Forty years ago, in February 1974, The Contours reappeared on the Tamla Motown label with the single “Baby Hit and Run,” the group’s first release in seven years. But it was far from a new recording; the backing track had been cut in 1965 for Ivy Jo Hunter. At least three lead vocals were cut for The Contours: by Billy Gordon later that year, and then by Jerry Green and Dennis Edwards the following year. The Edwards version was ultimately issued in 1974, with the Gordon version surfacing in 2002. A recent 26-song CD from Ace’s Kent imprint, Just a Little Misunderstanding: Rare and Unissued Motown 1965-68, premieres the Green vocal as one of its 14 previously unreleased tracks from The Contours and Dennis Edwards.
Just a Little Misunderstanding serves as a companion volume to 2011’s Dance with the Contours, which kicked off Ace’s series of compilations drawn from the Classic Motown vaults. That volume was built around the titular 1964 LP, originally unissued, and numerous other recordings circa 1963-1964. This follow-up focuses on the latter period of the group’s too-short existence, and make no mistake – this is classic Motown, with the irresistible, distinctive beat of The Funk Brothers straight out of Hitsville, USA, with numerous familiar Motor City grooves such as “It’s Growing,” “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted,” “Ain’t That Peculiar,” “First I Look at the Purse,” “Come See About Me” and “I’ll Turn to Stone.” (Motown never met a song it couldn’t try out on multiple artists!)
The original line-up of The Contours broke up in June 1964, with Berry Gordy deciding to keep Billy Gordon and guitarist Huey Davis on, and replacing the other group members with Council Gay, Jerry Green and Alvin English. English’s time in the group was short-lived, though, when Sylvester Potts rejoined The Contours just months into the new line-up’s existence. Just a Little Misunderstanding is not a complete collection for The Contours; the new group’s first single, “Can You Jerk Like Me,” is not here, but its follow-up “First I Look at the Purse” is, albeit in a different form than the released single. The song, produced and co-written by Smokey Robinson, didn’t make the first cut with Motown’s famous Quality Control, and The Contours were dispatched to remake the song. Ironically, per the comprehensive new liner notes by Keith Hughes, the second version impressed Quality Control even less, and the original was released in mid-1965. Ace/Kent presents, for the first time, the re-recorded version of Smokey’s tune among its copious vault material.
The Contours endured numerous changes to come, all of which are documented on Just a Little Misunderstanding. Billy Gordon – the most famous lead voice of The Contours, and the lead singer on “Do You Love Me,” immortalized in 1988’s Dirty Dancing – departed the group, sadly beginning a downward spiral that culminated in long stretches in prison. Joe Stubbs, brother of The Four Tops’ Levi, was the first to replace Gordon, and seven of his tracks appear here. Four are making their first appearance anywhere including Marvin Gaye and Clarence Paul’s “Need Your Lovin’ (Want You Back),” Ivy Jo Hunter’s “I Grow Deeper in Love Every Day,” and Holland-Dozier-Holland’s Supremes hit “Come See About Me.” In Fall 1966, Stubbs migrated from The Contours to The Originals, with Motown assigning “Need Your Lovin’” and “Come See About Me” to The Originals; these are the original Contours recordings.
Don’t miss a thing! Hit the jump for more!
Dennis Edwards was next to fill Billy Gordon’s shoes. Beginning in December 1966, Edwards took the lead on all of The Contours’ records, excepting “When a Man Loves a Woman” with its probable Jerry Green lead. (Decide for yourself; the previously unissued track is included here.) During 1967, Edwards recorded both solo and with The Contours, although none of his solo tracks were issued at the time. Fourteen Edwards leads appear here, including five never-before-released songs including his take on Bobby Hebb’s pop hit “Sunny.” By mid-1968, Edwards had moved from The Contours to The Temptations, replacing David Ruffin and beginning the most successful chapter of his career and leaving The Contours to call it a day. Edwards became the voice of The Temps’ psychedelic soul period, lending his rough-hewn, powerful pipes to songs like “Ball of Confusion” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.”
The Contours’ golden age may have ended with Dennis Edwards’ departure, but the group has endured through various latter-day iterations right up through the present day. Hughes, in his essay, indicates that still more Contours tracks reside in the Motown vault, so perhaps Just a Little Misunderstanding isn’t the last we’ll hear from the group. This lavishly annotated collection, splendidly remastered by Nick Robbins, is available now at the links below!
- Just a Little Misunderstanding (Gordy 7052, 1966)
- First I Look at the Purse
- It’s Growing (Music for Pleasure LP MFP 50054, 1974)
- Baby Hit and Run
- It’s So Hard Being a Loser (Gordy 7059, 1967)
- Determination (Gordy 7052, 1966)
- A Weak Spot in My Heart
- Girl Come On In
- I Can’t Help Loving You Baby (Motown CD 530 3228, 2007)
- Your Love Grows More Precious Everyday (Gordy 7059, 1967)
- I’m Here Now That You Need Me
- What Becomes of the Brokenhearted (Motown CD 530 960 2, 2005)
- Keep On Tryin’ (Till You Find Love) (DPSM CD 5946, 1997)
- AIn’t That Peculiar (Hip-o Select CD B003619-02, 2005)
- Can’t Do Without Your Love
- I Like Everything About You (Motown CD 544 619 2, 2002)
- What’s So Good About Goodbye
- Which Way to My Baby (Motown CD 530 615 2, 1996)
- I’ll Turn to Stone (Motown CD 882 4089, 2010)
- Need Your Lovin’ (Want You Back)
- Our Last Rendezvous
- Sometimes I Have to Cry
- I Grow Deeper in Love Every Day
- Come See About Me
- When a Man Loves a Woman
All tracks mono.
Tracks 2, 4, 7-8, 11, 13, 16, 18, 21-26 previously unissued