The Vinyl Say 024: Jr Walker & the All Stars

Jr Walker & the All Stars – Gotta Hold On To This Feeling b/w Clinging to the Thought That She’s Coming Back (Soul, 1969)

In every collection there are records that get played all the time, many of them for years, decades even. Then there are those that, while no less treasured, somehow fall by the wayside to lie in wait, ripe for rediscovery. This series chronicles some of those nuggets as they resurface from my own back pages. So, put the needle on the record, put the needle on the record, put the needle on the record and it sounds like this…

For some reason this top ten hit rarely features on Jr Walker compos and is almost entirely overlooked by oldies shows and samplers alike – shame really as it’s an absolute gem from beginning to end!

Walker’s instantly recognisable sax opens proceedings with an extended plaintive vamp before, a full minute in, he drops one of the most accomplished vocal performances of his career intoning a lover’s heartache as he strives to keep the emotion high. 

Unlike better-known cuts from Shotgun onwards, in which Jr shouts, shimmies and barks to accent the driving beat, here he’s taking time to craft a tiptop vocal on a song that although smoother than most of the material he’s best known for is still closer to the grits and guts of southern soul than the slick uptown stylings of many of his Motown contemporaries.

Sadly, the track was probably overshadowed and undone by the label’s attempts to wring more bang for its buck. Jr’s previous two singles – the cover of These Eyes and the stone soul classic What Does it Take (To Win Your Love) – both went top three and were just as big on the pop charts. The latter was from 1969’s Home Cookin’ album and the cover from the follow up, Gotta Hold On To This Feeling. Then before the title track came out as a 45 Motown in its infinite wisdom retitled the album What Does to Take (To Win Your Love) for a re-release in 1970. Confused? You betcha – and so was the record buying public!

Even so, none of that can undermine the moment of pure Jr Walker mastery that is only added to by the flip, written by Johnny Bristol, and another unsung sparkler from the master that, unless my dancin’ feet deceive me, may well have cut some mustard on rare soul dancefloors at the dawn of the 1970s.

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