Nov 19, 2012
A timely musical followup to my "Telegraph Avenue Mixtape" can be found on the pages of our friends at Funky 16 Corners, who post two funky versions of the soul standard "Never Can Say Goodbye", performed by Hammond B-3 masters Johnny "Hammond" Smith and Reuben Wilson. Both artists are expressly mentioned by Michael Chabon in his interview about the novel.
The tune was made a Top Ten hit by the Jackson Five, but was not written by the usual Motown songwriting crew. Instead, it was written by Clifton Davis, who would have more exposure as a telepvision actor ("That's My Mama") and a minister.
Smith’s version, from his 1971 Breakout album is largely a showcase for saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr., who did some of the arrangement on the album. The rhythm section generally comps in the background, with some groovy guitar work (George Benson) and some nice, hard –hitting drums from Billy Cobham.
Wilson’s take on the tune is not only taken at a faster tempo, but with a little more Hammond in the mix, though the lead is once again taken by the sax (Ramon Morris).