Back in 2013, Ace Records launched its first collection of Motown Girls, spotlighting previously unreleased tracks from the legendary ladies of Motown Records. A second installment arrived in 2015, and now, we’re finally the recipient of a third volume in the series. The 24-song anthology Baby I’ve Got It! More Motown Girls boasts 16 previously unreleased tracks, with the remaining eight drawn from the Motown Unreleased compilations (all of which have been digital-only except for the one covering 1966).
This exciting new collection kicks off with a true landmark: the very first Motown recording of Gladys Knight and The Pips. While “In My Heart I Know It’s Right” doesn’t show off Knight’s musical personality as well as later tracks would, the Johnny Bristol/Harvey Fuqua/Marvin Gaye tune has an appealing urgency bolstered by its beguiling brass chart and Knight’s full-throttle vocal. (This track also appeared on CD via the Motown Unreleased 1966 box set.) Gladys is in top form, too, on Deke Richards and Debbie Dean’s “Is This Why (I Gave My Love to You),” an edgy, driving track from 1967.
Another boldfaced Motown name is that of Martha and The Vandellas. Their 1963 tune “I’m Willing to Pay the Price,” from the Holland-Dozier-Holland team, is way too close for comfort to their “Come and Get These Memories,” even as a potential follow-up for that song. That might have accounted for its being shelved, but the melody and the title lyric were transformed into Marvin Gaye’s “Little Darling, I Need You.” Though this track has circulated before, this collection marks its first official appearance. “Mr. Misery (Let Me Be),” was recorded in 1962 by a Claudette Robinson-fronted Miracles; though it’s unknown at what point Martha and The Vandellas overdubbed their vocals, they gave the Latin-tinged song their all. Motown’s first major girl group, The Marvelettes, are represented by an early, embryonic version of “Playboy” as well as by a bouncy if skeletally-arranged and clearly unfinished cover of The Chiffons’ “Sweet Talkin’ Guy.”
A host of solo Motown stars are also represented. Brenda Holloway’s “Without Love You Lose a Good Feelin'” is a quintessential Motown stomper; it was included on SoulMusic Records’ 2017 collection Spellbound: Rare and Unreleased Gems and is reprised here in its original mix. Brenda is also heard on this anthology’s frenetic title track, “Baby I’ve Got It,” first released on Motown Unreleased 1966. Compiler Keith Hughes reveals that the percolating, smoky “In Your Heart,” from Brenda’s sister Patrice (herself the recipient of an Ace anthology), is her final remaining track in the Motown vaults to see release.
Baby I’ve Got It! offers yet more from the talented Syreeta, a.k.a. Rita Wright, whose early years at Motown were chronicled by Ace on 2016’s The Rita Wright Years 1967-1970. The funky “It’s Been a Long Time Comin’,” written and produced by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, is every bit as enjoyable as the tracks on that collection. Kim Weston’s “I Up and Think of You” (1963) doesn’t quite have The Motown Sound yet, but Weston’s dynamic voice makes it far more than a curio. Just a year later, she was in a Chicago studio recording the Russ Morgan standard “So Long,” the bandleader’s closing theme. (It’s appropriately used as the closing track here, too.) With its cocktail piano, horns and strings, the languid farewell is evocative of Etta James’ “At Last.” Yvonne Fair made a splash with her 1975 album entitled The Bitch is Black. One of its tracks, a cover of Barbara George’s “I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More),” was actually recorded in 1969. This set premieres its original mix, featuring an Earl Van Dyke piano introduction cut from the released version.
Talented, striking singer-actress Barbara McNair was one of Motown’s best “supper club” performers, with her silky tones well-suited to standards and classy adult contemporary pop. No exception is the sizzling, swinging version of Charles Strouse and Lee Adams’ “You’ve Got Possibilities.” The song was introduced by Linda Lavin in the short-lived Broadway musical It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Superman! but has lived on over the years. This recording premiered on Motown Unreleased 1966 along with a number of other delicious McNair tracks in this vein like “Smile” and “Put on a Happy Face.”
