Rarely is the sequel ever the equal - but Ace Records has handily disproved that with Love and Affection: More Motown Girls, a recent trawl through the vaults of Hitsville, USA. And not only is this follow-up to 2013's Finders Keepers - Motown Girls the equal of its predecessor, it might be its better. Whereas that volume featured both previously unreleased music and rarities, every one of the 25 tracks on Love and Affection is never-before-heard (save for five songs culled from last year's digital-only Motown Unreleased 1964 collection, all of which are new to CD). Every one of them is a testament to the enduring power and vibrancy of the Sound of Young America.
Drawing on the period of 1962-1969, Love and Affection has utilized all original mixes where possible, with ten tracks newly mixed for this release. The mandate of producers Keith Hughes and Mick Patrick was simple: "a whole host of songs by well-known writers that have never been heard before." They've found room for some of Motown's brightest stars, including Gladys Knight and the Pips, Brenda Holloway, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, The Marvelettes, Syreeta (a.k.a. Rita Wright) and Kim Weston, as well as cult favorite artists such as Chris Clark, Debbie Dean, LaBrenda Ben, and Liz Lands. This collection of one exciting track after another truly underscores the diversity of Motown's songwriters, producers, musicians and vocalists.
As usual, there are a handful of songs familiar in their renditions by other artists. Holland-Dozier-Holland's urgent "Any Girl in Love (Knows What I'm Going Through)" was ideally suited for Gladys Knight's dramatic delivery, though her version with the Pips has sat on the shelf until now. Kim Weston recorded the song first, and The Supremes were first out of the gate to release it with their version on I Hear a Symphony. (In actuality, the track featured Diana Ross' empathetic lead vocal over Weston's backing track, with The Andantes singing in place of Mary and Flo.) But you, too, will hear a symphony on Gladys' own sublime (and more uptempo) rendition of a typically catchy H-D-H number. Gladys and the Pips' "The Things Time Can't Erase," co-written and produced by Ivy Jo Hunter, was first assigned to Marvin Gaye - with whom Gladys will forever share "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" - and has the requisite sizzle and passion that would have made it ideal for either artist.
Stevie Wonder penned, with Hunter, Barbara Randolph's "My Love is Your Love (Forever)" which was also recorded by The Miracles on Make It Happen. Producer-annotator Keith Hughes notes that the song was marked "Demo" on the tape box and may have been the artist's on-the-job audition for Motown. Hunter's fine, full production of this uptempo song of devotion accentuates Randolph's distinctive, husky and gutsy style; indeed, her 2003 collection on the Spectrum label remains a must-listen. Hunter also produced and wrote the imploring "Girls Need Love and Affection," credited to The Marvelettes but actually a Wanda Young solo take; and the 1966 Martha and the Vandellas track which premieres here, "Mother Tell Me What to Do." Hughes reveals that "Mother" was originally intended for The Supremes.
No Motown anthology would be complete without songs by Smokey Robinson. The poet laureate of the Motor City wrote a couple of the tracks here: an alternate version of Linda Griner's "Envious" taken at a faster clip, and pop songbird (and onetime "girl singer" for Tommy Dorsey) Connie Haines' "Mr. Pride and Mr. Gloom." Both songs have Robinson's lighter-than-air flair, but the beautifully-arranged "Mr. Pride" is a true lost treasure that finds Haines' winsome, happily quavering voice fitting perfectly into the Motown Sound, strings, saxophone solo (likely Mike Terry, of course) and all.
Deke Richards penned many an enduring copyright, and "This is the Love (I've Been Waiting For)" might well have become one of them had it escaped the vault earlier. This upbeat track, recorded in 1968/1969, has the hallmarks of the crisp, mature Motown sound of that period. It shares a rhythmic sensibility in the verses with Richards' earlier track, "I Can't Make It Without You" (1966) performed here by Debbie Dean and later revisited by Rustix on Motown's Rare Earth label. The chorus on "I Can't Make It" is one Richards' most utterly infectious. On the other end of the spectrum is Richards' "Forgotten" as sung by the incomparable Chris Clark. This striking ballad, adorned with lush strings, elegant piano and forceful brass, is a timely story song rendered with grace by Clark.
