A Cellarful of Motown!
Motown can certainly be taken to task for issuing the same old stuff over and over again -- no matter how great it is, how many versions of Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin On" or of Motown's Top 20 singles does anybody really need? -- even if it is as important as Beethoven's Fifth Symphony (or anybody else's, for that matter). Not so in this case. Cellarful of Motown is a double CD chock-full of soul classics that have remained virtually unheard since they were first recorded -- or, in some cases, relegated to the cutting room floor -- by Motown's front line artists, and many that should have been. We can thank the Northern soul underground in the U.K. for this issue in a sense, due to their constant demand for rare Motown soul issues and the massive bootlegging that goes with it -- and a collector's market that is out of control price-wise at the dawn of the 21st century. Here are 40 tracks that were recorded in the glory days of the Detroit soul scene, but never issued at the time due to Berry Gordy's near-fascistic quality control. Track titles include "My Sugar Baby" by Frank Wilson, "I Wish I Liked You" by Marvin Gaye, "Baby A Go Go" by Barbara McNair, "If You Ever Get Your Hands on Me" by Gladys Knight & the Pips, "How Can I" and "All Your Love" by Brenda Holloway, "He Was Really Sayin Somethin" by Earl Van Dyke, "Until You Came Along" by Carolyn Crawford, "Before It's Over" by Sammy Ward, "Long Gone Lover" by Velvelettes, "Lucky Lucky Me" by Jimmy Ruffin, "You Made Me Feel Like" by Syreeta, "Don't Let Me Down" by Kim Weston, "Don't Put Off Till Tomorrow What You Can Do Today" by the Monitors, and "It Must Be Love Baby" by Chuck Jackson and Yvonne Fair. And this is just a sampling. There are solid notes giving recording origins and personnel wherever possible, and some cool photos in the package with liner notes by Northern soul aficionado DJ and editor Paul Nixon, but the music is the treat here. When Holloway sings "All Your Love," the emotion in her voice is underscored by the giant string section and cracks the mix in two, wrenching every ounce of emotion from Frank Wilson's words. When Chris Clark's pathos-ridden "Do I Love You (NDeed I Do)" cuts loose from the heart of a huge horn section and brings the message home in a raw, direct way; the feet will be two-steppin' even as the sultry need of the track moves deep into the solar plexus. That this is followed by the stomp and swagger of the Contours' "Baby Hit and Run," with it's gospel chorus and the funk rhythms is almost too much to take. It's seriously enough to take your breath away. There is one theory as to why these tracks weren't issued at the time of their recording despite their obvious high and enduring quality. Emotionally and/or production-wise, many of these singles were just too raw for the Motown squeaky-clean machine. If one gives a solid listen to Holloway's material in particular, the deep, unruly, sexy nature of the material is not one that is usually associated with Motown. The Contours could have recorded for Stax they were so raw, and Jimmy Ruffin's various performances give his voice the workout it never got on the officially released material. Simply put: This is the most essential Motown collection release since the first singles box, and, in a sense, since that material is available in a number of ways, it is perhaps more so -- and not merely academically. This is as great an introduction to Detroit soul music as anything you are likely to come across. This is the most important -- and thoroughly enjoyable -- soul reissue in years.