Based over on America’s West Coast, Brenda Holloway admits she was never a fully integrated member of the Motown family. Indeed in her interviews Brenda often complained that some great songs intended for her were snatched away by artists like the Supremes and Gladys Knight…. artists “in Motown situ” as it were. That said, mentored by the redoubtable Hal Davis, Ms H did enjoy some chart action at Motown – most notably with ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’, You’ve Made Me So Very Happy’ and the ever lovely ‘When I’m Gone’. At this juncture I need to come clean and declare a vested interest. That last song – ‘When I’m Gone’ – was one of the tunes that began my soul odyssey. An acned youth frequenting the mid sixties Liverpool cellar clubs, I was in thrall to the beat merchants till one evening the enlightened Cavern Club DJ, Bob Wooler, played ‘When’ I’m Gone’ and I was hooked… hooked onto Motown, hooked onto soul and hooked onto Brenda Holloway. I wasn’t the only one. Why, a little known band called the Beatles demanded that Brenda support them on one of their US tours; Stevie Winwood (then with the Spence Davis Group) covered ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’ and countless UK soul connoisseurs began tracking down Brenda’s recordings.
Over the years and particularly in the reissue era, said connoisseurs have been well served with much of Brenda Holloway’s Motown output becoming easily accessible. Now there’s much more to enjoy as SoulMusic.com release a mighty 2 CD, 33 track collection on Brenda Holloway. ‘Spellbound’ is sub-titled ‘Rare And Unreleased Gems’ and that’s a perfect summary of what you get. I thought I had most of Brenda’s output, but to my surprise and delight all but a couple of these tracks are brand new to me!
So what are the highlights? Well as a fan, I’d say everything… but let’s just mention a few choice cuts. ‘Girl On The Run’ is a lovely mid-tempo groove… the same vibe as ‘When I’m Gone’; ‘I Feel Your Love Growin’ On Me’ is a classic Motown light dancer; ‘The Land Of Make Believe’ is a delightful little soul samba.
Elsewhere? Well, being a proper music factory, some of the tracks see the Motown people recycling ideas. So ‘Deep Freeze’ is based loosely on ‘Heatwave’ while ‘What Have I Done To Myself’ and ‘Strange Things’ are obvious attempts to recreate the magic of ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’ and even though my ears are old and battered I’m sure that Brenda’s version of ‘What Good Am I Without You’ uses the exact same backing track as Gladys Knight’s better known version. None of that though detracts from the quality. Brenda’s vocals are consistently soulful and with two sets of sleeve notes (from Motown experts Sharon Davis and Paul Nixon) I’d say that this album is essential for anyone who cares about proper soul music… but, like I said, I’m a wee bit biased!