Fans of early Motown will want to hear this 3 CD collection jammed with early soul, r&b, and even a little bit of r'n'r. The music has a harder edge when compared to later releases by Motown, with their more smoothed out, sophisticated sound that made the label famous.
Listing standout tracks is pretty useless. Across these 89 tracks there's little (if any) real filler. This is mostly tough, big city soul and r&b. Artists include a number of well known performers like Barrett Strong, The Contours, Little Stevie Wonder (sounding very young), The Marvelettes, Mary Wells, The Supremes, and several others. Along with these are lesser known performers like Mabel John, The Twistin' Kids, Little Otis, The Charters, Eugene Remus, Little Iva & Her Band (Iva was Berry Gordy's second wife), Singin' Sammy Ward (talk about tough--whoa!) and quite a few more that keeps the interest level high.
The sound varies slightly, but is uniformly good. The 16 page booklet has short essays on each artist along with a list of singles, and repros of 45 RPM labels. The discs snap inside a quad-fold cardboard package that has a slot for the booklet. All in all a nice package.
I have to confess that this early period of Motown has a certain appeal to me over the label's later sound. At this stage label owner Berry Gordy was releasing 45 singles at a rapid rate, hoping for a hit record. The sheer number of singles he released meant that some records became hits, while others should've been hits but got lost in the shuffle. The competition was fierce, so a number of deserving songs simply fell by the wayside. But one listen to this great collection will have you wondering why some of these songs didn't do as well as they should have in the charts.
With many collections of soul/r&b on the market it would be a shame if this fine set got lost in the marketplace. Besides being a history of early Motown music, this collection is filled with good/great sides of hard soul that soon disappeared from Motown for a more manicured sound. This is the music that helped build Motown in the early days--that and it's just good sounding music. I have to say it again--fans of early hard soul/r&b from Motown--miss this at your own peril.