BRENDA HOLLOWAY: HURTIN' AND CRYIN' (1967?)
1) When I'm Gone; 2) Just Look What You've Done; 3) You've Made Me So Very Happy; 4) I Don't Want Nobody's Gonna Make Me Cry; 5) Till Johnny Comes; 6) Hurt A Little Everyday; 7) Starting The Hurt All Over; 8) You Can Cry On My Shoulder; 9) A World Without You; 10) I'll Be Alright; 11) Everybody Knows; 12) Make Him Come To You.
Frankly speaking, Brenda Holloway's discography becomes a nightmare immediately after her first album. She was found to be less cooperative at Motown than her chief female competitors, beginning with Mary Wells and ending with the Supremes, and largely spent the next three or four years in their shadow, occasionally releasing singles, sometimes even minor hit ones, but as far as I can understand, not a single «original» LP by Brenda Holloway ever appeared on the label. You will occasionally find two additional entries in the discographies, but both are deceptive: Hurtin' And Cryin' was (or, rather, «may have been», as I have learned not to trust anything in this business) an LP that was recorded, assembled, and then indefinitely shelved by the label, and The Artistry Of Brenda Holloway, released in 1968, was actually a UK-only compilation that included a bit of everything, from old singles to some newer, then-unreleased material.
Turning first to Hurtin' And Cryin', we find that the album was supposedly released — eventually — as part of the sprawling, well put together Motown Anthology, a 2-CD collection from 2005 that seems to claim to contain everything that Brenda recorded for the label. That does not quite solve the enigma, though, because sources vary tremendously on when the album was originally scheduled for release. I have found conflicting reports that said «rejected in 1964» (too early, it seems), «rejected in 1968» (too late, I'd say) and «rejected in 1967», which sounds just about right, but then the track list also includes ʽYou've Made Me So Very Happyʼ, a single which, to the best of my knowledge, did not come out until 1968. Clearly, a little confusion is in order here. This is what happens to underdogs, you know.
Anyway, regardless of technicalities, had it been given proper birth, Hurtin' And Cryin' would have been a large improvement over Brenda's debut. This time, the tracks are grouped around not just one hit single, but three hit singles — and none of them sound like each other, or like one more bunch of inferior rewrites of ʽEvery Little Bit Hurtsʼ! ʽWhen I'm Goneʼ, a song that Motown reassigned to Brenda from Mary Wells just as the latter made her exit from the label, shows that the lady can do sexy irony and sarcasm just as fine as she does loss and tragedy; besides, Brenda's version is far more loud, bombastic, and all-over-the-place than Mary's original, belying her «subtly sensitive» image and showing how thunderstormy she can be when put to the task. Then there's ʽJust Look What You've Doneʼ, where the rhythm and brass section put the melody into gallop mode — a far cry from the snail paces of 1964 — and although Holloway certainly pales in this respect compared to either Diana Ross' squeaky sexiness or Martha Reeves' street brawniness, she does not let the song down.
As to ʽYou've Made Me So Very Happyʼ, this song was actually written by Brenda herself, in collaboration with her sister Patrice and songwriter Frank Wilson — then, at the last moment, Berry Gordy Jr. himself, understanding they had a hit on their hands, «changed a few notes» as they say and became co-author of the tune. Later on, it made them all a ton of dough when the song became a major hit for Blood, Sweat & Tears — but I actually like the original better, or, at least, I do not think that BS&T, aside from smothering it in horns, managed to uncover some sort of hidden meaning that was not already revealed in Brenda's own performance. And who do you really think makes the tune more justice, David Clayton-Thomas or one of Motown's most legendary (if underrated) vocalists? It's actually quite joyful to hear Brenda take her mind off negative emotions for a while and sing a happy song for a change, and she does it with style; gotta love her «cloudy vibrato» in the chorus.
The other nine songs are mostly filler, sure enough, but since she was actually trying to expand in several subdirections of R&B, it is nowhere near as monotonous as on the 1964 album. There are a few more slow tempo «hurting songs» (ʽHurt A Little Everydayʼ, ʽEverybody Knowsʼ), but there's also a pretty effective «consolation song» (ʽYou Can Cry On My Shoulderʼ, with a heart-tugging couple of Roy Orbison-worthy chord changes in the chorus) and a few more of these rousing gallops, sometimes titled quite deceptively — ʽStarting The Hurt All Over Againʼ is far more playful and aggressive than I'd dare to derive from that name. At the very least, the way these tracks are sequenced never conveys the impression that we are only watching a mediocre artist and a bunch of obliging record executives fill up empty vinyl space.
On the whole, I'd like to give the record a thumbs up, but I am not even sure if it really ever existed the way it is presented here — and you'll never find it anyway except as an integral part of Motown Anthology. But it is logistically useful to keep it as a separate building block in Brenda's discography, if only to stress that there was life after ʽEvery Little Bit Hurtsʼ, and not even just life, but actual evolution and development. At the very least, let this review be my little contribution towards the «International Movement To Declare Brenda Holloway Not A One-Hit Wonder, But A Two-Hit Wonder» and the «International Movement To Demote Blood, Sweat & Tears And Promote Brenda Holloway In The Name Of Justice, Equality, And Awesome Critical Ratings».