Archive for the ‘The Four Tops’ Category
Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye): Final “The Complete Motown Singles” Volume Bows
Nearly nine years after the first volume in Hip-O Select’s The Complete Motown Singles box set series was released, the 14th and final entry in the series, Volume 12B: 1972, will be released on December 10, just in time for the holidays.
The year 1972 marks, for many, the end of the “classic Motown” period. Label founder Berry Gordy moved label operations from Detroit to Los Angeles, and many of his most treasured acts were in periods of transition. Diana Ross was long a solo artist away from The Supremes, while Smokey Robinson would part ways with The Miracles in 1972 – the same year both The Four Tops and Gladys Knight & The Pips would break off from the label. At the same time, though, several of the label’s acts were coming in to their own, from The Temptations’ psychedelic soul styles, the increasing independence and experimentation of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye and even the shine of the spotlight on solo members of The Jackson 5, namely frontmen Michael and Jermaine.
Included in the 100 tracks across five discs are some choice rarities, including Marvin Gaye’s beautiful (but long-lost) holiday single, “I Want to Come Home for Christmas” b/w “Christmas in the City,” an unissued solo single from longtime label songwriter Valerie Simpson, a duet by G.C. Cameron and Willie Hutch that never made it to an album with Hutch’s vocal, and even rare sides by several pop acts who made their name away from the Motown roster, including Lesley Gore, Bobby Darin and Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.
Packed, as always, with a bonus replica 7″ single (The Temptations’ classic “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”), The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 12B is loaded with notes and essays from Abdul “Duke” Fakir of The Four Tops, Susan Whitall of The Detroit News, journalist Bill Dahl and compilation producers Keith Hughes and Harry Weinger, who “contribute series postscripts that offer back stories of the Motown tape vault, session logs and tape cards.”
The Second Disc has, of course, spent most of its existence lightly prodding Harry, UMe’s vice-president of A&R, for information on the TCMS series; when we set up shop in 2010, the series had seemingly stalled at Vol. 11 the year before. Vols. 12A and 12B would not materialize until this year, though I certainly speak for both Joe and myself (not to mention countless readers and fans around the world) that the work has been well worth the wait.
On December 10, that wait is finally over. After the jump, you can pre-order your own copy of the set.
“While I was layin’ in a hospital bed/A rock ‘n’ roll nurse went to my head/She says, ‘Hold out your arm, stick out yo’ tongue/I got some pills, boy, I’m ‘a give you one!” It was no surprise that The New York Dolls – crown princes of debauchery, seventies-style – would include a cover of Bo Diddley’s oddly jaunty 1961 single “Pills” on their 1973 debut album. While The Dolls – lead vocalist David Johansen, rhythm guitarist Sylvain Sylvain, bassist Arthur “Killer” Kane, lead guitarist Johnny Thunders and drummer Jerry Nolan (who replaced the late Billy Murcia) – might have emerged as a response to the studied musicianship of so-called progressive rock and the bright, sanitized sounds of bubblegum pop, their primal, savage and uninhibited style was descended from any number of influences. Motown, Blues, doo wop, soul, rockabilly, and especially Brill Building-era girl groups all figured into the Dolls’ heady, deliciously trashy rock-and-roll punk brew. On the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of that seismic debut New York Dolls, Ace has anthologized the music that inspired the flamboyant band with Lipstick, Powder and Paint! The New York Dolls Heard Them Here First.
