Friday, February 8, 2008

Come See About Me, Jr. Walker and the All Stars (1967)

Again with the covers. But walk on by, Supremes version. Impaled on Junior Walker's squealing tenor saxophone, Holland-Dozier-Holland had a whole new song on its hands.

Says Clarence Clemons in a Rolling Stone interview, "Junior Walker and King Curtis were the two biggest influences on me. All those jazz cats were just too abstract for me; Junior was more animated, and he got straight to the point. He knew it wasn't how many notes you play but what each note says - quality, not quantity."

That principle is very much in evidence in Come See About Me. The individual notes of the wailing intro give me the shivers. Then I hop up and dance my brains out through the wailing outro. The 'adapted' lyrics exhorted us to "come see about Junior," and who could help themselves? No one could play sax like Junior, or had more fun doing it. (Unfortunately, this isn't on youtube, so here's the legendary Shotgun, which I was originally going to write about until I remembered how much I loved Come See ... )

Perhaps the only Motown instrumentalist who received his props while he was actually working there, Junior became a Motown artist after the label he originally worked for was acquired by Berry Gordy. Still, I'm not certain it was a natural home for him and the All Stars; they were a bit too rough-and-ready, too hard soul, for Hitsville USA. A really interesting factoid that just surfaced in my research: Steve Winwood based the original Traffic on the All-Stars!

Sometime in mid-to-late 80s, I had the privilege of seeing Junior at The Dell, a very intimate venue in Columbus, Ohio. At one point, he was so caught up in his groove that he walked off the stage and out the front door, playing all the while, and continued to blow on the sidewalk outside the club, serenading passers-by for some minutes before returning to the stage. He never skipped a beat.

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