THE COMPLETE MOTOWN SINGLES: VOLUME ONE (1959-1961)
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 (pictured below), 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. 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
THE COMPLETE MOTOWN SINGLES: VOLUME TWO (1962)
While the first volume of this remarkable series was dominated by rock n roll, doo-wop and gospel influenced material. This second step in the progress of the Motown label and its subsidiaries, the year of 1962, saw a much more soulful sound creeping in. If you are a fan of early Atlantic and Volt (Stax) recordings you will enjoy this.
More of the names who would go on to make Motown famous are here now. We see the first appearance of "Little" Stevie Wonder (pictured below), Martha Reeves & The Vandellas and more from The Temptations (starting with the doo-wop of Isn't She Pretty) than had been the case earlier. Mary Wells is still here, with the youthful Smokey Robinson & The Miracles plus The Marvelettes and The Contours. Marvin Gaye is still trying out his crooner thing and some of the excellent ones who didn't make it are still here - the soulful Henry Lumpkin, the great voice of Hattie Littles, and the first white artist to sign for Motown, Debbie Dean. Diana Ross & The Supremes are starting to make their presence felt. Still some doo-wop in there, though, like the tracks by Lee & The Leopards. Still enjoyable though.
The Temptations appear as “The Pirates” with the excellent, bluesy I'll Love You Till You Die and the early Vandellas see Saundra Mallett on vocals on the jaunty Camel Walk. It is not until volume three (1963) that the "Motown Sound" really appears, but it is well on the way here, far more than on volume one. The sound is a full, warm MONO and is an improvement on the 1959-61 tracks. As a confirmed stereo man, I do have to admit these true mono recordings sound excellent. The box sets are nigh on impossible to get hold of, but the music can still be downloaded at a reasonable price, as too can the individual tracks.
Personal highlights are:-
Sandman - Marvin Gaye
What Is A Man (Without A Woman) - Henry Lumpkin
The One Who Really Loves You - Mary Wells
Big Joe Moe - Singin' Sammy Ward
Everybody's Talkin' About My Baby - Debbie Dean
I Out-Duked The Duke - Little Otis
Baby I Need You - Little Otis
Your Heart Belongs To Me - Diana Ross & The Supremes
Do You Love Me - The Contours
Mojo Hannah - Henry Lumpkin
Beechwood 4-5789 - The Marvelettes
Stubborn Kind Of Fellow - Marvin Gaye
If Your Mother Only Knew - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
All The Love I've Got - The Marvelettes
I'll Have To Let Him Go - Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
While Volume One is something of a labour of love to listen to in places, the famous Motown "quality control" is starting to kick in here.
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 (pictured below). 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.
THE COMPLETE MOTOWN SINGLES: VOLUME FOUR (1964)
It had been a four to five year journey for Berry Gordy's Motown (and associate) label (s) from 1959 to 1964 before the really "broke through". They were still not quite there yet. That famous Funk Brothers-backed "Motown Sound" had not quite arrived. Just a few 1963 songs, like Martha Reeves' Heat Wave and Diana Ross & The Supremes' When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes gave a hint at what was to come. However, listen to's Choker Campbell's Big Band's instrumental take on Come See About Me and, indeed, Diana Ross & The Supremes' vocal version and the foundations are firmly in place. 1964 was a year of change for Motown, an important transitional year. Baby Love by Diana Ross & The Supremes blew it all wide open. Motown was her to stay now, with a concrete identity. The Sound Of Young America was airborne. It had taken five long years.
Many of the old faithful artists are still here in this collection - The Contours, The Marvelettes, The Velvelettes, Mary Wells, Sammy Ward, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, the still early teenage Stevie Wonder (whose voice deepens as the set progresses!), The Temptations and Marvin Gaye. Of course, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles were still going strong. New faces were Junior Walker & The All Stars and The Four Tops (pictured left) and The Spinners (later to become The Detroit Spinners). Also there are ones who didn't quite make it like The Andantes and Shorty Long.
Amongst some of the promising material on here are still some shockers - Howard Crockett's country songs are awful and Dorsey Burnette's stuff not much better. Liz Lands' gospel tunes now sound terribly dated. The beauty of downloading this music to a digital collection as well as owning the beautifully presented books is that one can delete the rubbish.
