Friday, August 20, 2010

Song of the Week: Listen I'll Tell You How

by Corey Sheppard

"Listen I’ll Tell You How" is a song recorded by the Jackson 5 in May 1969. It is one of the first recordings the boys did at Motown and, wow, what a great recording! I first heard this record on Motown’s official Jackson 5 webpage. They were having a listening party for some of the songs that were on last year’s I Want You Back! Unreleased Masters a few weeks before it was released in stores. From the first opening seconds, I knew immediately that this was a record from the 1969 Detroit sessions, and I took comfort in the fact that I was in the safe hands of producer Bobby Taylor.

An incredible producer, Taylor brought out the best in the growing group. The Jackson 5 (at the time) had very little experience in the recording studio, but he surrounded the boys with the original terrific “snake pit” musicians, and great cover songs by Motown’s hottest artists. He gave them a confidence that helped prepared their transition to stardom. Bobby Taylor stopped producing the boys in early 1970, and what a shame. Michael has said in interviews about how much they loved working with Taylor . There was even talk about the boys reuniting with Taylor for their first album for CBS, and while songs were recorded, none have seen the light of day. I’m sure the Jackson brothers would have totally loved if Taylor would’ve continued producing a couple of records for not only the boys, but Jermaine and Michael solo.

I feel that this record has one of Michael’s best early vocal performances ever. This ten-year-old totally throws himself into this bombastic production. What amazes me is how many vocal runs he fits into each verse and hook. I also love the background vocals on the track. Jermaine’s early vocals are clearly audible on the hook section of the song.

The instrumentation on this track is dynamite. Nothing beats the sound of late 60’s soul music, in my opinion, and this track carries it to the max. The intro is totally outrageous with the horns and the strings wailing away. I loved it from the first time I heard it. The hook section on this track is incredible. The buildup to the chorus takes the anticipation up a notch. And the drummer is in a league of his own, providing the track with pretty much all of runs and improvisation that Motown was famous for. The song had a very inspirational, uplifting vibe to it, along with soul horns and breakdowns that only James Brown could have bested.

The main reason I feel that this song was not released on the Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5 LP is because of the message in the lyrics. In my opinion, the message in the song is about people looking after another, and helping your fellow brother. This is not the direction that Berry Gordy wanted the Jackson 5 to go in. He wanted the Jackson 5 to sing only of things kids think about: girls, girls, and girls! To me, that’s the main reason that records like this and “I’ll Try You’ll Try (Maybe We’ll All Get By),” also from the Unreleased Masters cd, never were released, until now.

Overall, I enjoyed this record a lot, and was very appreciate that Motown decided to finally release it 40 years later. Once again it shows a lot of versatility for the (at the time) very, very young group. I hope more unreleased Bobby Taylor productions get released in the future. It has been said that the J5 recorded about 30 tracks with Taylor , so I hope that means more records from that summer will be released in the future, which truly gives me a reason to live every day!!!

Next Week’s Song Hint: This record was Jermaine’s first solo lead on a Jackson 5 track.

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Corey Sheppard, 20, has been a Jackson 5 fan since 1993. His favorite hobbies are listening to music, playing racquetball at the YMCA, and hanging out with friends. Corey’s life passion is centered on music. His latest project is an all-new production company shared with Robert White Jr. entitled "Ask About It Productions."

1 comment:

  1. This is one of my favorite songs off Unreleased Masters. With this and other early Bobby Taylor productions, such as "Oh, I've Been Bless'd," that were only released after the group left Motown -- I really would like to hear the other songs Motown has in the vaults that were Bobby Taylor productions. I had no idea he cut 30 songs with the J5. I'd love to hear them all. It would be a good Motown Select release on Hip-o-Select, perhaps with some alternate takes of known songs as bonus tracks.