The 24-track anthology compiled by Ian Johnston and Mick Patrick brings together the original versions of songs covered by the Dolls and the solo Johansen and Thunders. These range from expected choices such as “Pills” or The Jayhawks’ “Stranded in the Jungle,” to tracks that might surprise a casual fan like Erma Franklin’s “Piece of My Heart” or Gary U.S. Bonds’ “Seven Day Weekend.” The latter, recorded by The Dolls on a 1973 demo released in 1992, has the raucous, hedonistic spirit that The Dolls so admired. Bonds’ throaty vocal brings grit to the infectious Doc Pomus/Mort Shuman tune with its doo-wop backing vocals and honking saxophone solo. It’s far from the only track here from that early rock-and-roll era. The Coasters, those supreme R&B jokesters, are heard with 1963’s “Bad Detective,” recorded in primitive style by Johansen and co. on 1974’s Too Much Too Soon. It has the bop-shoo-bops, boogedy-boogedy-shoos and rama-lama-ding-dongs lampooned in the musical Grease, and it’s at least a spiritual cousin in comedy to another song also covered for that same album, The Jayhawks’ goofy, spoken/sung “Stranded in the Jungle” (1956).
The blues is a less obvious inspiration on debut New York Dolls and Too Much Too Soon, the second and final album by the original iteration of the group. But in addition to Bo Diddley’s “Pills,” the group also demoed Otis Redding’s Stax burner “Don’t Mess with Cupid” and Muddy Waters’ immortal “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man.” Similarly, one might not think to draw a line between The New York Dolls and the smooth Philadelphia soul from the team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, but Ace does just that by selecting Archie Bell and the Drells’ “(There’s Gonna Be a) Showdown” and Wilson Pickett’s Memphis-by-way-of-Philly “International Playboy.” The Dolls brought a slow, menacing feel to the former on Too Much Too Soon, while David Johansen’s lounge-singin’, novelty-slingin’ alter ego Buster Poindexter recorded the rough-hewn (by Philly standards, at least!) “Playboy” for 1989’s Buster Goes Berzerk.
There’s much more after the jump, including the complete track listing with discographical annotation, and order links! Read the rest of this entry »
Review: The Four Tops/Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, “50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection” – Part 2: Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
Were there a time capsule emblazoned with the word “MOTOWN,” meant to convey the sound and style of the once-and-always Sound of Young America to future generations, its central artifact just might be Gordy single G-7033, from 1964. Sure, The Supremes might have had more success, and The Temptations and The Four Tops might have had more endurance. But the ultimate Motor City anthem could very well be “Dancing in the Streets,” performed by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. And that’s just one of the 82 tracks present on 50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection: 1962-1972. This new 3-CD box set from Motown Select/UMe (B0017485-02, 2013) captures a decade of Motown magic from Martha Reeves and the girls via the group’s complete singles discography (in their original mono presentations), a smattering of alternates and foreign language singles, and most enticingly, an entire disc of previously unheard Vandellas gold. This disc alone sets Martha and the Vandellas’ volume apart from the other 50th Anniversary Singles Collections recently issued for Diana Ross and the Supremes, The Temptations and The Four Tops.
William “Mickey” Stevenson, Ivy Jo Hunter and Marvin Gaye’s song “Dancing in the Street” became more than just a hit single; in the ensuing years, it’s become a cultural touchstone, forever associated with the civil rights movement. Yet, as revealed in the liner notes, Gaye originally pitched the song to Martha Reeves as a sensual ballad: “Marvin was singing it as if he was singing it to a girl,” Reeves recalled, “so romantic and in a mellow tone.” Reeves’ instincts were to take the song to a more urgent, forceful place, and her final vocal was informed by an undercurrent of anger when she found that her original recording wasn’t captured on tape. Yet such is the stuff that legends are made of.