The sound is wonderfully remastered, most of it in the true MONO of the time. However, a few stereo tracks are coming in, showing the recording advances the Motown studios had developed, especially in contrast to those in the UK at the same period. Forget George Martin. These guys were the true recording pioneers. A song like Martha Reeves' iconic Dancing In The Street and marvellous in stereo. That said, listen to The Temptations' (Talkin' 'Bout) Nobody But My Baby, Mary Wells' I'll Be Available or My Smile Is Just A Frown by Carolyn Crawford in mono and the sound is just as impressive. 1964 was a year when mono still suited many of these recordings and, for a confirmed stereo man like myself, the better sonic times were just around the corner.
Come See About Me - Choker Campbell's Big Band
Where Did Our Love Go - Diana Ross & The Supremes (pictured above)
That Day When She Needed Me - The Contours
(Talkin' "Bout) Nobody But My Baby - The Temptations
Run, Run, Run - Diana Ross & The Supremes
Baby Love - Diana Ross & The Supremes
Dancing In The Street - Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
My Girl - The Temptations
The Way You Do The Things You Do - The Temptations
Wild One - Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
Satan's Blues - Jr. Walker & The All Stars
Come See About Me - Diana Ross & The Supremes
Monkey Jump - Jr. Walker & The All Stars
Every Little Bit Hurts - Brenda Holloway
Too Many Fish In The Sea - The Marvelettes
Baby I Need Your Loving - The Four Tops
Needle In A Haystack - The Velvelettes
How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) - Marvin Gaye
My Smile Is Just A Frown - Carolyn Crawford
My Guy - Mary Wells
He Was Really Sayin' Something - The Velvelettes
I'll Be Available - Mary Wells
Bread Winner - Sammy Ward
Leaving Here - Tommy Good
THE COMPLETE MOTOWN SINGLES: VOLUME FIVE (1965)
1965 was the year that Motown really took off. Whereas the previous four box sets in this truly excellent series had their numbers of genuine big "hit" singles growing as each year went by, culminating in the 1964 set having Diana Ross & The Supremes' huge hit Baby Love, this collection has numerous great hits. It is a fantastic collection.
The higher percentage of the tracks have still been spectacularly remastered in true MONO sound, which is ok for 1965 material (a confirmed stereo man as I am finds it becomes more and more of a problem as each year of these sets moves on, however). There are some excellent stereo masters to be found on here though.
The quality control at Hitsville had clearly gone up over the years and a lot of the artists who featured on earlier sets but hadn't made it commercially had disappeared, but unfortunately awful country ballads and easy listening material remains in the contributions of Howard Crockett, Billy Eckstine, Dorsey Burnette and Tony Martin. These tracks I find unlistenable. The beauty of digital programming is that they get sonically "airbrushed" out!
The "Motown Sound" was well in top gear now. Gone was the rock n roll, doo-wop, crooning and surf instrumentals of the early stuff. The Funk Brothers were in full flow. Here are some of the highlights of THAT sound they really need no introduction:-
Since I Lost My Baby - The Temptations
Motoring - Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
A Bird In The Hand - The Velvelettes
Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead - The Marvelettes (pictured above)
I Can't Help Myself - The Four Tops
Ain't That Peculiar - Marvin Gaye
Stop! In The Name Of Love - Diana Ross & The Supremes
My World Is Empty Without You - Diana Ross & The Supremes
Don't Look Back - The Temptations
The Tracks Of My Tears - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
It's The Same Old Song - The Four Tops
Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While) - Kim Weston
Cleo's Back - Jr. Walker & The All Stars
Nowhere To Run - Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
I Hear A Symphony - Diana Ross & The Supremes
Put Yourself In My Place - The Elgins
Ooh Baby Baby - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) - Frank Wilson
Do Right Baby Do Right - Chris Clark
Shotgun - Jr. Walker & The All Stars
I'll Always Love You - The Spinners
Going To A Go-Go - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
Music Talk - Stevie Wonder
Back In My Arms Again - Diana Ross & The Supremes
Uptight - Stevie Wonder
Darling Baby - The Elgins
I've Been Good To You - Brenda Holloway
1966 was one hell of a year for Motown and this excellent volume of this wonderful series shows that to be the case. Mind you, Billy Eckstine and Rick, Robin & Him are still contributors on here! From the sublime to the ridiculous.
Spectacularly remastered in the original true MONO and some “promo versions” in STEREO, the sound is a revelation as always.