Many of the other names on this set will likely only be known to Motown connoisseurs. The 1966 “Honey Don’t Leave Me” from Motown’s West Coast base is the work of singer-songwriters The Lewis Sisters and is a credible replica of the Detroit sound with its four-on-the-floor beat, honking horns, and backups by none other than Edna Wright, Gloria Jones, and Blinky! Kay Lewis’ daughter Lisa, a.k.a. Little Lisa, also recorded for Motown. She was just 11 when she recorded “Keep Away” in her small but confident voice. Lyrically, the song is rather inappropriate for even the most precocious youngster, but the track is a pure, smoking Funk Brothers delight. Little Lisa continued in music, notably singing on Sergio Mendes’ 1983 smash “Never Gonna Let You Go” as Leeza Miller.
Keith Hughes’ typically fine liner notes reveal that Liz Lands recorded over 100 songs for Motown, all the more shocking considering that so few (16!) have seen release. Her sultry, expressive voice, usually reserved for standards and spirituals, floats over 1964’s “It’s Crazy Baby,” a groovy Frank Wilson number produced in California by Hal Davis and Marc Gordon. Over in Detroit, Ann Bogan had a bit of history with Motown, fronting The Andantes for one single and replacing Gladys Horton in The Marvelettes. She gets to cut loose on Harvey Fuqua and Gwen Gordy’s soul shouter “There Are Things,” from 1963.
LaBrenda Ben has appeared on both previous volumes of Motown Girls, and here she shows up with the sassy “Bad News” from writer-producers Ivy Jo Hunter and William “Mickey” Stevenson, and a straightforward cover of The Impressions’ “It’s All Right.” Oma Page (not to be confused with Oma Heard) only left behind one recording for Motown, and here it is. The husky-voiced singer – sister of Gene and Billy Page – had plenty of soul if “When Someone’s Good to You” is any evidence. The 1964 Berry Gordy tune sounds as if it would have made a good match for Mary Wells, but it was overdubbed by Carolyn Crawford. Wells herself appears on Baby I’ve Got It with a remake of her 1962 album track “She Don’t Love You” in a version with prominent strings, possibly recorded in Chicago.
Like Little Lisa, Thelma Brown was another pre-teen signing. She was just 12 years old when she brought her big voice to four sides at Motown, including this collection’s new discovery, the cute and brassy ode to a “Cookie Boy.” Brown never went on to a professional performing career, but this little track shows that she had the chops. Equally obscure is the group The Lollipops. They released just one single at Motown; the 1969 ballad outtake “There Was” has a retro, fifties-inspired flavor.
A 16-page booklet includes track-by-track annotations from Keith Hughes, who compiled this set with Mick Patrick. Nick Robbins has splendidly mastered both the original Motown mixes and recent mixes made by Richard Hughes. This latest and equally enjoyable vault excavation is available now from Ace Records at the links below!
- In My Heart I Know It’s Right – Gladys Knight & The Pips
- Without Love You Lose a Good Feelin’ (Original Mix) – Brenda Holloway
- It’s Been a Long Time Happenin’ – Rita Wright
- Honey Don’t Leave Me – The Lewis Sisters
- Baby I’ve Got It – Brenda Holloway
- It’s Crazy Baby – Liz Lands
- There Are Things – Ann Bogan
- I’m Willing to Pay the Price – Martha & The Vandellas
- Bad News – LaBrenda Ben
- When’s Someone’s Good to You – Oma Page
- Is This Why (I Gave My Love to You) – Gladys Knight & The Pips
- I Up and Think of You – Kim Weston
- It’s All Right – LaBrenda Ben
- She Don’t Love You (with strings) – Mary Wells
- Mr. Misery (Let Me Be) – Martha & The Vandellas
- Playboy (First Version) – The Marvelettes
- Cookie Boy – Thelma Brown
- Keep Away – Little Lisa
- Sweet Talkin’ Guy – The Marvelettes
- I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More) (Original Mix) – Yvonne Fair
- You’ve Got Possibilities – Barbara McNair
- In Your Heart – Patrice Holloway
- There Was – The Lollipops
- So Long – Kim Weston
Tracks 1-2, 5, 18, 21 previously released on CD on Motown Unreleased 1966, Motown/UMe B00027684-02, 2017
Tracks 3, 4, 6-8, 10, 12-17, 20, 22-24 previously unreleased
All other tracks previously unreleased on CD, from Motown Unreleased digital collections (2014-2016)