The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 1: 59-61, The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 2: 1962
The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 1: 59-61, and The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 2: 1962 (Motown)
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., May 27, 2005
The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 1: 59-61
The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 2: 1962
Motown's 6-CD Big Bang is stamped with a bolded endnote. "It's only the beginning. Future volumes Volumes 2 through 12 will document every A and B side from Hitsville USA, with box sets for every year from 1962 to 1972." Not since three boxes of Stax/Volt singles totaled 28 CDs of postwar American soul has such a crucial chapter of global culture been reconstructed track by track. That's 155 on The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 1: 59-61, and another 112 on its 4-CD continuum, Vol. 2: 1962. Together these bound, color-coded ledgers, each housing an actual Tamla/Motown 45, document the musical maternity ward at 2648 W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit. Firstborn, Marv Johnson's "Come to Me," his high voice cushioned by girlish shoo-bops and manly doo-wops, encapsulates the black vocal group/harmony era the self-contained indie label was morphing out of. The Satintones' "Going to the Hop," on which Berry Gordy and his extended neighborhood family are heard birthing the "Sound of Young America," sets up the pugnacious label founder's very next statement of purpose, "Money (That's What I Want)." Motown's earliest hit boomerangs back on Richard Wylie's hopped-up version, and indeed, the label's first three years ricochet between capitalizing upon its own successes and everyone else's, a smattering of blues, jazz, gospel, and even surf ("Tequila" shooter "Ich-i-bon #1) thrown against the wall initially to cover all bases. That's also Wylie on the cringing "Custer's Last Man," bandwagoning a hit of the day via Popcorn & the Mohawks, who included bass player of the gods James Jamerson and future songwriter/producer Norman Whitfield. Check their pre-Rascals "Real Good Lovin'." Disc one Miracles include "It," duetted by Ron & Bill, aka the group's Ron White and Gordy's main co-conspirator, William "Smokey" Robinson. The Miracles have turned water into wine by disc two starter "Way Over There," and by disc's end, "Shop Around" has moved a million singles. (Not so of "Don't Let Him Shop Around" by Debbie Dean.) There's Mary Wells, hoarse with 22 takes of "Bye Bye Baby," while disc three debuts the "no-hit" Supremes, Contours, and Gino Parks' yakety-yakking "Blibberin' Blabbin' Blues." Nat King Cole wasn't sweating another pretender practicing "Witchcraft" on CD four, so the infectious "Never Let You Go (Sha Lu Bop)" transforms Marvin Gay into Marvin Gaye. Andre Williams, still raunchy after all these lifetimes, also makes a name for himself, setting the stage for the Temptations' snowball of fire. Disc five opens at No. 1 with the Marvelettes' "Please Mr. Postman" and closes with a Satintones ringtone, "Zing Went the Strings of My Heart." The last entry of Vol. 1 likewise bookends its fair share of best-forgottens with what might have been Barrett Strong's "Money" follow-up, the Eddie Holland-strung "Jamie," and more Funk Brothers instrumental exotica, "Congo (Part 1 & 2)."
Disc seven, kicking off Vol. 2, checks its quality control, immediately coalescing Motown's Tin Pan Alley R&P (rhythm & pop). Gaye's still smoothing down the Christmas party standard, "Mr. Sandman," that got him signed to the label, but Mary Wells sounds ready to take on the phone book with "The One Who Really Loves You." The Temps, Eddie Holland crooning Gay better than Gaye ("Last Night I Had a Vision"), the Miracles, Marvelettes ("Postman" rewrite "Playboy"), and Lee & the Leopard's "Come Into My Palace" all proffer three-minute delights. Disc eight continues the Supremes' losing streak, though B-side "(He's) Seventeen" is teen-crush-worthy. Jazzista Earl Washington swings into the early-Sixties with "Opus No. 3," Little Stevland Morris, 11, proves a plaintive W-o-n-d-e-r at harp-driven blues, and Lamont Dozier lends voice before his writing credit gets permanently inserted between those of the Eddie & Brian Holland. The Contours' Dirty Dancing exhorts "Do You Love Me," originally conceived for the Temptations, just prior to a "Fire" from Gino Parks as written and produced by Andre Williams, whose bucking "Mo Jo Hanna" finds spitfire in Henry Lumpkin. The Marvelettes' "Beechwood 4-5789" dials up Top 20. The final two CDs are Siamese twins. Marvin Gaye's breakthrough, "Stubborn Kind of Fellow," more sterling Jackie Wilsonesque from Eddie Holland, and the Charters' mercenary and nearly extinct noncharters segue into Martha & the Vandellas' ear-bending "I'll Have to Let Him Go" and the high/low tag team of Stevie Wonder and Clarence Paul's ripping "Little Water Boy." Last platter: more marvelous Martha, Mary Wells, Temps "Paradise," and hearty Holland. There's yet another Supremes washout through no fault of "Let Me Go the Right Way" plus Gaye's "Stubborn" follow-up, "Hitch Hike," not to mention the Miracles' heavenly double A-side, "Happy Landing" and "You Really Got a Hold on Me." Little Stevie Wonder wails off into the "Sunset" on the closer. For now. With 10 installments still due, the curtain's just gone up on this hit musical. www.hip-oselect.com.