Motown had well and truly arrived now, here are the highlights:-
Get Ready - The Temptations (pictured above)
What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted - Jimmy Ruffin
This Old Heart Of Mine - The Isley Brothers
It Takes Two - Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston
I’m Ready For Love - Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
Beauty Is Only Skin Deep - The Temptations
Helpless - Kim Weston
I’m A Road Runner - Jr. Walker & The All Stars
You Can’t Hurry Love - Diana Ross & The Supremes
Love Is Like An Itching In My Heart - Diana Ross & The Supremes
Ain’t Too Proud To Beg - The Temptations
Reach Out I’ll Be There - The Four Tops
Heaven Must Have Sent You - The Elgins
I’ve Passed This Way Before - Jimmy Ruffin
Function At The Junction - Shorty Long
One More Heartache - Marvin Gaye
Standing In The Shadows Of Love - The Four Tops
I Know I’m Losing You - The Temptations
The music speaks for itself.
THE COMPLETE MOTOWN SINGLES: VOLUME SEVEN (1967)
By 1967, Motown had jettisoned the country singers and novelty recordings and we got, thankfully, one long roller coaster of "Motown Sound" classics. Unfortunately, and amazingly, it was to be the last year for the songwriting team of genius that was Holland/Dozier/Holland, but Whitfield/Strong were coming up strong, so to speak.
Beautifully remastered in the true MONO of the time with some notable and also excellent "Stereo Promo Versions" these box sets are very difficult to get hold of now for anything but extortionate prices. They can still be downloaded at reasonable prices though and, of course, individual tracks can be "cherry picked".
Gladys Knight & The Pips (pictured) make their first appearance on here, Stevie Wonder is in full swing, as is Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, The Four Tops, Jimmy Ruffin, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Jr. Walker & The All Stars.... need I say more?
Personal pieces of Motown heaven:-
Love Is Here And Now You're Gone - Diana Ross & The Supremes
Jimmy Mack - Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
Bernadette - The Four Tops
Gonna Give Her All The Love I've Got - Jimmy Ruffin
My World Is Empty Without You - Diana Ross & The Supremes
Take Me In Your Arms And Love Me - Gladys Knight & The Pips
The Happening - Diana Ross & The Supremes
There's A Ghost In My House - R. Dean Taylor
Festival Time - San Remo Strings
When You're Long And In Love - The Marvelettes (pictured below)
7 Rooms Of Gloom - The Four Tops
You're My Everything - The Temptations
I'm Wondering - Stevie Wonder
I Second That Emotion - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
If I Could Build My Whole World Around You - Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
I Wish It Would Rain - The Temptations
Pucker Up Buttercup - Jr. Walker & The All Stars
Don't You Miss Me A Little Bit Baby - Jimmy Ruffin
This marvellous box set also includes my all-time favourite Motown "rarity" - the Northern Soul glory that is I Got A Feeling by Barbara Randolph.
THE COMPLETE MOTOWN SINGLES: VOLUME EIGHT (1968)
By 1968, the great days of Motown's commercial success in the singles charts was slightly on the wane, but only slightly. Rock artists like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys were concentrating on putting out quality albums as well as singles, and while Motown artists had always released albums, they were often of the "singles and over versions" variety. Stevie Wonder and The Temptations started to change that around now, and Diana Ross & The Supremes even got in on the act with their "socially conscious" Love Child album.
So, Motown acts were looking to put out more serious songs, often "message" songs, and some of these begin to make their presence felt here, such as The Temptations' funky Cloud Nine, Diana Ross's afore-mentioned Love Child, Smokey Robinson's I Care About Detroit, Martha Reeves' war-influenced Forget Me Not. These are still in the minority, however and there are some absolute killer "Motown Sound" singles on this collection. Also, some excellent rarities too, like the soulful Why The, Why Me by Abdullah, Debbie Dean's (pictured) Why Am I Loving You, The Fantastic Four's I Love You Madly and Chuck Jackson's Northern Soul-ish Girls Girls Girls.
An interesting piece of trivia is that Eddie Holland rated The Four Tops' I'm In A Different World as the best song he ever wrote. Hmmm. I like it, sure, it's ok, but the "best ever"? Many more candidates around. He wrote them though, so it's his choice.
