The Austin Chronicle


Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, January 21, 2011, Music

Tammi Terrell

Come On and See Me: The Complete Solo Collection (Hip-O Select/Motown)

Contrary to its title, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," Marvin Gaye's 1967 duet with Tammi Terrell, who collapsed onstage in the singer's arms from the brain tumor that killed her three years later at the age of 24, proved Mount Everest. As mapped on 2001's Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell: The Complete Duets, and bookended now by Come On and See Me: The Complete Solo Collection, Terrell's slippery slope before and after actually ascended, not descended, as lamentable as her story remains. Born into Philly's black middle class to college-educated parents, Thomasina Winifred Montgomery ("Tommie") braided talent and tragedy from the start, performing on local TV broadcast The Children's Hour as a girl and later gang-raped at 11. Four years later, her 1961 debut brought her to the attention of James Brown, who employed, seduced, and, according to the liner notes for Come On and See Me, abused the teenaged singer. A Brill Building association landed Terrell on Chess Records imprint Checker, which led to road work with R&B pioneer Jerry Butler. In Detroit, Motown monarch Berry Gordy signed her in 1965. She was 20. There, Gaye adored her and Temptations singer David Ruffin beat her up. These two discs trace that rise and climb. Carole King & Gerry Goffin's "Make the Night Just a Little Longer" extends B-grade girl group romance, but the songs Brown wrote for her, emotive piano vamp "I Cried" and rhythmic jab "If You Don't Think," lend Terrell's sweet and scratchy juvenile vocals traction. Irresistible, her sole solo album, traffics in understatement titlewise, its enduring Motown magic ("That's What Boys Are Made For") conjured by Gaye's early sponsor, Harvey Fuqua ("Hold Me Oh My Darling"), who died last year. The Collection's title track could be a Martha & the Vandellas indelible – they're perhaps Terrell's closest comparison. A second disc of label rarities and live sampling doubles the sass. Summit sounds.


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