“Calling out around the world, are you ready for a brand new beat? Summer’s here and the time is right for dancing in the street!” Thunderous drums and iconic, exultant horns set the stage for Reeves’ performance of a lyric that’s direct as can be, yet imbued with a subtext that may or may not have been known to its authors. The song could have been just another party-time ode – “All we need is music/Sweet music/There’ll be music everywhere/There’ll be swingin’, swayin’, and records playin’, dancing in the street!” et cetera. But – much as Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s “Love Train” would years later – “Dancing in the Street” played up its universality. This dance craze wasn’t just limited to Detroit. Philadelphia, New York, New Orleans – all were name-checked in the song. “It doesn’t matter what you wear, just as long as you are there/So come on, every guy grab a girl, everywhere around the world/There’ll be dancin’ in the street!” At a time when divisiveness at the forefront of the news, Reeves was extending an invitation to all, no strings attached, and with a casual air: “It’s just an invitation across the nation/A chance for folks to meet.” It’s “just” an invitation – black/white, male/female, young/old – such was the ethos at Motown, being shared by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas in a peaceful, exuberant way on the world’s stage. A Top 10 hit on both the Pop and R&B surveys, “Dancing in the Street” was a message of empowerment being delivered by a young African-American woman (and future Detroit councilwoman) as a message of pride and joy to all in just 2-1/2 minutes, contained on a little slab of black vinyl.
Of course, that’s just one of the songs here. Hit the jump to dig deep into many more! Read the rest of this entry »
Review: The Four Tops/Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, “50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection” – Part 1: The Four Tops
Happy Friday! We’ve got a special double dose of Detroit for you today: reviews of two of Motown Select’s latest releases – singles box sets devoted to The Four Tops and Martha & The Vandellas, respectively. First, Mike can’t help himself when it comes to the Tops…
Is it right to call one of Motown’s most beloved vocal groups – with over a dozen Top 20 hits and production credits from three of the greatest names not only on the Detroit label, but in all of pop-soul music – underrated?
For reasons I’ve never been able to identify, The Four Tops seem like they’re always gunning for the second tier of male-led vocal groups in the Motown legacy, far behind the gritty diversity of The Temptations and the angelic beauty of Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. A dive into Motown Select’s brand-new package honoring the Tops – 50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection 1964-1972 (Motown Select/UMe, catalogue no. TBD) makes it hard to understand how you can undervalue a group like this.
The Four Tops are perhaps most noteworthy for their consistency, both in terms of musical prowess and band aesthetics; Levi Stubbs, Duke Fakir, Obie Benson and Lawrence Payton were the classic lineup that remained unchanged until Payton’s passing in the 1990s. (Today, only Fakir is still alive, and is still active with the group.) Any tension the band felt had less to do with internal affairs and more to conflicts with their label, leading them away from Motown for a spell in the 1970s. There’s plenty of musical consistency on this triple-disc set, thanks largely in part to the production and songwriting efforts of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland. From “Baby I Need Your Loving” and “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” to the impressive Top 5 run of “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” “Standing in the Shadows of Love” and “Bernadette,” there’s something like two dozen H-D-H compositions to enjoy here.
And there are surprises for those who know those songs like the back of their hand, from the extra mixes of “I Can’t Help Myself” and “It’s the Same Old Song” to much of the material on the second and third discs of the set. You might have heard “Walk Away Renee,” “It’s All in the Game” or “Still Water (Love),” but these last two discs let fans really dive into the Tops in their post-H-D-H career. (Key finds: the Tops’ collaborations with The Supremes, including rousing takes on “River Deep-Mountain High” and “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand),” or rousing deep cuts like “Just Seven Numbers (Can Straighten Out My Life)” and “A Simple Game.”) The three Italian versions of key Tops hits that close the package are a trip, too.
If you’re leery of buying another Tops compilation, 50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection 1964-1972 may be the one to get, not only for its comprehension but its look. The 7″ x 7″ package is stuffed with track-by-track liner notes (adapted from The Complete Motown Singles series) as well as beautiful scans of rare photos and picture sleeves from all over the world – a definite reward for the eyes as well as the ears (which will love the mono mixes in action here).
I don’t know if you’ve ever thought or felt that The Four Tops were second bananas during the golden years of Motown. But with this set, it’s definitely not the same old song.
You can order The Four Tops’ 50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection here!
