The Marvelettes enjoy a unique position in Motown history. Their iconic ‘Please Mr Postman’ (admired and covered by the Beatles, no less) gave Berry Gordy’s fledgling label its first no 1 hit back in 1961 and for the next five years the girls enjoyed 13 more top 40 chart hits and released five full albums. By 1966, though, the hits had started to dry up and their position as Motown’s no 1 girl group had been eclipsed by the Supremes. In an attempt to effect a Marvelette renaissance, Smokey Robinson was given more control of their destiny and he decided to give them a smoother more sophisticated sound by using Wanda Young rather than Gladys Horton as lead. A few hits did come – ‘The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game’, ‘My Baby Must Be A Magician’ and (in Europe and the UK at least) ‘When You’re Young And In Love’ but by 1969 the group had effectively ceased to exist.
The first hugely successful phase of the Marvelettes’ career was chronicled on a Hip-O’s 2009 set that brought together the group’s first five LPs; now the reissue specialist (via Universal/IMS) proffers a new collection that contains everything from the second phase. In essence what you get here (across 4 CDs) are the albums – ‘The Marvelettes’ (known by Motown collectors as “The Pink Album”),’Sophisticated Soul’, ‘In Full Bloom’ and ‘The Return Of The Marvelettes’. If that wasn’t enough you also get rare mono mixes of ‘The Marvelettes’ and ‘Sophisticated Soul’ along with a whole CD of lost and found gems from the archive – 24 of which are released for the first time.
It’s truly comprehensive and, you know, the quality of the music throughout is wonderful and what a pity that Berry Gordy was so preoccupied with La Ross and the Supremes to seemingly relegate the Marvelettes to second stringers. Both Wanda Young and Gladys Horton were/ are better, more soulful singers than Ms Ross and the material is consistently excellent. If Gordy had devoted a little more of his energies in promoting them, then the Marvelettes would be much more than a soul etcetera!
Standouts abound. The aforementioned ‘Hunter’ and ‘Magician’ are two of Smokey Robinson’s best ever productions while his ‘You’re The One For Me Bobby’ could have been a hit too (Robinson, by the way, reprised the song with Joss Stone on his own 2009 solo album). There are great covers of stuff like ‘Message To Michael’ and ‘That’s How Heartaches Are Made’ while of the previously unreleased items Eddie Holland’s ‘Dance A While Cry A While’ is a superb Motown ’63 artefact while ’69’s ‘Why’d You Do It’ is a great soulful vehicle for the group. The whole package has been put together with all the thoroughness you’d expect from Hip-O Select and for all Motown collectors, it’s an absolute must have!