ILMiXor

ILM's 2005 collaborative mix project hoonja-doonja!

February 20, 2005

The Whatnauts, "I Just Can't Lose Your Love"

Proof positive that not all the great 70s falsetto groups hailed from Philadelphia! Unlike their sweet soul contemporaries the Delfonics, the Stylistics, or the later Blue Magic, the Whatnauts made their home in charm city, Baltimore. And boy do they ever charm on this, the leadoff track from their 1970 debut LP. Unfortunately for Whatnauts members Billy Herndon, Garnett Jones and Chunky Pickney, another thing they did not share with the aforementioned groups was any kind of major chart success. Their strongest whiff of chartdom's more rarefied air came with the release of "I'll Erase Away Your Pain", the third single from the debut, which reached #71 Pop, #14 R&B. And that was basically it for the boys, although they did score a UK top 5 hit with 1974's "Girls", a collaboration with Stang label-mates The Moments. It's a story that is pretty much the same with any number of great soul coulda-woulda-shoulda-beens. They all deserved better, but such are the vagaries of the pop marketplace. It's crowded out there!

"I Just Can't Lose Your Love" was never in fact released as an A-side; it was the B-side to "I'll Erase Your Pain", and as great as that cut was, its flip is something stronger. Slightly weirder and just plain desperate sounding, for me it sits at the table with all-time castrati classics "La La Means I Love You", "I'm Stone in Love With You", "Sideshow" and "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore." The song is a showcase for Garnett Jones, who performs the whole thing without the aid of his fellow 'Nauts. Well, it's a showcase for Jones, but also for the awesome production and arranging of George Kerr and r&b genius Sylvia Robinson. Hey, when Sylvia's involved you know the track is gonna be tough, and this is no exception. The song announces itself with vibes and piano in dialogue over a bed of gorgeous strings and harp. The strings recede for the first verse but beautifully reassert themselves in the second with a soaring triplet figure. I don't know who the house guitarist was for Robinson's All Platinum family of labels, but if you bump into him next time you're in Englewood, please buy the man a beer. He plays some real nice rhythm fills on this thing. Jones's voice isn't always technically the smoothest -- it loses a little definition the further he pushes it, particularly on the last chorus -- but it perfectly captures the desperation of the song's oh-shit-I-fucked-up-please-give-me-another-chance lyric. A stone classic.

Plus, they had one of the goofiest names and a couple of the coolest album covers of the 70s!

   
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