City Slang: “Happiness is Being with the Spinners” revisited

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The Spinners (known as the Detroit Spinners in the UK, incidentally) formed in 1961 and it was a full 15 years until this album came out. In that time, the band went through numerous lineup changes, they saw Motown leave Detroit and they saw funk emerge as a commercial force. The Spinners kind of adapted as time went on, and many people believe that, by the time this album came out, they were a spent force. Yesterday’s dinner left out in the kitchen overnight.

Wrong.

Happiness is Being with the Spinners is a tremendous album. The joy splashes out of it with each and every passing track. “Now That We’re Together”, for example, is an unusually sedate way to open an album, but it works. Henry Fambrough takes the lead and does his best Isaac Hayes impression.

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“You’re All I Need in Life” picks up the pace a little, but it’s the song that closes side A that is the killer. “The Rubberband Man” isn’t just the best song on this record or the best song by the Spinners, it’s one of the best R&B songs to ever have come out of Detroit. That’s no small statement, but it’s a fact. Just ask the Electric 6, who covered the song on last year’s Zodiac album. The song builds and builds to a chorus that never quits. It’s funny, and beautifully written. A real gem.

Admittedly, side B isn’t quite as good but it is still enjoyable. “Toni My Love” is pretty enough (and fitting for me as that’s my wife’s name), and “Wake Up Susan” closes the album in style.

I don’t know if this is the best Spinners album or not. I do know that it’s a lot better than a lot of people think. Pick it up again, give it a spin, and smile dammit.


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