Over the last few years Ace/Kent have released some fabulous Motown archive material. So far they’ve focused on single artist sets – making available classic, long-deleted albums from artists like The Spinners, Shorty Long, Mary Wells and The Contours. Now they’re releasing their very first Motown compilation – but the thinking behind the set is exactly the same as that behind those single artist sets. That’s to say they combine the familiar with the more esoteric – and (always the main attraction) stuff the set with lots of previously unreleased material.
On this 24 tracker – devoted to the ladies of Motown – half the cuts have never been out of that famed Motown vault. Most famous of these newly unearthed gems is ‘When Somebody Loves You’ from Gladys Knight and the Pips. It was one of their very first Motown recordings and over the years it’s achieved a semi-mythical status amongst collectors – some of whom have managed to get hold of bootlegged acetates. Here it gets a proper, official release – and you can hear why it enjoys that mythical status. Gladys at her soulful best.
Amongst the other previously unreleased treasures are Brenda Holloway’s vintage ‘Don’t Turn Your Back On Me’, Carolyn Crawford’s lilting ‘Lover Boy’, Martha and the Vandellas’ pacey ‘Build Him Up’ and Kim Weston’s beautifully romantic ‘It’s Too Soon To Know’. Plenty too from Motown’s lesser luminaries and downright unknowns like LaBrenda Ben, Liz Lands, Linda Griner, Anita Knorl and Thelma Brown.
More familiar stuff comes in the shape of Mary Well’s ‘What’s Easy For Two’, Martha and The Vandellas’ ‘No More Tear—Stained Make Up’ and The Supremes’ ‘Buttered Popcorn (a rare Flo Ballard lead). Good too to see Motown’s hardest working group, The Andantes, getting a look in. The studio “workhorses” are represented by ‘(Like A) Nightmare’ – a classic Holland-Dozier-Holland tune. Yes, a lot like ‘Heatwave’ but just as remarkably energized and exciting.
The album’s oddity is ‘He Don’t Care About Me ‘from The Miracles. Odd, of course, because this is an album devoted to ladies and you’d normally assume Smokey as the lead voice in the Miracles. Here though he lets Mrs. R take lead and Claudette does a remarkable job on this chirpy little ’62 outing… vintage, classic, early period Motown.
Indeed everything on the set has that wonderfully evocative, intoxicating, intensely atmospheric, early Motown sound. Great stuff – and a welcome departure from the formularised Motown compilations that we usually get.