This five-disc set includes every single side released by Motown during the first half of 1972, a time of transition for the company. Berry Gordy had already moved his Detroit-based media empire westward to Los Angeles, leaving some of his flagship groups in a transitional period. The Jackson 5 still had their hits, but not with the blinding intensity of their earliest years (though Michael still enjoyed hits off of his solo debut Got to Be There). Marvin Gaye released a one-off single, “You’re the Man,” in between two masterpieces (1971′s What’s Going On and 1973′s Let’s Get It On), while Stevie Wonder began his journey as a fully in-control adult artist with “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)” from Music of My Mind. Both Smokey Robinson & The Miracles and Martha & The Vandellas released their farewell singles in this era, while a new up-and-coming band named The Commodores released their first.
It was certainly a unique time there, and now, it’s coming home, The Complete Motown Singles-style. That means gorgeous book packaging with a bonus 45 (devoted MoWest’s The Blackberries, whose single “Somebody Up There” actually was never issued as a 45), multiple essays (including by Motown engineers Russ and Ralph Terrana, Susan Whitall of The Detroit News), and track-by-track notes by Bill Dahl and producers Keith Hughes and Harry Weinger.
The box ships from Select on May 31 and from all retailers June 11. Hit the jump for a full track list and Amazon pre-order link!
The start of a lengthy reissue campaign from Demon Music Group, these are 180-gram vinyl reissues of The S.O.S. Band’s III (1982), Cherrelle’s 1984 debut Fragile, and Alexander O’Neal’s self-titled debut from 1985. Expanded editions of these albums come out on CD next week, followed by a great many more waves of product throughout 2013 and into 2014!
Two new lavish sets collect all the single sides worldwide by two of Motown’s most underrated vocal groups – and in the case of Martha & The Vandellas, there’s a bonus disc of unreleased “lost and found” content to enjoy, too!
Mad Season, Above: Deluxe Edition (Columbia/Legacy)
This short-lived grunge supergroup, featuring Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley and members of Pearl Jam and Screaming Trees, only put out one record, but it’s been expanded as a 2CD/1DVD set featuring unreleased tracks (with vocals by Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan) and live audiovisual content. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
David Gates, The Early Years: The Early Songwriting Genius of David Gates (Rare Rockin’)
Before leading Bread, Gates was a talented singer-songwriter whose early works were covered by a myriad of vocalists – many of which are making their CD debuts on this compilation. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
Simple Minds, Celebrate: The Greatest Hits (Virgin/EMI)
As the ’80s hitmakers embark on a new tour, this new hits compilation – available in double and triple-disc variants – was made available in the U.K. last week. (A U.S. release is reportedly slated for later this spring.)
Rilo Kiley, RKives (Little Record Company)
A collection of rare and unreleased material from the now-defunct L.A. band.
Chet Atkins with The Boston Pops, The Pops Goes Country/The Pops Goes West / The Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks Vol. 24: Cow Palace, Daly City, CA – 3/23/1974 / Tom Jans, Take Heart/Tom Jans / Barbara & Ernie, Prelude To… / Steve Lawrence, Winners!/On a Clear Day / Don Nix, Living by the Days / Eydie Gorme & The Trio Los Panchos, Amor/More Amor / Margaret Whiting, The Wheel of Hurt: Deluxe Edition / Maggie Isn’t Margaret Anymore/Pop Country / Alfred Newman, The Diary of Anne Frank: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
The latest wares from Real Gone: plenty of two-fers, a rare Alfred Newman soundtrack, a new Dead reissue and expanded works from country-pop singer Margaret Whiting.
Jerry Butler, Love’s on the Mend/Suite for the Single Girl / Stephanie Mills, Merciless: Expanded Edition / Donna Washington, Going for the Glow: Expanded Edition / Nancy Wilson, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You/Now I’m a Woman (SoulMusic)
A slew of great titles from SoulMusic are out this week, including a Stephanie Mills album produced by the late Phil Ramone. Check out the above post for details.
