Friday, 31 May 2019

Martha Reeves & The Vandellas - Ridin' High (1968)

Love bug leave my heart alone....

  

Released April 1968

Martha Reeves & The Vandellas suffered a little from the abrupt departure of the Holland/Dozier/Holland songwriting team from Motown records (only track 4 is an HDH song). However, this is not too bad an album, as late sixties Motown albums go. Of course, there are the usual covers of contemporarily popular pop standards but there are four great hit singles and a few other good ones too.

The cover sees Martha and the girls looking like air hostesses (with Martha wearing a top hat) in a pose very much of its era.

TRACK LISTING

1. I Promise To Wait My Love
2. Honey Chile
3. There's Always Something There To Remind Me
4. Leave It In The Hands Of Love
5. Love Bug Leave My Heart Alone
6. I'm In Love (And I Know It)
7. To Sir, With Love
8. Forget Me Not
9. (We've Got) Honey Love
10. I Say A Little Prayer
11. Without You
12. Show Me The Way                                        

"I Promise To Wait My Love" is a slightly funky, Stax-sounding soul cooker of a track. This is certainly not "filler", it is a great track. "Honey Chile" was a hit single and stomper it was too, featuring a soaring vocal from Martha and a great backing. "There's Always Something There To Remind Me" had been a hit for Sandie Shaw in 1964, by now in 1968, it already sounds a bit dated, despite its pure pop appeal. "Leave It In The Hands Of Love" is a classic, little-known great Motown song. "Love Bug Leave My Heart Alone" falls into the same category with some classic buzzy guitar and a killer Motown bass line.

"I'm In Love (And I Know It)" is another upbeat Motown number that echoes back to early hits like "Quicksand". Time for another mid-sixties cover - Lulu's "To Sir, With Love". Martha does it full justice. "Forget Me Not" is one of Motown's first songs to reference the Vietnam War. While its sentiments are not anti-war, they are still saying that the singer wants her man back from overseas as soon as possible. It is a moving song. It became a big hit in the UK three years later, in 1971, when it had even more relevance as the war had still not ended.

"(We've Got) Honey Love" was another great single and one not always mentioned. Aretha Franklin's "I Say A Little Prayer" is a brave cover but Martha is a strong enough vocalist to handle it. It doesn't match the original, of course, however. "Without You" and "Show Me The Way" were also both on single releases. The latter is the better of the two. This album was probably the group's last big album as a hit-making Motown group. 1972's "Black Magic" was surprisingly good, but that was right at the end of their ten-year career.

C+

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