Thursday, 28 February 2019

Martha Reeves & The Vandellas - Black Magic (1972)

Tear it on down....


Released March 1972

This was was Martha Reeves & The Vandellas' final Motown studio album. It featured two new Vandellas and, despite the group being near the end of their glorious road, it has a bit of an understated, little discussed appeal to it. There are real throwbacks to the group's classic years in places. It is, however, quite an incongruous work, in comparison to the socially conscious material Motown put out by Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Undisputed Truth and Stevie Wonder during the same period. It is rather similar to the albums that The Supremes in their Diana Ross-less incarnation released in the early seventies too. I have to say that it has been remastered superbly and has an impressive warm, bassy, stereo sound.


1. No One There
2. Your Love Makes It All Worthwhile
3. Something
4. Benjamin
5. Tear It On Down
6. I've Given You The Best Years Of My Life
7. Bless You
8. I Want You Back
9. In And Out Of My Life
10. Anyone Who Had A Heart
11. Hope I Don't Get My Heart Broke                              

There are some underrated tracks on the album, such as the post Diana Ross Supremes-ish, easy groove of the opener, "No One There". "Your Love Makes It All Worthwhile" is a lively, handclappy echo back to the early/mid sixties. By 1972, it would be considered a song done in nostalgic style. It has a Northern Soul feel about it. Some infectious percussion at the end too. On late sixties/early seventies Motown albums, it seemed obligatory to cover a Beatles track, usually an "easy listening" one too. Here it is George Harrison's "Something". Martha does it justice, of curse, but it is totally inessential. "Benjamin" is a bit of a cheesy, big production ballad, but it has its moments. It is very "supper club" fare, however. There were always a few tracks like this on any Motown albums.

"Tear It On Down" is a different matter - a big, brassy, punchy number chock full of full-on soul. It is the last great track from this seminal group. A typical "psychedelic soul" buzzy guitar introduces another fine track in "I've Given You The Best Years Of My Life". What a voice Martha Reeves had. Always in the shadow of Diana Ross, unfairly in my opinion, this track exemplifies just how strong her voice was. Was there time for one more copper-bottomed, joyful Motown classic? Of course there was - the glorious joie de vivre of "Bless You". That great Motown sound never dies with singles like this - that trademark beat, the deep, sonorous saxophone break in the middle and the soaring vocal. Motown heaven.

"I Want You Back" is a cover of the iconic Jackson 5 number, but done slightly differently with a new introduction and a funky, jazzy feel in places. If it wasn't for the Jacksons' version, it would be pretty impressive. As it, you just can't help thinking of the wonderful original. "In And Out Of My Life" is a  an uplifting mid-pace sixties-ish Motown number. "Anyone Who Had A Heart" is the Bacharach/David song made famous by Cilla Black. Here it is done very much in the style of Dionne Warwick's original recording of the song. Both hers and Reeves' versions walk all over Black's one. "Hope I Don't Get My Heart Broke" may be grammatically incorrect, but it is soulfully on the ball. Big and powerful. This was Martha Reeves last track on her last Vandellas album. It was a great one on which to end the truly classic era of her career, 1963-1972.


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