Eddie Holland is, of course, one third of the mighty Holland-Dozier-Holland triumvirate that shaped the classic Motown sound. When he first joined up with Gordy, though, Eddie’s ambitions lay in a totally different direction. He wanted to be a singer… but despite lengthy studio sessions and the odd acquaintance with the charts, it just didn’t work out and in ’64 he permanently joined brother Brian and Lamont Dozier in the Hitsville Snake Pit control booth.
Here – across two CDs – Ace collect together all of Eddie’s recordings and they open up new perspectives on Motown’s early days. The set’s first CD features the entire 30 tracks that were actually released on Eddie Holland, the singer. They begin with things like 1958’s ‘Little Miss Ruby’ and ‘Merry Go Round’ which were leased out to labels like Mercury and United Artists and they explain why Eddie never quite made it in those early days… put simply, he was trying too hard to be Jackie Wilson. Berry Gordy, of course, was then collaborating with Wilson and he used Eddie to try out things for him. The Wilson/Holland sound-alike stakes hits its peak with ‘Everybody’s Going’, a 1959 United Artists release. When Eddie tried something a little different – as with the zippy ‘Jamie’ he enjoyed some success and by ’62 he (and Motown too) had started to forge a more special, distinctive sound. Things like ‘What About Me’ have that magic early Motown sonic spaciousness while items like ‘If Cleopatra Took A Chance’ show Gordy’s eye for the opening by cashing in on current trends (here it was the Liz Taylor ‘Cleopatra’ movie). ‘Leaving Here’ gave Eddie a hit and it stands out here along with ‘Candy For Me’ and his versions of songs that were to go on to be recorded by bigger Motown stars (stuff like ‘Brenda’ and ‘Darling I Hum Our Song’)
The 26 tracks on the second CD are all either hugely rare or previously unissued. They include 1958’s ‘I’m So Glad I Learned To Do The Cha-Cha’ (Gordy and that main chance again!), ’62’s ‘Love Is What You Make It’ (a lovely Smokey Robinson song), ‘You’re Sweeter As The Days Go By’ (later recycled as ‘You’re A Wonderful One’) and a great version of ‘Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While)’. In all, a veritable treasure chest for Motown fans… indeed for anyone serious about soul music.
Ace have issued several Motown single artist albums already (with more to come, I hope), but none have been as important or significant as this one… especially as it comes with sleeve notes by Eddie himself. Essential.