VARIOUS: Motown Around The World (Label: Hip-o Select)

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VARIOUS: Motown Around The World

The Motown vault has to be the definitive bottomless pit. Like a creation of some Dan Brown type fantasist, its far corners and dark depths continue to yield great music that offers delights right across the board and here, on this fab, double CD, 38 tracker, everyone – from general pop fans to Motown completists – will find plenty to treasure. To cut to the chase, what this album offers is foreign language versions of some of Motown’s greatest hits. In the 60s (and indeed throughout the label’s history) Berry Gordy had his stars record their material in French, German, Spanish and Italian in order to move Motown product in those countries. In short what happened was that the songs (like ‘My Girl’) were translated, and language coaches trained the likes of Diana Ross, Levi Stubbs and David Ruffin to sing the new words over the original backing tracks. Listening, it’s really odd. You hear a so-so familiar intro (let’s use the example of ‘My Girl’ again), then, when you expect to hear the usual, you get a soulful Ruffin in French or German…. very disconcerting but totally intriguing. Motown specialists and collectors will love trying to spot the subtle differences in the mixes as the producers tweak things a little differently – totally differently on Martha and the Vandellas’ Spanish version of ‘Jimmy Mack’, by the way. Essentially it gives a fresh insight into what, for soul people, is totally familiar. Equally interesting is the inclusion of a batch of non Hitsville originated songs that were written by European writers specifically for their respective markets. So, you can, at last, thrill to Stevie Wonder’s version of the Italian song ‘Se Tu Ragazza Mia’ and Marvin Gaye battling valiantly with a German song called ‘Sympatica’. That one, by the way, serves to prove what everyone knows – that German is the quintessential unromantic language. Even Mr. G can’t coax anything from it… but don’t let that put you off the album… it’s all a great piece of Motown history and comes wonderfully packaged with the notes contained in a lovely little passport document.
(BB) 4/5