singles. In fact, Atlantic debut Spinners charted five hits and two Top 10s – including the million-selling “I’ll Be Around.” Cameron never reached the commercial peak of his old group. But he was a productive and prolific recording artist for Berry Gordy’s empire even as The Spinners were notching all of those smashes in Philadelphia. Most of his output, however, has inexplicably remained absent from CD. Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records imprint rectifies that with an expanded edition of Cameron’s 1974 Motown solo debut, Love Songs and Other Tragedies. It adds thirteen non-LP single sides – most of which have never appeared in the CD format – to the original album, creating a truly comprehensive survey of the singer’s early solo years at Motown and West Coast subsidiary MoWest.
Many names familiar to Motor City enthusiasts fill the credits of Love Songs and Other Tragedies: Frank Wilson, Willie Hutch, Gene Page, Paul Riser, James Carmichael, Dave Van De Pitte, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. Even more top-tier Motown names figure in the singles portion of the new reissue: Pam Sawyer, Gloria Jones, Hal Davis and Smokey Robinson! In 1971, the newly-solo Cameron was placed on the MoWest label, for which Berry Gordy had high hopes. But in 1973, the label was shut down and G.C. was shuttled to Motown proper, where he began cutting his solo album. As a result, most of the singles included here predate Love Songs.
Click the jump to continue reading!
Whereas The Spinners quickly re-established themselves with a signature sound courtesy of songwriter, producer, arranger and conductor Thom Bell at Atlantic, MoWest and Motown paired Cameron with a variety of producers and songwriters, each of whom brought a different sound to his releases. The versatile vocalist, gifted with a powerful range, accommodated each one. Willie Hutch was behind Cameron’s first four 45s as writer, co-writer, arranger or producer. Cameron’s first MoWest single, “Act Like a Shotgun” b/w “Girl I Really Love You,” involved Hutch as writer or co-writer on both sides. The A-side (a No. 50 R&B hit) was helmed by Hal Davis of The Corporation and the B-side by Hutch himself. “Shotgun” was as funky as “Girl, I Really Love You” was lush. Both sides were impressive, but didn’t make much noise. The Corporation, famous for the Jackson 5’s signature songs, produced Hutch’s “I’m Gonna Get You” on a two-part single. As down-and-dirty as that track was, follow-up A-side “You Are That Special One” was effervescent.
1973’s “Don’t Wanna Play Pajama Games” b/w “Jesus Help Me Find Another Way” had Smokey Robinson as writer and producer on the A-side. Cameron proved that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; under Robinson’s own supervision, he was a dead ringer for Smokey’s own distinctive tones on “Pajama Games.” (In the new liner notes by Kevin L. Goins, Cameron reflects, “I approached it from the angle of how would Smokey interpret the song and take it from there.”) Bob West arranged Tom Bahler’s gospel–flecked “Jesus Help Me” on the B-side. Its piano part is somewhat reminiscent of Elton John’s “Levon.” Norman Whitfield protégé Mark Davis came on board for “No Matter Where,” while Pam Sawyer and Gloria Jones produced and wrote its flip, “Have I Lost You.” Cameron even functioned as singer-songwriter-producer for another non-LP single, “Time” b/w “Topics.”
As for Love Songs and Other Tragedies itself, most notable was the belated return of Stevie Wonder for a thematic successor to “It’s a Shame.” Cameron was right at home with the rapid-fire funk of album opener “If You Don’t Love Me,” written and produced by Wonder. The singer also put his stamp on a lush version of Wonder’s “All in Love is Fair,” arranged by Paul Riser and James Carmichael. Though the album’s overall sound was current and uptempo, Van McCoy’s “Let Me Down Easy” offered an opportunity for Cameron to return to the classic vocal group harmony sound of The Spinners. Willie Hutch returned for four more tracks, and the team of Terry Woodward and Clayton Ivey cut one song with Cameron in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Other production contributions were made by the likes of Frank Wilson, George Gordy and Larry Brown. Marvin Gaye’s lusty touch is evident on the album’s closing track, “Tippin’,” as he gifted Cameron with his unmistakable background vocals.
SoulMusic’s edition of Love Songs and Other Tragedies is an important part of The Spinners’ family story, and a long-overdue CD chronicle of G.C. Cameron’s fine solo work. The expressive, talented singer was a vocal chameleon, and when paired with so many different producers, potential listeners might have had difficulty connecting to his work. But this reissue – produced by David Nathan, remastered by Alan Wilson and very nicely annotated by Kevin L. Goins based on interviews with Cameron, Pam Sawyer, the late Deke Richards and other key players – places Cameron’s work in context and should lead to a new appreciation of this underrated artist. G.C. went on to record three more albums for Motown, including one with Syreeta, and also recorded for Malaco and the U.K. Ardent and Motorcity labels. In the 21st century, he even briefly returned to The Spinners and served a stint in The Temptations. Hopefully the remainder of his Motown solo albums will arrive with the SoulMusic imprimatur in the near future. In the meantime, Love Songs can be ordered at the link below!
G.C. Cameron, Love Songs and Other Tragedies: Expanded Edition (SoulMusic SMCR 5089, 2013)
- If You Don’t Love Me
- Come Get This Thang
- I’m Gonna Give You Respect
- If You’re Ever Gonna Love Me
- Let Me Down Easy
- All in Love is Fair
- Your Love Won’t Turn Me Loose
- You Forgot to Remember Me
- Act Like a Shotgun (MoWest 45-5005-A, 1971)
- Girl I Really Love You (MoWest 45-5005-B, 1971)
- I’m Gonna Get You, Pt. 1 (MoWest 45-5012-A, 1972)
- I’m Gonna Get You, Pt. 2 (MoWest 45-5012-B, 1972)
- You Are That Special One (MoWest 45-5015-A, 1972)
- What It Is, What It Is (MoWest 45-5015-B, 1972)
- My Woman (with Willie Hutch) (MoWest 45-5035-B, 1973)
- Don’t Wanna Play Pajama Games (MoWest 45-5036-A, 1973)
- Jesus Help Me Find Another Way (MoWest 45-5036-B, 1973)
- No Matter Where (Motown 45-1234-A, 1973)
- Have I Lost You (Motown 45-1234-A, 1973)
- Time (Motown 45-1311-A, 1973)
- Topics (Motown 45-1311-B, 1973)
The A-side to MoWest 45-5035, “Come Get This Thang,” is included on the album Love Songs and Other Tragedies.