27 March 2007

Baby (You've Got What It Takes)

Listen again to Baby (You've Got What It Takes), that bouncy, light-hearted duet by Brook Benton and Dinah Washington (1960).

At 2:03 Brook launches into the verse, and so does Dinah. She quickly pushes him aside with, "You're in my spot again, honey" and takes over. Brook throws in, "I like your spot!" and they recover enough to finish the song. Dinah gets in one more swipe at 2:17, though, when she prompts, "Now it's you..."

For me, it's another case of having missed a detail in a song I'd listened to often over the decades. I found out about it only after I read Robert Pruter's notes to the reissue of The Two Of Us, the album that included four Washington-Benton duets, including the hits Baby (You've Got What It Takes) and its follow-up, A Rockin' Good Way (To Mess Around And Fall In Love).

I've always thought the appeal of the duets was down to the fact that they obviously liked each other so much. It's disillusioning to find that the album was rounded off with some solo songs because in the end they couldn't be persuaded to put up with each other long enough to complete a whole album of duets.

The two hit duets (#5 and #7 Billboard) are full of good-humored asides and banter between these two great, great singers, and the goof-up in Baby (You've Got What It Takes) lasts only 4 seconds, so somehow the detail just passed me by.

As Pruter tells it, Brook Benton was annoyed that producer Clyde Otis released the take with the gaff in it (he thought it was cute, and the record sold anyway). Not only that, but Brook had to be restrained by Ray Charles in a nightclub when he took umbrage at a crack Dinah made onstage about his work on the duets.

Enough! I'm sticking with the CD and its bonus tracks, revelling in the delicious arrangements of Belford Hendricks and the flawless production by Clyde Otis, not to mention the smooth and warm singing of Benton and Washington. Perfect, really.

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