In my opinion, it is around now that the difference between mono and stereo is starting to become more obvious. Most of the recordings here are in their original single release of "pure mono" and, while they sound rich and full, stereo versions of the same songs, either included here as "stereo promo versions" or available on other compilations, sound much better. I say this as a confirmed stereo man, but I feel that in previous years it did not matter so much, but it is starting to now. Anyway here are some of the box set's highlights:-
How Can I Forget - The Temptations
You're All I Need To Get By - Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
Your Mother's Only Daughter - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
Why Them, Why Me - Abdullah
Cloud Nine - The Temptations
Shoo-Be-Doo - Stevie Wonder
I Heard It Through The Grapevine - Marvin Gaye
Walk Away Renee - The Four Tops
I'll Pick A Rose For My Rose - Marv Johnson
Yesterday's Dreams - The Four Tops
I'll Say Forever My Love - Jimmy Ruffin
I Am The Man For You Baby - Edwin Starr
Love Child - Diana Ross & The Supremes
My Weakness Is You - Edwin Starr
Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While) - The Isley Brothers
Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing - Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
I'm In A Different World - The Four Tops
Gotta See Jane - R. Dean Taylor
Some Things You Never Get Used To - Diana Ross & The Supremes
It Should Have Been Me - Gladys Knight & The Pips
If I Were A Carpenter - The Four Tops
For Once In My Life - Stevie Wonder
Behind A Painted Smile - The Isley Brothers
Why Am I Loving You - Debbie Dean
Forever Came Today - Diana Ross & The Supremes
Forget Me Not - Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
Don't Let Him Take Your Love From Me - Jimmy Ruffin
It Should Have Been Me is indeed the original version of the song that charted much later in 1976 for Yvonne Fair.
Like 1964, another year of comparative transition for Motown.
THE COMPLETE MOTOWN SINGLES: VOLUME NINE (1969)
1969 was a real year of change for Motown. Diana Ross & The Supremes were nearing the end of their triumphant time, while The Jackson 5 (pictured) were just beginning. The Four Tops were no longer quite the huge chart force they once were, and The Temptations, pushed firmly by Norman Whitfield, were heading down the "psychedelic soul" route, with "message" songs like the hard-hitting Runaway Child Running Wild. Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye were just approaching huge turning points in their careers, ones where pop singles were replaced by serious "adult" oriented albums. A young Gladys Knight was beginning to make her presence felt with some funk-based, muscular soul.
Mono was coming to the end as the default sound for Motown singles too, and stereo was getting good now and it was starting to matter. The mono singles of the past were great but the more musically adventurous numbers now being released suited stereo far more. Funnily enough, most of this set appears to be in mono, to the detriment of some of the songs, which have far superior stereo version amiable on their individual albums. A perfect example of this is The Jackson 5's (pictured) I Want You Back which nobody can deny sounds so much better in stereo.
There is also, as with all these box sets, some serious rubbish on here, however. Tracks by Billy Eckstine, Wes Henderson, Captain Zap & The Motortown Cut-Ups and Soupy Sales are best forgotten about, to be honest.
Here are my highlights from this excellent set:-
Twenty Five Miles - Edwin Starr
I'm Living In Shame - Diana Ross & The Supremes
My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me) - David Ruffin
My Cherie Amour - Stevie Wonder
Runaway Child Running Wild - The Temptations
Don't Mess With My Weekend - Shorty Long
(We've Got) Honey Love - Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
Too Busy Thinking About My Baby - Marvin Gaye
What Does It Take (To Win Your Love) - Jr. Walker & The All Stars
Since I've Lost You - The Temptations
No Matter What Sign You Are - Diana Ross & The Supremes
The Nitty Gritty - Gladys Knight & The Pips
Suzie - Terry Johnson
Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yester-Day - Stevie Wonder
Friendship Train - Gladys Knight & The Pips
I Want You Back - The Jackson 5
Farewell Is A Lonely Sound - Jimmy Ruffin
Someday We'll Be Together - Diana Ross & The Supremes
Psychedelic Shack - The Temptations
THE COMPLETE MOTOWN SINGLES: VOLUME TEN (1970)
Much like 1969, 1970 saw big changes in Motown's output. The mid-sixties were now long gone. Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye were on the verge of becoming primarily "album" artists, using their own compositions. Diana Ross & The Supremes had gone and Diana Ross's highly successful solo career began here. Old mates The Supremes (pictured) carried on without her and released some great songs. The Four Tops began to release more reflective, socially-conscious material and The Temptations continued to plough the same furrow. The Jackson 5, meanwhile continued their shot at world domination....
