1966 may have been Motown's greatest year: 75% of its singles charted, with 22 in the Top Ten and three Number Ones. The familiar roster of the Temptations, Four Tops, Martha Reeves and Vandellas, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Smokey Robinson are all here, along with gems by the Spinners, Contours, Monitors, and Elgins. There's an appearance by the short-lived Mynah Birds, featuring then-unknowns Neil Young and Rick James. Their single, It's My Time and Go On And Cry, catalog number V.I.P. 25033, was withdrawn shortly prior to its release due to to the fact that their manager took their advance, and when the band complained, he turned in Rick James for being AWOL from the Navy. This is the first time that these rare singles have seen the light of day, and it's a sure bet that Neil Young fans will want to add this to their collection.
The sixth volume in Hip-O-Select's massive 12-box set of complete Motown singles, the 125 tracks are arranged in chronological order by A-side and B-side. Like the other Complete Motown Singles, the box features an actual reproduction 45 RPM single of that year's smash single, the Four Tops' Reach Out I'll Be There b/w Until You Love Someone. The Holy Trinity of Holland-Dozier-Holland (Heaven Must Have Sent You: The Holland/Dozier/Holland Story), house band the Funk Brothers(Standing In The Shadows of Motown, Standing in the Shadows of Motown: Deluxe Edition), and the woefully-underappreciated backup singers the Andantes (Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow, and Louvain Demps) add the signature Motown sound to every track.
1966 saw Jr. Walker, who burst onto the scene with Shotgun in 1965, trying to reprise his success with Roadrunner and Shoot Your Shot (he also covers Barrett Strong's first smash hit Money (That's What I Want). The Supremes struck gold with You Keep Me Hanging On and You Can't Hurry Love. Martha and the Vandellas hit back with the captivating I'm Ready for Love, and the Elgins served up the beautiful doo-wop-infused ballad Heaven Must Have Sent You (no relation to Heaven Must Have Sent You From Above). Marvin Gaye rocks the soulful It Takes Two with Kim Weston and Little Darlin', skillfully aided by the aforementioned Andantes. The Monitors turned out an amazing cover of the Valadiers' 1961 Greetings (This is Uncle Sam), a song which took on profound new poignancy in 1966 as thousands of young men would soon enter boot camp in preparation for Vietnam. The Isley Brothers, long relegated to cover tunes and what they accused were "leftovers" by Smokey Robinson and Holland-Dozier-Holland, had the chance to shine with This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You), a smash hit they later reprised with Rod Stewart in 1989 (The Definitive Rod Stewart (2 CD)). The Four Tops mesmerize on Reach Out (I'll Be There) and Standing in the Shadows of Love, while the Temptations steal the show with Get Ready, Ain't Too Proud To Beg (backed by the incredible B-side You'll Lose a Precious Love). Kim Weston turns out a powerhouse performance on Helpless, with possibly the greatest Holland-Dozier-Holland line ever: "my heart feels much abusion" (yes, it's actually a word, but they seriously lucked out in finding a rhyme for "confusion" and "solution").
The book contains 112 pages of track-by-track liner notes by Stu Hackel, Bill Dahl, Keith Hughes, and Harry Weinger. There are also rare photos sure to please the most rabid of Motown fans. Like the other Hip-O-Select Complete Motown Singles box sets, this is a limited edition limited to 6,000 copies, and is sold out at many retailers; you can find a copy, it's a surefire investment. This truly may be the greatest year in the label's history; after 1966, Holland-Dozier-Holland and several artists such as the Isley Brothers and Kim Weston departed the Motown label (and Martha and the Vandellas never scored a Top Ten single after 1967). This is Motown in its prime, and a worthy tribute to the talent and promise that Detroit held forty years ago.