“Rock the Boat” The Hues Corporation 1974
I love a good metaphor. I love when a lyricist can take an image and imbue with levels of meaning beyond the words of that clever couplet that initially catches your ear. Some songs, however, work a metaphor so hard (First Choice’s “Dr Love”?) you wonder if perhaps the songwriters might be playing a joke on you. This is one of those songs—only thing is this: the melody is so grand and hummable that you can almost ignore the “our love is like a ship on the ocean/we’ve been sailing with a cargo full of love and devotion” thing and just take the ride. It’s also so amazingly sung, in that early 70s pop/r&b style of lead vocal harmonizing, that the sound sorta carries you along on its discofied rhythms so effortlessly that you’re singing along no matter how ridiculous the words sound coming out of your mouth. I think I first started to love this record when I really clocked Hubert Ann Kelley’s fabulous adlibs: “So I’d like to know where you got the notion,” she sings, elongating “notion” into a multi-syllabic vocal lifeboat. It’s like she’s holding onto the groove for dear life as she rises a tone above her co-stars while the song fades toward its end. There’s something so free-ing and soulful about her vocals you sorta wonder why she doesn’t sing the solo parts. I guess they had their reasons. I’m just glad the record exists; it gave my little sister Tami and I a song to sing when we did shows for the family back in the day.
You can hear it here: