Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 1: 1959-1961

The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 1: 1959-1961

The Complete Motown Singles has been a dream project of Motown and soul fanatics for many years, ever since the first decade of Stax/Volt singles was compiled in an impressive nine-disc box set in 1991. Prior to that, no soul label had its output as thoroughly documented as that set -- there had been the Atlantic R&B box, which collected highlights, but it


The Complete Motown Singles has been a dream project of Motown and soul fanatics for many years, ever since the first decade of Stax/Volt singles was compiled in an impressive nine-disc box set in 1991. Prior to that, no soul label had its output as thoroughly documented as that set -- there had been the Atlantic R&B box, which collected highlights, but it never attempted to capture the label's entire run -- and while The Complete Stax-Volt Singles 1959-1968 missed a B-side or two, it was an exceptional piece of music history, and pretty damn entertaining to boot. It was so good that it seemed like Motown would be a natural to receive the same treatment, since the label not only had a greater impact -- not just musically, but culturally -- but it had a much more diverse roster, which would make for an exciting set. The Complete Motown Singles might have seemed like a logical move to soul collectors and fanatics, but it remained in the realm of fantasy for many years because, as enticing as that set was, it was difficult to create. First, there was the perennial problem of Motown reissues, where the label is always inclined to recycle the familiar hits instead of dig deep into the vaults. That situation improved in the early '90s, after Universal acquired the catalog and began to release sturdy sets like the Hitsville USA box and multi-disc sets by the Temptations and the Four Tops, but even with the success of these releases, there was reluctance to launch a project like The Complete Motown Singles for two big reasons. One, it was a massive project, dwarfing the Stax/Volt output, which could be squeezed into three nine-disc sets by eliminating only a few B-sides and a handful of singles without anybody but scholars and obsessives knowing the difference. Motown's classic period of 1959-1972 featured hundreds of songs -- roughly 50 discs' worth of music, which lead to the second big problem, which is that even if the label approved such a set, it would not be commercially feasible, since no store would stock such a series, no matter how it was broken up. Such was the state of affairs until the turn of the millennium, when speciality music retailing finally had an outlet via the Internet. Universal had its own Internet-only label, Hip-O Select, which finally provided an avenue for the release of The Complete Motown Singles, which was launched after a long, long wait in early 2005 with the six-disc set Vol. 1: 1959-1961. It was the first installment of a planned 12-volume series of box sets that would cover all Motown singles, including all variations of the singles and all of the label's subsidiaries, from 1959 to 1972, when the label moved its home office from Detroit to Los Angeles. All the songs would be presented in their original single form (usually meaning a mono mix), transferred from vinyl if necessary (since master tapes for many of the rarities have vanished), and each box would be packaged as a deluxe hardcover book, with a reproduced 45 of an original Motown hit incorporated as part of the cover artwork, while the inside would contain rare photos and contain a wealth of information in the track-by-track notes by Bill Dahl and Keith Hughes. In short, it's a lavish, ambitious series, and a pricey one as well -- the first set retails at 119.95 dollars, averaging 20 dollars a disc, which means that the whole series will cost about 1,000 dollars when all is said and done. So, it's a considerable investment, but there's little question of whether it's worthwhile: based on this introductory installment, the answer is an unequivocal, enthusiastic yes. And that doesn't just apply to Motown fanatics, either: this set, and by extension this series, is essential for anybody who deeply loves 20th century American popular music and culture. Naturally, a set this large demands the listener's attention, and while it will reward that close attention tenfold, it's also true that the set is not for everybody, perhaps not even Motown fans who love the classic mid-'60s sound at the expense of everything else. That sound is not heard here, although the driving, insistent dance beat of the label's earliest is, in the form of such early hits as the Miracles' "Shop Around," Barrett Strong's "Money," and the Marvelettes' "Please Mr. Postman." But the point of this set is not the hits, which are easily found elsewhere. The point of the set is to hear it all, to find the forgotten treasures, to hear the songs that were mistakes next to the songs that should have been hits, to hear the label evolve over the years. In these early years covered on The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 1, Berry Gordy was trying a little bit of everything with Motown, seeing what would stick. He would imitate the sound of other labels, like Chicago's Vee Jay, or artists like Jackie Wilson. He would jump onto trends, like the twist, or blatantly rip off hits on the chart. He recorded outright novelties, including several songs to President Kennedy. He recorded lite jazz, gospel, blues, even surf rock. He did a little bit of everything, seeing what would sell. Not all of this was good, some of it was lame, some of it was outright silly, but some of it was great, including a lot of hard-driving R&B dance numbers that have the roots of the classic Motown sound. Gordy may have steered Motown all over the place during the early years documented on this set -- and not just before they had hits, because he was just as scattershot after the hits started to come -- but there's a raw, invigorating vitality to his attempts to hit pay dirt, which makes the lesser songs here rise above curiosity to being quite compelling music. Plus, there's a nice side effect to having Motown try so many different sounds: it winds up giving a good idea of what the R&B market sounded like in the early '60s, giving a good context for Motown's big hits. And in this context, these shopworn standards sound as vital and exciting as they did when they first hit the airwaves, which is something that smaller, concentrated sets just can't provide. That ability to re-create the sound, feel, and excitement of the early days of Motown -- something that has long been forgotten due to the overfamiliarity of much of this music -- is the reason why this set is so essential to anybody who loves soul and pop music. The fact that it also has a treasure trove of great, largely unheard early Motown singles almost seems like a bonus in comparison, but it's also another reason why this set isn't merely worth the long wait, but why it comes close to seeming like a dream finally fulfilled.