And the latest expanded titles from Big Break include some Motown and T.K. rarities, including Anita Ward’s megahit “Ring My Bell.”
Eagles, The Studio Albums 1972-1979 (Elektra/Rhino)
We kick off the weekend with not one but two new Motown collections from Hip-O Select. This time, it’s a pair of singles collections from two cornerstones of the classic Motown sound – and one is packed with rarities.
The boutique label (which, if its Twitter feed is any indication, is due for a rebranding of sorts) is releasing two Singles Collection multi-disc sets from The Four Tops and Martha & The Vandellas. The classic lineup of Levi Stubbs, Obie Benson, Duke Fakir and Lawrence Payton, combined with the immaculate writing and production of the Holland-Dozier-Holland team, make their The Singles Collection 1964-1972, covering their first stretch on Motown Records in A- and B-sides, a killer addition to your collection. Not only does it feature each side released out of Detroit (including Top 10 hits “I Can’t Help Myself,” “It’s the Same Old Song,” “Reach Out I’ll Be There” and “Standing in the Shadows of Love”), but it also features a handful of tracks released on singles in the U.K. as well as the group’s astounding Italian-language versions of three of their hits.
Things get even more exciting for the triple-disc The Singles Collection 1962-1972 from Martha Reeves & The Vandellas. “Heat Wave,” the immortal “Dancing in the Street” and “Jimmy Mack” were all major hits, but the group remains one of the most important and underrated of the Motown roster. This set will definitely entice fans: not only does it feature all of their single sides, but a third disc as well featuring a “Lost & Found” 27-track set of rare and unreleased gems from the Motown vaults. Collaborations with Stevie Wonder, Ashford & Simpson and Deke Richards – who mixed six of the rarities on this disc – abound, as do unfamiliar alternate versions of major hits. (The remainder of the work was mixed by engineer Obie O’Brien, working on vintage mixing gear in Sanctuary Studio (owned and operated by one of his most famous collaborators: Bon Jovi).
Featuring the same kind of deluxe packaging as Select’s singles sets for The Supremes and The Tempatations, both sets will be available in stores on April 2. Hit the jump to check out both sets and pre-order your copies!
When Motown: The Musical opens at Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on April 14, it will mark yet another career landmark for Berry Gordy, the songwriter-producer-entrepreneur who turned Detroit, Michigan into Hitsville, USA some fifty-five years ago. The musical, written by Gordy and directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, depicts the rise to prominence of the Sound of Young America, with Brandon Victor Dixon (The Color Purple, The Scottsboro Boys) starring as Gordy. He’s joined by a cast of roughly 40 including Valisia Lekae as Diana Ross, Charl Brown as Smokey Robinson, Bryan Terrell Clark as Marvin Gaye and Ryan Shaw as Stevie Wonder. Despite the considerable talent of the youthful cast, however, the star of Motown: The Musical is undoubtedly the music written by such composers and lyricists as Brian Holland, Eddie Holland and Lamont Dozier, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and Gordy himself. While plans are already afoot for the Original Broadway Cast Recording to arrive from UMe, the label is further supporting the new “jukebox musical” with the release of Motown Originals: The Classic Songs That Inspired the Broadway Show, available in 1-CD, 2-CD and digital formats on March 5.
The Broadway berth of Motown isn’t Gordy’s first foray into theatre. Motown, under Gordy’s aegis, made a sizeable investment in Roger O. Hirson and Stephen Schwartz’s 1972 musical Pippin, directed by the legendary Bob Fosse. Gordy’s team at Motown saw the potential in the score by Stephen Schwartz, who had already made a name for himself with Godspell and its hit single “Day by Day” on the Bell label. In exchange for the company’s investment in the musical, Motown’s Jobete publishing arm received rights to Schwartz’s delectable pop-rock-flavored score for Pippin. Hence, the Diana Ross-less Supremes recorded the torch ballad “I Guess I’ll Miss the Man,” the Jackson 5 surveyed the beautifully yearning “Corner of the Sky,” and solo Michael Jackson tackled the optimistic “Morning Glow.” Motown also released the original cast recording, the label’s first, co-produced by Schwartz and Phil Ramone. Gordy’s investment paid off; when Pippin closed in June 1977, it had run 1,944 performances. It returns to Broadway this spring in its first revival, melding an all-new circus concept by director Diane Paulus to choreography inspired by Bob Fosse’s original work.
