Monday, 4 June 2018

The Complete Motown Singles Volume One (1958-1961)

  

There are quite a few types of music contained in this interesting box set - rock n roll, rock n roll ballads, doo-wop, gospel, country, crooners, surf instrumentals and even some idiotic “novelty” records. Everything but Motown!

This is where it began for Berry Gordy’s “Sound Of America”. It seemed he was trying to ape every mind of music he could in his efforts to achieve some chart success before eventually hitting upon the “Motown Sound”. That wouldn’t be for a while, however. In the meantime, these are Motown’s first baby steps.

The best material is to be found by the soulful voices of Mable John and Mary Wells, Barrett Strong, a young Smokey Robinson, some doo-wop in the form of The Satintones and some crooning from Eugene Remus and a young Marvin Gaye. Singin’ Sammy Ward’s soulful voice obviously slipped through the net somewhere. “Who’s The Fool” is great. Ditto the bluesy “It’s You” by Herman Griffin. Don’t forget the young, energetic Diana Ross & The Supremes either and their goofily amusing “Buttered Popcorn”.

Nick & The Jaguars contribute some excellent surf rock instrumentals. “Oh Lover” by Sherri Taylor and Singin’ Sammy Ward is a great Atlantic style soul duet, as is “That’s Why I Love You So Much”. “I’ve Got A Notion” by Henry Lumpkin is another unknown gem. The young Jimmy Ruffin’s “Don’t Feel Sorry For Me” has an upbeat feel to it that almost makes it Northern Soul. Debbie Dean's "Don't Let Him Shop Around" is an appealing answer to Smokey's "Shop Around". 

Barrett Strong's "Money And Me" (an answer to his own big hit "Money") has superb sound quality for the time. "Continental Strut" by Little Iva And Her Band is an enjoyable instrumental too. The Contours' "Whole Lotta Woman" certainly has a whole lotta soul. A great, growly vocal. For some reason I could hear Marc Bolan's vocal inflections at the end of this track - "Baby baby, bab-OGH". "Come On And Be Mine" is a similar, quality offering from The Contours. The Gospel Stars provide some get off your feet kick posterior gospel - "Oh Lordy. Lord have mercy". The Beatles listened to a lot of the material on here and the influence is clear all the way up to 1964's "Beatles For Sale". These guys did it much better, though. Musically and certainly vocally.

Yes, The Contours' "Blibberin' Blabberin' Blues" is a "Yakety Yak" rip off, but what the heck, it's fun. Similarly, Marvin Gaye's "black Sinatra" bid with the jazzy "Witchcraft".

There is some serious rubbish on here too, but 70% of it is of historical interest and listenable. The sound quality is as good as one could expect from recordings made between 1959 and 1961. All in MONO, of course. The presentation of these box sets is truly fantastic. In book form, with wonderful photographs and extensive notes about every song. It is extremely difficult to get hold of these days, commanding exorbitant prices, but it is available to download for a reasonable price and you could also cherry-pick tracks.

The well-known ones are:-

“Money” - Barrett Strong
“Shop Around” - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
“Please Mr Postman” - The Marvelettes
“I Want A Guy” - Diana Ross & The Supremes
“You’ve Got What It Takes” - Barrett Strong
“Who’s Lovin’ You” - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
“Buttered Popcorn” - Diana Ross & The Supremes

C+

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