Product Details

Release Date:
Hip-O Select

Related Subjects


Disc 1

  1. Come to Me
  2. Whisper
  3. Merry-Go-Round
  4. It Moves Me
  5. Let's Rock
  6. Do the Very Best You Can
  7. Solid Sender
  8. I'll Never Love Again
  9. Snake Walk, Pt. 1
  10. Snake Walk, Pt. 2
  11. It
  12. Don't Say Bye Bye
  13. Going to the Hop
  14. Motor City
  15. Money (That's What I Want)
  16. Oh I Apologize
  17. Ich-I-Bon #1
  18. Cool and Crazy
  19. Bad Girl
  20. I Love Your Baby
  21. The Feeling Is So Fine
  22. (You Can) Depend on Me
  23. My Beloved
  24. Sugar Daddy
  25. You Never Miss a Good Thing
  26. Hold Me Tight
  27. Gotta Have Your Lovin'

Disc 2

  1. Way Over There
  2. (You Can) Depend on Me
  3. Way Over There
  4. My Beloved
  5. You Never Miss a Good Thing
  6. Yes, No, Maybe So
  7. You Knows What to Do
  8. Custer's Last Man
  9. Shimmy Gully
  10. Who Wouldn't Love a Man Like That
  11. You Made a Fool Out of Me
  12. Whirlwind
  13. I'm Gonna Cry (If You Quit Me)
  14. Bye Bye Baby
  15. Please Forgive Me
  16. What Makes You Love Him
  17. That Child Is Really Wild
  18. Who's the Fool
  19. Shop Around
  20. Who's Lovin' You
  21. True Love
  22. It's You
  23. Shop Around
  24. Oh Lover
  25. That's Why I Love You So Much
  26. I've Got a Notion
  27. We Really Love Each Other

Disc 3

  1. Don't Feel Sorry for Me
  2. Heart
  3. Don't Let Him Shop Around
  4. A New Girl
  5. Ain't It Baby
  6. The Only One I Love
  7. Money and Me
  8. You've Got What It Takes
  9. When I Needed You
  10. Continental Strut
  11. Whole Lotta Woman
  12. Come on and Be Mine
  13. I Want a Guy
  14. Never Again
  15. He Lifted Me
  16. Behold the Saints of God
  17. Poor Sam Jones
  18. They Rode Through the Valley
  19. Money (That's What I Want)
  20. I'll Still Be Around
  21. Tomorrow and Always
  22. A Love That Can Never Be
  23. Tomorrow and Always
  24. Whole Lotta Woman
  25. Blibberin' Blabbin' Blues
  26. Don't Say Bye Bye

