Ace Records has released a number of splendid Motown collections in recent years, but now the label is taking a different approach to the music of Hitsville, USA. As Motown celebrates its landmark 60th anniversary, On the Detroit Beat: Motor City Soul - U.K. Style 1963-1967 brings together 24 diverse British interpretations of Motown classics, making for a potent reminder that the Sound of Young America was, truly, international.
Compiler Tony Rounce helpfully points out in his liner notes that Motown was far from an overnight sensation in the U.K.; some 40 singles were issued on four different U.K. labels before one actually hit the charts: Mary Wells' "My Guy," in June 1964. That means that many of the American label's most beloved and enduring tunes failed to dent the British chart; the now-famous Tamla Motown logo didn't emerge on 45 until 1965. Many (though not all) of the songs on Detroit Beat, then, represent homegrown attempts to capture Hitsville's magic when the original records weren't scoring mightily. As is expected of an Ace compilation, the songs and artists happily range from the instantly familiar to the utterly obscure, adding up to a delightful listen.
The Hollies' love for Motown was never much of a secret; when the band reunited with Graham Nash in 1983, the hit single was a cover of The Supremes' "Stop! In the Name of Love." Here, Nash, Clarke, Hicks and co. take on The Miracles' raucous "Mickey's Monkey" from the "Stop!" songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. (Note that the band doesn't quite get all of the lyrics accurately; this wasn't uncommon of the era.) "Mickey's Monkey" was a rare Miracles hit from a songwriter other than lead singer Smokey Robinson, but he's well-represented here as writer or co-writer of eight songs, or a full one-third of the selections including Julie Grant's sweet "As Long As I Know He's Mine" (arranged, conducted, and produced by hitmaker Tony Hatch), Louise Cordet's sassy "Two Lovers," Elkie Brooks' spirited "The Way You Do The Things You Do," Helen Shapiro's swinging "You're My Remedy," and Truly Smith's smooth "My Smile Is Just a Frown (Turned Upside Down)." Male artists wanted a piece of the Smokey pie, too. Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas turn in an energetic take on the Marvin Gaye hit "I'll Be Doggone," The Small Faces rock a rough-hewn "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," and John Leyton and The LeRoys revisit The Temptations' "I Want a Love I Can See."
Holland-Dozier-Holland aren't left out, either. Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland teamed with Freddie Gorman to write "When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes," heard here in Dusty Springfield's effervescent version with an Ivor Raymonde arrangement that sticks close to The Supremes' original. Beverley Jones and The Prestons channeled Martha and The Vandellas on a spare, organ-driven version of H-D-H's "Heat Wave," and The Action amped up the mod-soul on a cover of the Vandellas' "In My Lonely Room."
There are plenty of unexpected surprises here. Before he landed a role on Coronation Street and produced West End blockbusters, Bill Kenwright carved out a singing career with such singles as "I Want to Go Back There Again," originally performed and co-written by Chris Clark at Motown. (Truly Smith also surveyed the dramatic tune in the U.K., as did The New Formula.) Though not a patch on Clark's rendition, Kenwright's recording well conveys the song's strengths. Tony Jackson, formerly of The Searchers, turned up the power for the Vandellas flipside "Never Leave Your Baby's Side" with frenetic brass and a full-throttle vocal. Somewhat calmer is Cavern Club alumna Beryl Marsden's terrific "Let's Go Somewhere" from singer-songwriter R. Dean Taylor (co-written with Eddie Holland and Debbie Dean). Beryl's big voice earned her comparisons with Cilla Black, and Cilla is naturally here, too. She was backed by Sounds Incorporated on a lively "Shotgun." Cilla didn't often get the chance to cut loose with R&B material such as the Junior Walker classic; in fact, this splendid recording was shelved for decades. The heaviest song on the collection is undoubtedly the scorching "No Good Without You" from Ron Wood's early group The Birds, first cut at Motown by Marvin Gaye. Another eye-opener is The Spencer Davis Group's "Every Little Bit Hurts," featuring the teenaged Steve Winwood on a painfully raw, emotionally open version that rivals Brenda Holloway's original for sheer drama.
The attractive 24-page booklet features copious photos and label scans along with Rounce's detailed, track-by-track liner notes. Nick Robbins has done his customarily fine job remastering all of the tracks. With its array of tracks both faithful and radically different than the original versions, On the Detroit Beat is a compelling testament to the universality of the timeless music created under Berry Gordy's aegis. Much as Ace's series of Motown tracks proper has continued over the years, one can only hope that a second volume is on the docket.
Various Artists, On the Detroit Beat: Motor City Soul - U.K. Style 1963-1967 (Ace CDTOP 1359, 2019) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
- Mickey's Monkey - The Hollies (from Parlophone LP PMC 1261, 1965)
- As Long As I Know He's Mine - Julie Grant (Pye 7N 15884. 1965)
- Money (That's What I Want) - The Undertakers (Pye 7N 15562, 1963)
- I Want a Love I Can See - John Leyton and The LeRoys (HMV POP 1338, 1964)
- Sweet Thing - Georgie Fame (from Columbia LP SX 6043, 1966)
- I'll Be Doggone - Billy J. Kramer with The Dakotas (Parlophone R 5362, 1965)
- Two Lovers - Louise Cordet (Decca F 11875, 1964)
- Shake Sherry - Bern Elliott & The Fenmen (from Decca EP DFE 8561, 1963)
- You Really Got a Hold on Me - Small Faces (from Decca LP LK 4879, 1967)
- The Way You Do the Things You Do - Elkie Brooks (Decca F.12061, 1965)
- I Want to Go Back There Again - Bill Kenwright & The Runaways (Columbia DB 8239, 1967)
- When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes - Dusty Springfield (from Philips LP SBL 7594, 1964) (*)
- One of These Days - Guy Darrell (CBS 201806, 1965)
- Heat Wave - Beverley Jones with The Prestons (Parlophone R 5189, 1964)
- No. 1 in Your Heart - Herbie Goins & The Night-Timers (Parlophone R 5478, 1966)
- Every Little Bit Hurts - The Spencer Davis Group (Fontana TF 530, 1965)
- Stubborn Kind of Fellow - The Roulettes (Parlophone R 5218, 1964)
- You're My Remedy - Helen Shapiro (rec. 1965, from EMI CD 7243 493452-2, 1998)
- No Good Without You - The Birds (Decca F.12257, 1965)
- My Smile Is Just a Frown (Turned Upside Down) - Truly Smith (Decca F.12373, 1966)
- Never Leave Your Baby's Side - Tony Jackson (CBS 202069, 1966)
- Let's Go Somewhere - Beryl Marsden (Columbia DB 7888, 1966)
- In My Lonely Room - The Action (Parlophone R 5354, 1965)
- Shotgun - Cilla Black & Sounds Incorporated (rec. 1965, rel. EMI CD 5099960283221, 2012) (*)
All tracks mono except (*) stereo
Philip Houldershaw says
There are many seriously dodgy cover versions of Motown tracks from British artists in the 60's, but this looks like a really well chosen collection. And great to see some serious rarities in there too.
The fact it's physical, and with ACE's usual excellent booklet to boot, this is a definite buy from me.