Most of the songs are in mono, which, although excellent, is now being found a bit wanting and nearly as the songs had better stereo versions out there. The Temptations' Ball Of Confusion is so much better in stereo, for example.
This is a good box set, but there is quite a lot of questionable quality material here too, alongside the brilliance. The difference between the two is quite marked on this set. Far more so than on the mid-sixties sets.
Up The Ladder To The Roof - The Supremes
Get Ready - Rare Earth
ABC - The Jackson 5
You Need Love Like I Do (Don't You) - Gladys Knight & The Pips
It's All In The Game - The Four Tops
Reach Out And Touch (Somebody's Hand) - Diana Ross
Indiana Wants Me - R. Dean Taylor
Ball Of Confusion (That's What The World Is Today) - The Temptations
Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours - Stevie Wonder
It's A Shame - The Spinners
War - Edwin Starr
The Tears Of A Clown - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
Ain't No Mountain High Enough - Diana Ross
I'll Be There - The Jackson 5
Still Water (Love) - The Four Tops
Heaven Help Us All - Stevie Wonder
Stoned Love - The Supremes
If I Were Your Woman - Gladys Knight & The Pips
Remember Me - Diana Ross
Hum Along And Dance - The Temptations
THE COMPLETE MOTOWN SINGLES: VOLUME ELEVEN A (1971A)
The fact that the box sets for both 1971 and 1972 had "a" and "b" parts would lead one to believe that there was such a wealth of quality Motown material that it overflowed into the box sets for each year. Unfortunately, the opposite is pretty much the case. There is one hell of a lot of "filler" by now. Yes, all these excellent box sets had their share of non-essential material on them, but it seemed that by the early seventies, there was considerably more as Motown was starting to struggle a bit, for the first time. There are a few genuine rarities on here, though, songs by South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, Kiki Dee, and, would you believe, Meat Loaf.
Having made that point, it should not take away from the fact that there is still some wonderful material on here. My personal favourites are listed below.
With regard to the sound, it is now becoming annoying that two thirds of the singles were still being released in mono. Their stereo versions are all available on their respective albums and are much better, it has to be said. It is 1971. Things had moved on. Motown, as a pioneer of some great early stereo recordings, should have known better. They took their eyes off the ball. Marvin Gaye's (pictured) Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) or What's Going On, for example, should not be in mono. Still, that how these singles were released at the time and true to history, they are here in that original format.
Anyway, here are those favourites:-
Nathan Jones- The Supremes
Mama's Pearl - The Jackson 5
I Just Want To Celebrate - Rare Earth
Strung Out - Gordon Staples & The Motown Strings
You Gotta Have Love In Your Heart - The Four Tops & The Supremes
Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) - Marvin Gaye
Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) - The Temptations
Cloud Nine - Edwin Starr
Maybe Tomorrow - The Jackson 5
Smiling Faces Sometimes - The Undisputed Truth
It's Summer - The Temptations
This Used To Be The Home Of Johnnie Mae - Eddie Kendricks
What's Goin' On - Marvin Gaye
Never Can Say Goodbye - The Jackson 5
You Make Your Own Heaven And Hell Right Here On Earth - The Temptations
Dyambo - Hugh Masekela
Mornin' Train - Arthur Adams
I Don't Blame You At All - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer - Stevie Wonder
I Don't Blame You At All - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
THE COMPLETE MOTOWN SINGLES: VOLUME ELEVEN B (1971B)
The review for 1971b is the same as for 1971a, except that I feel that part 'b' is inferior in quality to part 'a' and has far more superfluous tracks and less classics.
The fact that the box sets for both 1971 and 1972 had "a" and "b" parts would lead one to believe that there was such a wealth of quality Motown material that it overflowed into the box sets for each year. Unfortunately, the opposite is pretty much the case. There is one hell of a lot of "filler" by now. Yes, all these excellent box sets had their share of non-essential material on them, but it seemed that by the early seventies, there was considerably more as Motown was starting to struggle a bit, for the first time. There are some artists on here who really do not cut the mustard, let's be brutally honest.
Having made that point, it should not take away from the fact that there is still some wonderful material on here. My personal favourites are listed below.
