It's Growing - the Contours
Some pretty good Smokey lyrics were better known as hits by other Motown artists, most famously his declaration of his love for Claudette, "My Girl" - a massive US hit for the Temptations in 1964. The Temptations' follow-up to this was "It's Growing" also penned by Smokey, this time along with fellow Miracle Pete Moore. Although this was a big hit in the States too, I prefer the version by the Contours.
The Contours were one of the groups, who after their initial success, were forced to live off the songwriting leftovers from the main stars of the Motown stable, appearing as one of the warm-up acts for the likes of the Temptations, the Four Tops and the Supremes on the travelling Motown Revue. This also meant that while the group name was constant, the group members were dispensable, being fed into other groups as vacancies occurred or gotten rid of if their face - or rather voice - didn't fit.
So although my Contours compilation dates this recording at 1974, the sound tells me it's from the Motown heyday, maybe 1966 or 67. As it was never released as a single in the States, there's precious little information available about the line-up that recorded it, but the lead vocal sounds like it might be Joe Stubbs, younger brother of the great Levi Stubbs, lead singer of the Four Tops. The production might be Smokey, but it has an earthy, rough feel that suggests not. Which is the cruel beauty of Motown in its prime, and a measure of its greatness, that it churned out so many terrific recordings that gems like this got lost and were often nearly never released. Whoever it is, and those Levi resonances are there for all to hear, it's a truly supreme vocal, the bongoes bit is terrific, and the piano intro and drumming are a dream. Seldom have Smokey's similes been given such a soulful, accessible interpretation, even by the man himself.
"Like a snowball rolling down the side of a snow covered hill - it's growing like the size of a fish that the man claims broke the reel - it's growing like a rosebud blooming in the warmth of the summer sun - it's growing like the tale by the time it's been told by more than one - it's growing....."
Play it again. Louder. Now try it again, and dance. Again and dance on the table this time. And so on. This one grows (and grows) on you.