Monday, 4 June 2018

The Complete Motown Singles Volume Three (1963)


As one progresses through these truly excellent box sets of The Complete Motown Singles, the quality of sound improves with each one, and the “Motown Sound” gets closer and closer. The rock n roll and doo-wop of Volume One has disappeared, and, thankfully, many of the “novelty” songs too. The soulful sound of Volume Two is built upon here.

The remastered MONO sound is very impressive and perfect for this collection of tracks. Crystal clear and well defined. Now, I am a confirmed stereo man, but even I have to admit this true mono sound is incredibly good. I love it on this set.

These box sets are difficult to get hold of now, but are still downloadable. Compiled digitally, you can get rid of the rubbish, too. There is some, unfortunately. Motown’s dabbling in country music was not their best idea.

The acts we saw arriving in the first two volumes are still here - Marvin Gaye (now moving away from “crooning”), Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Mary Wells and The Marvelettes. The Velvelettes make their first appearance. Diana Ross & The Supremes are here, but they are very much “work in progress”. Centre stage here is taken by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, the highlights being two (quite similar) hits in “Heat Wave” and “Quicksand”.

There are quite a few impressive, jazzy instrumentals in this collection - “Peaceful” by Jack Haney, “I Did” by The Johnny Griffith Trio”, “Late Freight” by Dave Hamilton, “Pig Knuckles” by Morocco Muzik Makers and the piano-driven “Come On Home” by composers Holland & Dozier.

Other lesser-known gems are the “easy listening” ballads “Just Be Yourself” by Labrenda Ben and “Falling In Love With Love” by Paula Greer. Kim Weston’s “Another Train Coming” is an excellent early Motown soulful ballad. Smokey Robinson’s “Whatever Makes You Happy” and Martha Reeves’ “Jealous Lover” are in a similar vein. Martha also has a cracker in “Come Get These Memories”. Diana Ross & The Supremes reveal their potential for the first obvious time with the very Motown-ish “When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes”. They had released other tracks before (included in this series) but it was this one that hit the spot. The Darnells' Spectoresque "Too Hurt To Cry" and Mary Wells' "Your Old Stand By". Too many to mention them all individually.

Marvin Gaye started to plough a new furrow with the upbeat, soulful “Pride And Joy”. No more trying to be the “black Sinatra”. His “Can I Get A Witness” has become a somewhat iconic track, and Smokey Robinson’s “Mickey’s Monkey” keeps the doo-wop thing alive, just. The Marvelettes “Tie A String Around Your Finger” is a lovely ballad. Mable John is still there with her great “lost” Motown soul voice. Check out “Say You’ll Never Let Me Go”. While there is not a huge amount of well-known material in this collection, there is a clear “upping of Motown’s game” from Volume Two. Twelve year-old Patrice Holloway’s two song tribute to label-mate, thirteen year-old Stevie Wonder, is more than a little odd, however.

The big breakthrough was close.


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