With regard to the sound, it is now becoming annoying that two thirds of the singles were still being released in mono. Their stereo versions are all available on their respective albums and are much better, it has to be said. It is 1971. Things had moved on. Motown, as a pioneer of some great early stereo recordings, should have known better. They took their eyes off the ball. Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler), for example, should not be in mono. Still, that how these singles were released at the time and true to history, they are here in that original format.
Anyway, here are those favourites (nowhere near as many on previous sets in the series):-
Take Me Girl I'm Ready - Jr. Walker The All Stars
If You Really Love Me - Stevie Wonder
Funky Rubber Band - Richard "Popcorn" Wylie
Heaven Must Have Sent You - The Elgins
Inner City Blues (Make Wanna Holler) - Marvin Gaye
It's So Hard For Me To Say Goodbye - The Supremes
Bless You - Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
Got To Be There - Michael Jackson (pictured)
I'm Still Waiting - Diana Ross
Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are) - The Temptations
Way Back Home - Jr. Walker & The All Stars
Make Me The Woman You Go Home To - Gladys Knight & The Pips
Floy Joy - The Supremes
THE COMPLETE MOTOWN SINGLES: VOLUME TWELVE A (1972A)
Unfortunately, as undoubtedly great as this series has been, it is by now that Motown was clearly showing the signs of the beginning of the end. Yes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross were helping them hang on in there with some credible, best-selling albums, but their old bread and butter - the singles market, was now populated by others. As I have said for the last few box sets in the series, by 1972, Motown should have been putting all their singles out in stereo, as opposed to the mono that is still lingering around on quite a lot of these singles. There are a remarkable amount of "filler" singles on here from filler groups, which is a disappointing end to this remarkable document of some of best music the popular genre had ever known.
There are are still a few highlights though, and here they are:-
A Simple Game - The Four Tops
Take A Look Around - The Temptations
Rockin' Robin - Michael Jackson
Walk In The Night - Jr. Walker & The All Stars
Help Me Make It Through The Night - Gladys Knight & The Pips
Little Bitty Pretty One - The Jackson 5
Automatically Sunshine - The Supremes
I Love Every Little Thing About You - Stevie Wonder
You're The Man (Parts 1 & 2) - Marvin Gaye
Funky Music Sure 'Nuff Turns Me On - The Temptations
Looking' Through The Windows - The Jackson 5
As you can see, compared to the earlier sets, highlights are few and far between, which was a great shame.
THE COMPLETE MOTOWN SINGLE: VOLUME TWELVE B (1972B)
So, here we are are then, the end of this truly outstanding series box box sets. I am lucky enough to have the complete set. A blessing indeed.
As I said when commenting on the previous set (1972a), it is a shame that the last few sets sees the overall quality drop considerably. While 1972 was a year where Stevie Wonder (pictured), Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and The Temptations were performing strongly, with some excellent "serious" albums, which yielded also some quality singles, that great sixties conveyor belt of classic Motown singles had ground to a halt. Things were changing. It was the end of an era. This set contains some true copper-bottomed classics, but also a lot of eminently disposable "filler", that makes me look back wistfully and think just how great 1965-1968's sets were.
The final track on this remarkable, life affirming, monumental box set is, appropriately, Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye). Quite.
Anyway, here are the highlights:-
Papa Was A Rolling Stone - The Temptations
Papa Was A Rolling Stone (Instrumental) - The Temptations
Your Wonderful, Sweet, Sweet Love - The Supremes
Ben - Michael Jackson
The Night - Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
Daddy Could Swear, I Declare - Gladys Knight & The Pips
Keep On Running - Stevie Wonder
Evil - Stevie Wonder
I Love Every Little Thing About You - Syreeta
Superstition - Stevie Wonder
You've Got It Bad Girl - Stevie Wonder
Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While) - Jermaine Jackson
Trouble Man - Marvin Gaye
Don't Mess With Mr. T - Marvin Gaye
Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye) - Gladys Knight & The Pips
(It's The Way) Nature Planned It - The Four Tops
It'll Never Change - The Four Tops
Over And Over - The Supremes
If You Let Me - Eddie Kendricks
What If - Thelma Houston
Mama I Gotta Brand New Thing (Don't Say No) - The Undisputed Truth
Robot Man - Jay & The Techniques
We're Gonna Have A Good Time - Rare Earth
God Bless The Child - Diana Ross
THE MOTOWN STEREO BOX
Simply some of the finest Motown remasters you are likely to hear. They are superb. They transform some of the oh-so familiar songs to render them almost like new songs.
Some of them, like The Tracks Of My Tears, Reach Out I'll Be There and What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted are “extended versions”. Both Smokey Robinson and Levi Stubbs indulge in some vocal improvisations at the end of the tracks which one doesn’t expect, being so used to the original, while Jimmy Ruffin uses a spoken intro when you expect him to launch into the song.
Marvin Gaye, on the “extended” I Heard It Through The Grapevine, however, simply sings the song through twice, and on Martha Reeves’ Heatwave, the chorus is just repeated a few more times. Pictured above are The Marvelettes who feature several times on this album.
Around 41 tracks of the 72 are “new stereo mixes” and these are by far the most impressive. Others use existing stereo mixes and, while the are good, they are not “gobsmacking” like the new ones. Overall though, listening to this makes these 72 sixties Motown tracks a delight to listen to. Seventies tracks were recorded in stereo anyway, but for these it is like listening to new recordings. Just listen to The Funk Brothers’ bass sound. Heavenly. Back to mono? Leave it out!
READY STEADY GO: THE SIXTIES SOUND OF MOTOWN
This review is about the SOUND, because most people know and love the tracks. The remastering on this is the best I have heard of Motown material. It has the warmest, biggest, bassiest, booming sound around. If you like your music that way, and I do, then you will love this. Before you ask, yes, they ARE the original recordings.
Check out Behind A Painted Smile or Bernadette. Mind blowingly good. Makes one's walls shake. The best Tears Of A Clown around too - always a difficult one to remaster with that "shaky" intro when the percussion kicks in.
Great to get tracks from the much underrated Jr. Walker & The All-Stars, Marv Johnson and Edwin Starr alongside the old favourites. Gladys Knight & The Pips too, whose Motown work is often overlooked.
If you require a sonically brilliant introduction to Motown you simply cannot go wrong with this one. I come back to it again and again. Martha Reeves & The Vandellas - Nowhere To Run. Motown Heaven.
The remastering is SUPERB. Largely stereo as well, which is personally to my taste.
Music-wise it really needs no introduction. All the usual suspects are here, the label’s biggest hits - Baby Love, Reach Out I'll Be There, What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted, This Old Heart Of Mine, I Want You Back etc.
What is a bit bizarre, is that, all of a sudden, on disc three, the monster hits disappear and are replaced by some frankly odd inclusions - a cover of Jumpin' Jack Flash by Thelma Houston, for example. Or The Supremes doing The Beatles’ Come Together. If you are going to include a Supremes track, why not use their big chart hit Stoned Love?
Small nit-picking though. Overall a great collection of superb remasters.
Firstly, I have to say I most certainly don’t have a problem with the sound in this one, as reviewers on some media seem to. It is clear, full and bassy and in good stereo. Secondly, some would appear to be complaining that the compilation isn’t “proper funk” because there is no James Brown or Parliament on it. Well, guess what - those artists did not record on Motown. Motown was not a funk label, as such, so this labels attempts to seek out tracks from that label which did have some funk about them. Shorty Long’s Here Come The Judge and The Undisputed Truth's take on The Temptations’, for example.
The Stevie Wonder/Syreeta collaboration, To Know You Is To Love You is excellent, with a great instrumental extension. Barbara McNair’s The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game may not be pure funk, bit it sure has soul, ditto Gladys Knight’s cover of Traffic’s Feelin' Alright. She also gives us a stonking, gender-appropriate cover of Bill Withers’ Who Is He (She) And What Is He (She) To You. However, if Edwin Starr’s Easin' In isn’t funky I don’t know what is.
The Temptations' Psychedelic Shack needs no introduction, but some may not have come across Gordon Staples’ Strung Out and Yvonne (It Should Have Been Me) Fair’s You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover. Eddie Kendricks’s Girl You Need A Change Of Mind certainly cooks. Similarly, Marvin Gaye’s "T" Plays It Cool.
TAMLA MOTOWN CONNOISSEURS: VOLUME ONE
This is a highly impressive compilation of lesser-known Motown tracks. Along with Stax, Atlantic and Northern Soul, there are so many truly wonderful comparative rarities in the Motown vaults, it is a pleasure coming across them. The sound quality on here is good too, nice and bassy, and mostly stereo too. The mono tracks are punchy too, with a solid bass sound thumping right from the middle of your speakers, such as on Marvin Gaye's Sunny. Check out that huge bass on The Contours' marvellous It's Growing. I never tire of listening to this album.
