Brenton Wood / Don Dixon (with Marti Jones): “Gimme Little Sign”
Brenton Wood (1967)
Don Dixon (1989)
Among the covers of Brenton Wood’s 1967 pop-soul classic, “Gimme Little Sign,” that I’ve heard, there are quite a few that are nothing more than weak, pallid reflections of the original. Wood’s original hit is lively, infectious, and emotionally soulful (which, I suppose, is a bit of a redundancy, since I don’t think you could have “soulful” without the “emotion”), simultaneously revealing a blast of heartfelt affection and a surging twinge of uncertainty and insecurity: I love you, but do you love me, and if so, let me know. It shoots to the core of new love in its brief 2+ minutes in a way that entire books and movies have many times failed to do. And that crazy organ/mellotron solo is truly a thing of wonder…
But those weak covers that I listened to seem to completely miss the soulfulness — they’re just glossy productions that bear little emotional resemblance. But that isn’t the case for the version recorded in 1989 by Don Dixon along with his wife, singer Marti Jones, for his E-E-E album. It connects to the song in the same way that Wood was able to, updating the sound to (then) modern standards without losing its underlying feeling. It probably helps that Dixon is a great producer as well, having been behind the boards along with Mitch Easter on the first few R.E.M. albums, as well as producing a number of other “new music” bands (they would have been called “indie” today) of the ’80s and ’90s, like the Smithereens and Guadalcanal Diary. And Marti Jones’ beautiful voice acts as the perfect foil to Dixon’s gruff, bluesy vocals. Their deep affection for the song shines through — failure to do the song justice clearly would have been as much of a letdown for them as it would have been for us.