Motown also isn’t the first time Gordy has attempted to bring the story of his renowned label to the musical theatre stage. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough was announced in late 2006 to close out the season at Los Angeles’ Ahmanson Theatre in summer 2007. A report in Variety promised “a book by Gordy and 30 Motown tunes.” Ain’t No Mountain even announced an opening date of July 15, but it wasn’t meant to be. The production was scrapped, and Gordy continued the journey that has finally taken his story to Broadway. The new Motown: The Musical has assembled an 18-piece orchestra to play the orchestrations of Ethan Popp and Bryan Crook, likely inspired by the original hit record arrangements.
After the jump: what will you find on the various versions of Motown: Originals? We’ve got more details, full track listings and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »
What you will see after the jump are eight more of Universal’s generic ICON titles, released this past Tuesday. There are two country acts, two Motown acts, two Motown compilations, one from Dean Martin and one from pop/rock band Fall Out Boy. A stranger collection you’ll rarely find. I’d give a halfhearted recommendation to the Motown ones if you want to spend a little money on someone who has the distinct displeasure of never having heard any Motown song, ever. If you have more money to spend, though, get a box set or something. You won’t regret it. Trust me.
Follow the jump for order links (the single-disc Motown Classics did not appear on Amazon; we’ve used a Barnes & Noble link instead.)
If you’re a British pop junkie who came of age in the ’80s, you’re doubtlessly familiar with three names: Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman. The trio of producers hit it big with Hi-NRG pop, all clean beats and shimmering synths, from Bananarama’s “Venus” to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” All told, the trio racked up over 100 Top 40 hits in their native country – an impressive number in any year.
But one lesser-known name is arguably just as essential to the team and their famed PWL Studios: Phil Harding. A mixing engineer who’d worked with everyone from The Clash to Matt Bianco by 1984, the importance of Harding’s engineering skills was obvious from his work on the first major SAW hit, Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record).”
Harding, who’d later work with Depeche Mode, Erasure and the Pet Shop Boys, wrote his own account of his work in the record industry, PWL – From the Factory Floor, in 2009, releasing it in a limited run through Cherry Red’s book arm. Now, as a greatly expanded edition of that book arrives in U.K. shops, Cherry Pop has produced a double-disc set of some of Harding’s rarest mixes for U.K. acts and legacy groups.
There’s no shortage of hits on Phil Harding Club Mixes of the ’80s, including remixes of “You Spin Me Round,” ABC’s “When Smokey Sings” and cuts by Five Star, Holly Johnson and Godley & Creme. But the nectar for collectors is multitudinous: four unreleased tracks and mixes by Rick Astley, including an unused 12″ mix of “Never Gonna Give You Up,” are included. Jimmy Ruffin, elder brother of Temptations member David and solo artist in his own right (“What Becomes of the Brokenhearted”), has two latter-day tracks on here, only one of which has ever been released, and never on CD until this set.
Most humorously for Motown fans is the inclusion of three of Harding’s then-contemporary remixes of classic Motown singles, including The Four Tops’ “Reach Out I’ll Be There” and The Jackson 5′s “I Want You Back.” (While the breakbeat-heavy mixes can’t hold much of a candle to the originals, their quirky charm and collectibility doubtlessly appeal themselves to someone out there!)
The set and the expanded book (both of which can be ordered together through Cherry Pop) are out Monday, November 14 in U.K. shops. Hit the jump for a full track breakdown!