Wednesday, January 05, 2011

"I'll Be Around" (1972)

7. Spinners, "I'll Be Around" (Oct. 7, 1972, #3)

There is something about this song almost perfectly comforting for me; a deeply personal favorite that has lurked in the background of my life for many decades now, continually burrowing in further and further and more times than I can say presenting itself entirely anew all over again. It's as good an example as you can find of the exquisite black pop music of its time, anticipating and already bleeding into the big disco moment on the horizon, and there's no end of comparative hallmarks nearly as good, before and after, by the likes of Al Wilson, Billy Paul, Al Green, the O'Jays, the Stylistics, Major Lance, Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes, the Chi-Lites, Skylark, Blue Magic, Roberta Flack, so on and so forth forever and seemingly ever. Originally released as a B-side to "How Could I Let You Get Away" (worthy in its own right, but with significant debts to the Stylistics and Chi-Lites), disc jockeys sussed it out and flipped that over to give this the airplay (back in a time when they could still do such things). It stands as absolutely one of the best, with all its various right elements positioned and deployed deftly: the heady air of romantic wistfulness, horns with a touch of Memphis, strings so sweet you get a cavity, evocative electric guitar touches, and words that tell a tender and painful story of enduring, unrequited love. Maybe that's what takes me apart: "There's always a chance, a tiny spark will remain / And sparks turn into flames / And love can burn once again." It puts me in mind of both divorce and falling in love all at once. And just at its most critical point, the cascading strings and responding horns come along and have a conversation about it, methodically sawing your heart into halves, quarters, pieces, shards. This guy is never going to give it up, is he? No, he's not.

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