1. Here Are The Pieces Of My Broken Heart - Gladys Knight & The Pips
2. My Love Is Your Love (Forever) - The Isley Brothers
3. Tell Me Your Story - Brenda Holloway
4. Sunny - Marvin Gaye
5. Lone, Lonely Town - Tammi Terrell
6. Don't Stop Now - The Originals
7. Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) - Chris Clark
8. That'll Be The Day - The Temptations
9. Ain't That The Truth - Jr. Walker & The All-Stars
10. Forget You Ever Met Me Baby - Barbara McNair
11. It's Growing - The Contours
12. No One There - Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
13. You Got The Love I Need - The Undisputed Truth
14. Don't Be Afraid - Bobby Taylor
15. Don't Make Hurting Me A Habit - The Marvelettes
16. Where Did You Go? - The Four Tops
17. Hey Love - Stevie Wonder
18. Where Is That Girl - The Spinners
19. When We're Together - Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston
20. Flying High Together - Smoke Robinson & The Miracles
The tracks sort of speak for themselves. For me, Don't Stop Now by The Originals is an uplifting, lively rarity and it is interesting to hear Chris Clark's female vocal take on Frank Wilson's Northern Soul classic Do I Love You (Indeed I Do). The Isley Brothers' My Love Is Your Love (Forever) is excellent too, as is Jr. Walker & The All-Stars' pumping (and in great stereo) Ain't That The Truth. The Temptations' That'll Be The Day is bassily beautiful and ebullient (and not the Buddy Holly song). The tracks by Bobby Taylor, Barbara McNair and Brenda Holloway are quality too. McNair's Forget You Ever Met Me Baby is brassy, and full of soul. I also love anything by The Marvelettes. My beloved Undisputed Truth are on here too, with the criminally underrated, pounding You Got The Love I Need. In fact, there isn't a duff track on the album. Highly recommended, particularly as you can pick it up for next to nothing.
TAMLA MOTOWN CONNOISSEURS: VOLUME TWO
This is the second volume of impressive songs from the Motown vaults and is equally as good and interesting a listen. The sound is similarly powerful. As with the first volume, the stereo is impressive and the mono is positively booming, bass-wise. Check out the instrumental version of Diana Ross & The Supremes' Come See About Me by Choker Campbell.
1. My Love For You - Marvin Gaye
2. What You Gonna Do With Me Baby - The Four Tops
3. You've Been In Love Too Long - Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
4. Come See About Me - Choker Campbell
5. Tell Me - The Vows
6. Let Love Live (A Little Bit Longer) - The Velvelettes
7. Take Me Back - Freddie Gorman
8. Way Over There - Edwin Starr
9. You Got Me Hurtin' All Over - Barbara Randolph
10. California Soul - Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
11. Blackmail - Bobby Taylor
12. If I Could Give You The World - Heart And Stone
13. It Happens Every Time - Barbara McNair
14. Tear It On Down - The Originals
15. Look What You Done Boy - Lollipops
16. Don't Tell Me I'm Crazy - The Fantastic Four
17. How Many Times Did You Mean It - Brenda Holloway
18. I Got Heaven Right Here On Earth - The Temptations
19. Don't Wanna Play Pyjama Games - G.C. Cameron
20. Red Hot Love - The Four Tops
21. Rilleh - Marvin Gaye & Oma Page
The are are more genuine rarities on this volume than on the first, and in their ranks are some absolute corkers. My favourites are Freddie Gorman's lively Take Me Back; the wonderful, thumping, Northern Soul-ish Tell Me by The Vows; Bobby Taylor's excellent Blackmail; Tear It Down from The Originals (also recorded by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas); the extremely obscure and catchy If I Could Give You The World by Heart And Stone; and Look What You Done Boy by Lollipops.
There are also some solid tracks from established acts like I Got Heaven Right Here On Earth by The Temptations, You've Been In Love Too Long from Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, the punchy Let Love Live (A Little Bit Longer) by The Velvelettes and Edwin Starr's magnificent Way Over There.
As with the first volume, this is highly recommended and easy to get hold of for next to nothing. Do it.