A few tracks here emanate from Hitsville USA's California operation including The Lewis Sisters' 1965 "Many Good Times," produced by Frank Wilson and Hal Davis. (Look for more of sisters Helen and Kay on The Complete Motown Singles Volume 5!) Written as well as performed by the Sisters, it's a driving, moody slice of R&B. Collection compilers Keith Hughes and Mick Patrick have well-sequenced this song back to back with LaBrenda Ben's "Just Go on Sleeping," another comparatively unusual, dark-tinged track. (Its stately, almost "legit" background vocals also lends it a distinctive quality. Ben also appears on the swaggering, fast-and-furious "Fugitive.") Hal Davis and Marc Gordon, head of Motown's CA office and future manager of The 5th Dimension (and husband to the group's Florence LaRue), produced Brenda Holloway's storming ballad treatment of Berry Gordy's oldie "Lonely Teardrops" which is a true highlight here. The busy Davis/Gordon duo also helmed Oma Heard's dreamy, string-laden "Momma Tried to Warn Me" and Hattie Littles' torrid tear-jerker "Now That Love is Gone" in the same year of 1964, proving their prowess at atmospheric productions with a sound just different enough from the house style established in Detroit.
The young Jimmy Webb was one of the writers signed by Motown in Los Angeles to the label's Jobete publishing firm. He wrote 17 songs while at Jobete, including The Supremes' "My Christmas Tree" and Danny Day's "This Time Last Summer," the tune which sold Frank Wilson on the up-and-coming composer-lyricist. (Blinky and Brenda Holloway also recorded "This Time..," with Brenda's wonderful version coming to light last year in digital form.) Webb's most famous Motown-era song is likely "Honey Come Back," produced by Wilson on Chuck Jackson but quickly snatched by Glen Campbell. Barbara McNair's "Come Back Half Way," co-written by Jimmy with Mary Dean, is an expectedly dynamic and dramatic production (with a great horn chart) well-suited to the luminous singer-actress. McNair would later sing Webb's "Didn't We" on her 1969 Audio Fidelity LP More Today Than Yesterday. She recurs on Love and Affection with Bobby Scott's sophisticated, uptown soul ballad "The Good Times are Gone" produced by Michael Gentile and the great William "Mickey" Stevenson.
The Lollipops came to Motown from Harry Balk's Impact label and only released one 1969 single on the VIP imprint. Songwriter-producer Duke Browner's alluring "Go for Yourself," also from '69, premieres here with a breezy track (courtesy of arranger Paul Riser?) which is at times reminiscent of Smokey Robinson's finest. Yvonne Fair had more success on Motown, scoring hits in the mid-seventies after a number of might-have-beens. Love and Affection gives her a spotlight with producer-writer Leonard Caston's "Close My Crying Eyes." Among other work for Motown, Caston went on to record the deeply spiritual, funky lost classic Caston and Majors with his wife Carolyn Majors in 1974. The compilation's closing track sounds like nothing that's come before - Kim Weston's brassy, big-band swing take on the Billie Holiday standard "Lover Man (Where Can You Be)." Weston's smoky vocals and Mickey Stevenson's superb production put the blues in "rhythm and!"
Love and Affection has been crafted by the teams at Ace and Classic Motown with both of those qualities in abundance. Jools Williamson has designed the attractive artwork and the 16-page booklet featuring credits, discography and track-by-track annotations from Keith Hughes. May even more Motown Girls be on the way!
Various Artists, Love and Affection: More Motown Girls (Ace CDTOP 1455, 2015) (Amazon U.S.)
- Reassure Me That You Love Me - Brenda Holloway
- Any Girl in Love (Knows What I'm Going Through) - Gladys Knight and the Pips
- My Love is Your Love (Forever) - Barbara Randolph
- This is the Love (I've Been Waiting For) - Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
- I Can't Make It Without You - Debbie Dean
- Midnight Johnny (Early Version) - Liz Lands
- Many Good Times - The Lewis Sisters
- Just Go On Sleeping - LaBrenda Ben
- Lonely Teardrops - Brenda Holloway
- Now That Love is Gone - Hattie Littles
- Fugitive - LaBrenda Ben
- Envious (Fast Version) - Linda Griner
- Pride and Mr. Gloom - Connie Haines
- Momma Tried to Warn Me - Oma Heard
- Check Yourself - Chris Clark
- Come Back Half Way - Barbara McNair
- Mother Tell Me What to Do - Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
- Girls Need Love and Affection - The Marvelettes
- Give Back the Good Things - Rita Wright
- Go for Yourself - The Lollipops
- The Good Times Are Gone - Barbara McNair
- The Things Time Can't Erase - Gladys Knight and the Pips
- Close My Crying Eyes - Yvonne Fair
- Forgotten - Chris Clark
- Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be) - Kim Weston
All tracks previously unreleased except Tracks 8-11, 25 first released digitally on Motown Unreleased 1964, 2014