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Mary Saxton

Mary Saxton - Sad Eyes / Take My Heart - 7

Sad Eyes / Take My Heart - 7"
Quality - 1968

Michael Panontin
She may have been as white as the snow that blanketed her hometown of Edmonton for much of the year, but Mary Saxton could belt out blistering northern soul with the best of them.

The Alberta teenager signed on to the locally based Pace imprint when she was barely able to drive and in November of 1966 she headed down to Los Angeles to record a few tracks with producers Gary Paxton and Ray Short. Those tapes found their way onto a couple of decent seven-inchers that same year, Losing Control / Better to Live or Die and Ask Any Girl / Do the Jerk. Though the records barely bothered the charts, they did cause the music industry up here to take notice and dub Saxton Canada's answer to Motown. Which in hindsight was not really so far off the mark.

By the following year she found herself back up in her hometown dabbling in short-lived rock acts like the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm, who scored a minor hit with a version of the Flowerpot Men's schmaltzy 'Let's Go to San Francisco'. But Saxton, who must have felt those soul pangs still twitching inside her, left the band soon after to sign on to the heftier Quality label, whose first release for her was a double shot of pure northern soul.

The pairing of the silky smooth 'Sad Eyes' with the supremely uplifting 'Take My Heart' over on the flip constitutes one of the truly great soul double-siders. That it was issued by a white woman from Canada and on a label with little experience in the genre makes it all the more astonishing. 'Sad Eyes' was a top-40 hit up here in Canuckistan, even managing to crack the top twenty in some markets. But the true gem is the stunning 'Take My Heart', which actually pilfers the backing track to the Tams' reworking of 'Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy' (shamelessly, as it were, without any songwriting credits). Still, though the Tams record would later become a classic both across the pond in the seventies and in the Myrtle Beach scene a decade or so later, Saxton's version, with her sweet vocal performance, is clearly the better of the two. Quality, it seems, also got the memo, reissuing the record years later with 'Take My Heart' wisely placed on the topside.

She vanished for a spell in the early seventies but reappeared in 1978 with a solo LP on Mustard and then again the following year as part of Vancouver disco trio Touche with the excellent 'Take a Look, But Don't Touch'. (Soul diggers should take note: those looking to score some original vinyl here had better bring some serious coin to the table, as copies of Saxton's sixties singles have been nudging the thousand-dollar mark these days.)

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