The series of 2 Classic Albums 1CD has brought back into catalogue a lot of lost Motown gems, usually in state of the art mastering and at a reasonable price, and is to be applauded for that. In some cases, it falls short of the ideal, and this is the most striking example I have encountered thus far. To start with, there is the choice of pairing. Live At The Copa was the group's eighth album, from December 1968, and their second live album. With A Lot O' Soul preceded it by three album in August 1967. In between came The Temptations Wish It Would Rain and In A Mellow Mood, both of which share another pairing in the series. Go figure.
More crucially, both albums are incomplete. Two key songs are common to both original albums, (I Know) I'm Losing You and You're My Everything, both major hits for the group. (I Know) I'm Losing You is dropped from the end of Live At The Copa, as the applause from the preceding title is hastily and peremptorily faded. Apart from destroying the flow of the original conception of the album, it makes that track unavailable on CD.
Secondly, the studio version of You're My Everything is criminally absent from With A Lot O' Soul. Although this track is available on a number of compilations, its censorship from its rightful original album placing is unforgivable. No reference is made to these cuts, although both titles are shown in the replica sleeves from the original albums as reproduced inside the booklet. As the CD has a playing time of 72:15, both could have been included.
Live At The Copa marked one of the first concert appearances of Dennis Edwards in place of David Ruffin, and took place at the Copacabana in New York at an unspecified date in 1968 (some further details would have been welcomed), and shows how quickly and successfully he integrated into the group. The set mixed familiar Motown material with Broadway standards popular with the sophisticates of the day, an audience being wooed by Berry Gordy, mostly taken from their In A Mellow Mood album. The recording is jinxed with technical shortcomings, mostly frequent microphone clickings and a badly distorting overload during I Wish It Would Rain, though there are also some very clumsy edits between songs, notably after The Impossible Dream. Whether the latter were on the original album, and so are excusable on grounds of historical accuracy, or are further examples of butchering by the re-issue compilers is unclear.
The Temptations With A Lot O' Soul is a classic Temptations album on many levels - the line-up, the producers and arrangers, the songs - and regarded as among their best of their "old style" releases. Although most of it was produced by Norman Whitfield, there are three Smokey Robinson productions of his own songs (recorded over the summer of 1966), including a cover of Marvin Gaye's Now That You've Won Me; one produced by Frank Wilson; one by Ivy Jo Hunter; and unusually one from the Holland/Dozier/Holland team, Just One Last Look. This is very much in the style of the Four Tops, who did also record an unreleased version in 1967. Two of the others are in arrangements reminiscent of the Four Tops, the single (Loneliness Made Me Realise) It's You That I Need (originally a single for Eddie Holland in 1963) and Sorry Is A Sorry Word, an Eddie Holland/Ivy Jo song consigned to the B-side of All I Need. The mastering of the studio album is very good, although All I Need does lose a few seconds from the original album version.
The range of the band is shown to excellent advantage and though David Ruffin is quite deservedly the most prominent lead vocalist, Paul William is given No More Water In The Well, Otis Williams leads Don't Me Send me Away (both Smokey songs), while Eddie Kendricks sings both Save My Love For A Rainy Day and Two Sides To Love. David and Eddie shared the spotlight on You're My Everything, had it been included.
I hope Motown continue to activate the catalogue with these priceless re-issues, but learn from the rather botched job they made of this important release, and perhaps prepare a corrected version.