Originally released as an online-only US release some three years ago, this stupendous 2-CD set is finally available to UK record buyers via Universal’s Import Music Services (as the original pressing was limited to 5000 copies, you’d better act promptly if you want to get your hands on it).
Martha Reeves, of course, was the Motown secretary who famously left the typewriter behind when she deputised for Mary Wells, who failed to show for a session booked at the legendary ‘Snake Pit’ studio in the Hitsville building. Reeves roped in her singing friends, the Del-Phis (Annette Sterling and Rosalind Ashford) to help out with background vocals. That was the moment that Martha & The Vandellas were born. The trio went on to rack up a slew of hits between the years 1963 and 1972, including such memorable Motor City anthems as ‘Heat Wave,’ ‘Dancing In The Street’ and ‘Jimmy Mack.’ But like so many of the acts signed to Motown in the 1960s, the group recorded a lot of songs that were surplus to requirements and consequently, much of it ended up being forgotten and left to gather dust in the vaults. Now 40 years of dust has been well and truly blown off this remarkable collection of recordings, which reveals that Motown was sitting on a veritable treasure trove of lost hits. Truly, many of the songs on this collection were really the hits that got away and rival in terms of quality and performance the most famous songs in the group’s repertoire. ‘All That Glitters Isn’t Gold,’ for example, with its lively ‘Heat Wave’-like tempo, crisp, danceable backbeat and infectious chorus would certainly have smashed its way into the charts back in the day – ditto other early ’60s numbers like ‘Coney Island,’ the gorgeous Smokey Robinson-helmed ‘Spellbound,’ and the strident ‘Too Far Gone To Save Myself,’ which has the same addictive, driving beat as ‘Nowhere To Run’ and ‘Dancing In The Street.’ In the liner notes, Martha Reeves, referring to this album of lost songs, says ‘I knew when I cut them they were hits.’ She certainly wasn’t deluded in this perception as many of the tunes here (especially from the first half of the ’60s) have ‘hit’ stamped all over them, though the executives at Motown saw things differently, of course (we have to thank their myopic viewpoint, though, as this wonderful compilation wouldn’t exist if these canned songs had been released when they were recorded). Other goodies include the Johnny Bristol-produced ‘Earthquake,’ ‘I Got It Bad’ and a great version of the Stevie Wonder hit ‘For Once In My Life.’ A must-have collection then – not only for dedicated Motown mavens but also for anyone who appreciates the perdurable beauty of soul-tinged pop from Detroit.