Face to Face / Back to Back:
The O’Jays “I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today) ” (Bell, 1967)
The Dapps “I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Yesterday)” (King, 1968)
Linda Jones “I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow” (Neptune, 1969)
(Click titles to download or listen to each song.)
Ok, I hope everyone out there is in a relatively stable emotional state before digging into today’s post. We have three versions of the absolutely brilliant composition “I’ll Be Sweeter” (and it’s variations) handled by three very up-to-the-task artists and these records really take a lot of emotional coinage when I spend time with them.
The song in question today “I’ll Be Sweeter” was co-written by the Poindexter brothers Richard and Robert who made a name for themselves writing songs in the New York area for other people (including the amazing 45 Hypnotized by one of today’s artists Linda Jones) before going on to start The Persuaders with their break out single Thin Line Between Love and Hate (check this amazing Soul Train performance) in 1971.
I first got the version by the O’Jays, who are one of my favorite male vocal groups and was just in love with the flip I Dig Your Act (seriously, listen to this song!). Embarrassingly, I have a bad habit of ignoring the flip side of a record I really like or one I’ve grown accustomed to Dj’ing out for dance crowds, it’s a bad habit I’m changing. I don’t think I have to give too much history about the O’Jays. They’re amazing, very famous and their early records are easily overlooked for their equally high quality but certainly more famous later works.
When I picked up The Dapps 45 I didn’t know what to expect. I love their Bringing Up The Guitar single which is basically a sick slice of JB style funk, and though I didn’t know much about them figured their pedigree promised high return. Well, boy was I surprised when the needle met the record. Formed in the mid 60’s The Dapps were Beau Dollar’s backing band in clubs in the Cincinnati area where they were discovered by James Brown. While they never had a proper release out in that configuration The Dapps dropped down from an 8 piece to a 4 piece and went on to record with James Brown, Hank Ballard and as a group without Beau Dollar and with the talents of Pee-Wee Ellis.
A weird personal favorite detail I learned while reading up on The Dapps is that Tim Drummond, the band leader and bass player is the “Tim” that James is shouting out on “I Can’t Stand Myself.” Just after the 2:30 mark one of my favorite James Brown-isms happens first he shouts “Bass” a few times, then “Tim” a few times and he tells Tim to “walk” the bass and we get James, obviously pleased, grunting along to a weird little bass solo. The stories of James Brown orchestrating his bands and amazing and vast but that little moment has always been a favorite of mine and now I know it’s Tim from The Dapps who later toured with James Brown before going to a long career as a session musician for the likes of Bob Dylan (imagine him shouting out “bass!”), C,S,N &Y, and JJ Cale.
So, back to the 45, you can see how surprised I was to hear this version and not have it be a syncopated funk gem, but instead a lush mid-tempo ballad. The guitar work definitely stands out as something special on their version, almost jazz like in its execution, and while their vocal performance is definitely a step below the O’Jays I find it, all things considered, to be the more powerful version of the three though Linda Jones’ version is really something special.
Linda was an amazing singer from New Jersey who put out a charming single in 1963 under the name Linda Lane doing Berry Gordy’s “Lonely Teardrops" where you can definitely hear her youth. She was performing in clubs when she met George Kerr (we’ve seen him here on Musical Episode before in a number of capacities) who moved her through a few labels before working with her at Neptune on today’s single. Tragically Linda succumbed to diabetes at the young age of 27 while between shows at The Apollo in 1972. Sorry that it’s a little crackly at the outset but it was a late addition and I wanted to include her version in today’s post.
One of of the elements of this song that really stands out to me is that the song is about people in a relationship with a deep, tangible love. “I know you love me / The way I am/ But something inside keeps telling me/ To do more / Do more.” Yet, I feel something else going on that is a little hard to prove. There’s nothing lyrically or in the composition but there’s a deep melancholy to the song that all three artists manage to manifest. Am I alone here or projecting? Is there possibly something that neither of them can admit? Does the partner maybe not love them the way they are? Is there something unspoken of that needs to be repaired? Before blogging a song I usually listen to them 5-20 times in a row and I have done that to these 3 versions and have no proof, but I think this song has something else going on below the surface which is possibly why it’s such a stand out composition for me.
I hope you enjoy these records as much as I do and we’ll see you on our next Musical Episode!
-George / Snack Attack