Disc 4

  1. Angel
  2. (I'm Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over
  3. Witchcraft
  4. Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide
  5. Never Let You Go (Sha Lu Bop)
  6. I Don't Want to Take a Chance
  7. I'm So Sorry
  8. Rosa Lee (Stay Off the Bell)
  9. Shoo-Doo
  10. Misery
  11. Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right
  12. Broken Hearted
  13. Mighty Good Lovin'
  14. No Love
  15. Looking for a Man
  16. Same Thing
  17. That's No Lie
  18. I Know How It Feels
  19. My Kind of Love
  20. No Love
  21. Buttered Popcorn
  22. Who's Lovin' You
  23. Buttered Popcorn
  24. Oh, Mother of Mine
  25. Romance Without Finance
  26. I Am Bound
  27. Precious Memories

Disc 5

  1. Please Mr. Postman
  2. So Long Baby
  3. The Stretch
  4. Funny
  5. Itsy Bity Pity Love
  6. But I'm Afraid
  7. They Shall Be Mine
  8. Jesus Loves
  9. Someone to Call My Own
  10. You're My Desire
  11. Love Me
  12. Darling Tonight
  13. Everybody's Gotta Pay Some Dues
  14. I Can't Believe
  15. Angel in Blue
  16. Blue Cinderella
  17. Strange Love
  18. Come to Me
  19. The Day Will Come
  20. Just for You
  21. Have I the Right
  22. Real Good Lovin'
  23. Zing Went the Strings of My Heart
  24. Faded Letter

Disc 6

  1. Jamie
  2. Take a Chance on Me
  3. Greetings (This Is Uncle Sam)
  4. Take a Chance
  5. Actions Speak Louder Than Words
  6. Take Me
  7. What Makes You Love Him
  8. Don't Take It Away
  9. Check Yourself
  10. Your Wonderful Love
  11. Small Sad Sam
  12. Tie Me Tight
  13. Whose Heart (Are You Gonna Break Now)
  14. I'll Call You
  15. Xmas Twist
  16. White House Twist
  17. Please Mr. Kennedy
  18. (They Call Me) Cupid
  19. Twistin' Postman
  20. I Want a Guy
  21. What's So Good About Good Bye
  22. I've Been Good to You
  23. Congo, Pt. 1
  24. Congo, Pt. 2

Disc 7

  1. Money (That's What I Want)
  2. Oh I Apoligize

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Norman Whitfield   Vocals,Accompaniment
Rayber Voices   Vocals,Accompaniment

Technical Credits

Marv Johnson   Composer
Carole King   Composer
Smokey Robinson   Composer
Jimmy Ruffin   Composer
Mary Wells   Composer
Andre Williams   Composer,Producer
Cy Coleman   Composer
Donald Davis   Composer
Gerry Goffin   Composer
Barrett Strong   Composer
James Young   Composer
Mable John   Liner Notes
Ronald Dunbar   Composer
Melvin Franklin   Composer
Harvey Fuqua   Composer
Gwen Fuqua   Composer
Anna Gordy Gaye   Composer
Berry Gordy   Composer,Producer,Liner Notes
Riley Hampton   Arranger
Brian Holland   Composer,Producer
Georgia Jones   Composer
Eddie Kendricks   Composer
Herbert Magidson   Composer
Don McKenzie   Composer
Rex Robertson   Composer
Sonny Sanders   Composer
William "Mickey" Stevenson   Composer,Producer
Norman Whitfield   Composer
Allie Wrubel   Composer
Bill Dahl   Song Notes
Robert Gordy   Composer
Vartan   Art Direction
Joe Billingslea   Composer
Georgia Dobbins   Composer
Billy Gordon   Composer
Marvin Tarplin   Composer
Valadiers   Composer
Mattie Moss Clark   Composer
Earl Brooks   Composer
Ronald White   Composer
Barney Ales   Composer,Producer
William Garrett   Composer
William Mitchell   Composer
Carolyn Leigh   Composer
Janie Bradford   Composer,Producer
James F. Hanley   Composer
Sunny Skylar   Composer
Charles Leverett   Composer
Robert Bateman   Composer,Producer
Don Juan Mancha   Composer
Rev. Columbus Mann   Composer
Richard Wylie   Composer,Producer
Jeff Smith   Art Direction
Craig Werner   Liner Notes
Chester Scott   Composer
Ryan Null   Photo Coordination
Michele Horie   Art Direction
Quattrocchi   Art Direction
Freddie Gorman   Composer
George Fowler   Composer
Pete Hartfield   Composer

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >