Ed Townsend: How Could You Do It?
From Now (Curtom, 1975)
Townsend is one of those under sung figures of the R&B world, enough so, on this LP (his first after many years between that and his last one), he included a list of his credits on the cover, including having either produced or written Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” and Dee Dee Warwick’s “Foolish Fool” for example. Typically, someone’s who’s already a household name doesn’t have to advertise their resume like that.
The thing is though: producers and songwriters often do dwell in the background. That’s just the nature of the business. To become a star, you have to come with more than just a great ear, you need the voice too and in this regard, perhaps there’s a reason Townsend never rivaled the men he worked with like Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and Brook Benton.
It’s not that he has a bad voice, he just doesn’t have a particularly memorable one. But the man knew how to produce. “How Could You Do It?” is simply lovely with its sound and arrangement (co-arranged by Rene Hall, alongside Townsend), a perfect slow jam concoction, built around the piano, the subtle brass section, the guitars panned to the side. And Townsend sounds fine here but again, he’s not setting the mic on fire either. That said, if you got a long drive ahead of you, throw this on and be prepared to lean into the seam.