(Written by Amos Milburn and Clarence Paul)
Inexplicably, My Daily Prayer was scheduled to be Amos Milburn’s Motown send-off, less than three months after his début. He’d been the company’s first real big-ticket signing of an older black entertainment legend (Andre Williams had had big hits before coming to Motown, but nothing on the scale of Milburn’s string of R&B Number Ones in the early Fifties), and he wouldn’t be the last – all part of Berry Gordy’s quest for both respectability and sales to new audiences.
With all that in mind, it seems very strange to me that Motown displayed so little patience with Amos once he’d actually signed; despite a host of recording sessions in 1962 and again in 1964, the only material to see the light of day was one LP, Return of the Blues Boss, one single, My Baby Gave Me Another Chance, and then this – which, as it turned out, doesn’t seem to have actually been released. The implication is that Motown were prepared to back Milburn in the studio, but simply weren’t impressed with what they got in return once they heard the results.
In the case of My Daily Prayer, that’s harsh – this is the best of the three single sides Milburn cut for Motown (the proposed B-side here, I’ll Make It Up To You Somehow, had already featured as the flip of My Baby Gave Me Another Chance). Despite an unpromising start, with some jazz noodling on the piano (threatening a meandering bebop workout) followed straight away by a big, bland splattering of Forties horns (threatening a bloated, sickly MOR ballad), things very quickly settle into a groove.
This, for want of a better word, is “lounge blues”; a smoky, late-night number, slow and lazy and plaintive. It’s not a particularly great song, but it’s absolutely fine as far as it goes. Amos is on excellent vocal form, much more so than on his previous two Motown sides. Here, he sounds every inch the star he was, and it’s impossible not to smile when he slips his own name in – Someone to take me, take me in her arms, when I’m restless through the night / And squeeze me, and say “Amos, everything’s alright”; it’s just very likeable. Meanwhile, the band are clearly enjoying themselves, indulging in a Fifties reverie that might well have troubled the charts ten years previously; The key change in the middle eight at 1:10 – Maybe I’ll just keep on travellin’ – is surprisingly fresh. The slightly tacky “big finish” – a false ending followed by a show-tune crescendo – lets things down a little bit, but it’s a minor blemish on an otherwise perfectly enjoyable record.
Surprising, then, that Motown opted not to bother releasing this, as while it was several years too late to be a plausible hit single, it’s undeniably a quality piece of work. But no.
The song was resurrected for Motown’s late-Sixties compilation album Switched-On Blues, which apparently handily outsold Return of the Blues Boss, meaning this is the Amos Milburn number that Motown fans are most likely to be familiar with. Amos himself would find himself increasingly marginalised and eventually dropped amid the hubbub of Motown’s R&B/pop mid-Sixties heyday, descending into ill-health and recording sporadically before his eventual death in 1980. This would have been a fitting end to his Motown career, had it actually appeared at the time; that it didn’t was proof that Motown was now big enough to treat even one-time superstars this way.