R. Dean Taylor

I Think, Therefore I Am

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Meet the Sound of Young America's greatest enigma: R. Dean Taylor. Though 2002's documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown neglects to mention him, he somehow proved important enough to record this ridiculously titled album. Stuck in a soggy cover design, sporting pictures of the artist "in his domestic environment," it's intriguing why Berry Gordy hired this white-bread Canadian as a right-hand man to his favored writing and production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. Taylor took full opportunity of his employment at Motown. Next to ghostwriting a handful of hits -- most notably "Love Child," a U.S. number one for the Supremes -- he also established himself as the unofficial tambourine player of Motown's session men, the Funk Brothers. Deemed an ill-adviced career move by Brian Holland, as a singer Taylor nevertheless succeeded to propel himself into the U.K. chart in 1967 with "There's a Ghost in My House." Sounding as if it were right out of the Four Tops canon, it fitted perfectly well within the Northern soul scene. 1970's establishing of Rare Earth -- a Motown subsidiary intended for white artists -- enabled him to record a whole album. Bland interpretations of Kristofferson and James Taylor left aside, the album contained a good deal of Taylor originals. The album was centerd on "Indiana Wants Me," an outlaw's goodbye letter from his hiding place, not willing "to give up his guns and face the law." Additional bullhorn intro and police voice-over carried it to a number five position, Taylor's sole U.S. charting. Though "There's a Ghost in My House" wasn't included on I Think, Therefore I Am, listeners were treated to a couple of Motown-ish epics in the same vein: "Backstreet" and "Gotta See Jane." Both of them revisited the haunting "story songs" Taylor had helped HDH to create for Motown artists. Particularly the gem "Gotta See Jane" with its sound effects of pouring rain and thunder cracks placed to a driving beat and reoccurring violin stabs is Motown drama in full effect. Maybe not an exceptional singer, Taylor had apparently hung around long enough with HDH to develop his own gift for writing and arranging. If only he had been given a voice in the documentary, he could have told whether the desperate protagonist was destined to reach his "Jane" in the end.

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