The first Motown record I ever owned was by the Contours. It came my way quite by accident, I confess. I’d caught Faron’s Flamingos’ version of ‘Shake Sherrie’ on Oriole Records’ Big O Show on Radio Luxembourg and made a note to find a copy as soon as I could, which turned out to be the following Saturday. Oriole 45s were a fairly scarce commodity in my local record shop, with so many of them being spectacularly unsuccessful. Nevertheless, I went into Selman’s and asked if they had the record. After a bit of digging through his meagre stock of Oriole titles, Mr Selman emerged with ‘Shake Sherrie, “Only it’s not by whoever you said – it’s by the Contours.” Well, it was on Oriole, and Luxembourg’s signal was notorious for fading in and out at crucial moments. Perhaps I’d misheard the artist. I bought it anyway. When I put it on my Dansette, I immediately realised that this might not have been the version I wanted, but it was so much better. I quickly found out that the Contours had also cut the original of ‘Do You Love Me’ (which had also been recorded by Faron & Co, as well as Brian Poole & the Tremeloes and the Dave Clark Five). Selman’s still had that in stock too. Thus I doubled my Contours collection as a stroke, and have been a fan ever since.
They may not have had the silky skills of some of my later Motown favourites, but their raucous invitations to dance remain as potent now as they did almost 50 years ago. It goes without saying that I’m delighted to have been involved in Kent’s new expanded version of their never-issued 1964 Gordy album “Dance With The Contours” featuring the 12 originally-scheduled tracks and a further dozen from the vaults, all recorded during the same time frame. Of the 26 tracks, 24 have never been issued in any form until now. How great is that?
There’s nothing subtle about lead Contour Billy Gordon’s gargles-with-razorblades holler, and songs about the Uncle Willie, Crossfire, Limbo, See Saw and other fly-by-night dance crazes are hardly going to win Ivor Novello Awards, but factor in some agreeably rough and ready vocal harmonies and season with a bunch of cracking vintage Motown backing tracks and you have 66 minutes of dancefloor fun that just won’t quit (although the tempo occasionally slows a bit, in order to let you and the group get your breath back).
A few of these cuts have circulated as poor quality bootlegs and mp3s, but everything here is drawn from fresh transfers of original Motown mastertapes – even the two previously issued sides, ‘Can You Do It’ and ‘Can You Jerk Like Me’. “Dance With The Contours” is the first of several officially approved Motown releases that are coming your way on Kent.
Forget art. Let’s dance!
By Tony Rounce