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The Two Sides of Mary Wells

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Album Review

Mary Wells will forever be known as a Motown artist, but after she left the label in 1964 she cut some very good singles for 20th Century and Atco. Her only album for Atco, The Two Sides of Mary Wells, was cut in 1966 and does indeed feature two sides of Mary Wells. Side one is covers of soul and rock hits of the day (plus the single "Dear Lover"); side two is made up of jazz standards and show tunes. On side one producer Carl Davis doesn't stray far from the Motown sound Wells was associated with; her cover of Deon Jackson's "Love Makes the World Go Round" and the Supremes' "My World Is Empty Without You Babe" hew the closest to that label's punchy and compressed style, but "Good Lovin'" and "Satisfaction" aren't far off. Only her raw take on "In the Midnight Hour" and the lovely ballad "Dear Lover," which is a very New York-sounding slice of sophisticated soul powered by Wells' best vocal on the album, stray very far. Fair enough, everyone involved had to know that the only hope Wells had of selling records was to capture some "My Guy" magic in a bottle, and the best way to catch it was to follow the formula. The standards side is semi-interesting; Wells can sing the songs chosen well enough, but ultimately the tunes are too slickly produced and she's no Carmen McRae or Dinah Washington. Not even Nancy Wilson. Better to let her stick to the sweet soul and leave the standards to the pros. The failure of this record to be satisfying falls directly on the head of whoever had the idea for Wells to sing standards. Better to track down Ichiban's Dear Lover: The Atco Sessions, which has all the soul sides from The Two Sides of Mary Wells, plus all four of her Atco singles and a couple of unreleased tracks, to boot. ~Tim Sendra, Rovi

Biography

Born: 13 May 1943 in Detroit, MI

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Time and legions of other soul superstars have obscured the fact that for a brief moment, Mary Wells was Motown's biggest star. She came to the attention of Berry Gordy as a 17-year-old, hawking a song she'd written for Jackie Wilson; that song, "Bye Bye Baby," became her first Motown hit in 1961. The full-throated approach of that single was quickly toned down in favor of a pop-soul sound. Few other soul singers managed to be as shy and sexy at the same time as Wells (Barbara Lewis is the only other...
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