THE MARVELETTES: ‘Forever: The Complete Motown Albums Volume 1’ (Label: Hip-O Select)

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THE MARVELETTES: 'Forever: The Complete Motown Albums Volume 1'

Although The Marvelettes helped put a fledgling Motown label on the map with their 1961 number one smash hit, ‘Please Mr Postman’ – which was later covered by The Beatles – the fortunes of the five teenagers from Inkster, Michigan, might have been vastly different if they hadn’t turned down a chance to record the Holland-Dozier-Holland penned ‘Where Did Our Love Go’ in 1964. Although they were already successful, it would have added a turbo-charged boost to their career – instead, The Marvelettes passed on the song, which was eventually given to the Supremes, then regarded as a bunch of hitless no-hopers. Ironically, the song helped kick start The Supremes’ ailing career and as their fortunes dramatically improved, the Marvelettes’ own prospects began to wane. Perhaps for that reason, The Marvelettes (the original line up was Gladys Horton, Georgeanna Tillman, Katherine Anderson, Wanda Young and Juanita Cowart) haven’t been given their due at Motown and are often regarded – even by aficionados – as one of the label’s second-tier acts. This superb new 3-CD compilation certainly puts to rest any lingering doubts about the group’s place in the Motown pantheon, reaffirming their importance to the company in its formative years. It includes in chronological sequence the girls’ first six albums for Motown spanning the years 1961-1966; namely ‘Please, Mr Postman,’ ‘The Marvelettes Sing,’ ‘Playboy,’ ‘The Marvellous Marvelettes,’ ‘On Stage: Recorded Live,’ and a stereo version of ‘Greatest Hits.’ There are lots of great performances, ranging from their infectious debut hit ‘Please Mr Postman’ to other memorable numbers like ‘Playboy,’ ‘Beechwood 4-5789,’ ‘Too Many Fish In The Sea’ and ‘Don’t Mess With Bill.’ Although many early Motown albums featured hit 45s bolstered with a lot of filler (usually covers and standards), many of The Marvelettes albums here are surprisingly cohesive affairs, especially the 1964 set, ‘Playboy,’ which features material and production from Berry Gordy, Mickey Stevenson, Marvin Gaye, Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier. The fact there are songs helmed by heavyweight writers/producers Smokey Robinson and Norman Whitfield is indicative of how seriously Motown regarded the quintet. In terms of rare and collectable material, there’s plenty to savour – including a Phil Spector-style side they recorded in the guise of The Darnells plus sundry non-album flipsides (including ‘Tie A String Around Your Finger’ and ‘A Little Bit Of Sympathy, A Little Bit Of Love’) and other hard-to-find gems. The liner notes by writer, Gary Graf, include interview quotes from Brian Holland, Smokey Robinson and Gladys Horton. All in all, then, a great archival package – just what you’d expect from Hip-O Select.
(CW) 4/5