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VINE VOICEon 13 July 2007
The story of how a singer named Saundra Mallett, who had had one Tamla single out in 1962, and a vocal group in the Isley Brothers mould called the Downbeats, who recorded for the same label, joined forces to become a hit combo called the Elgins, is well documented and illustrated on this two-disc anthology, which draws together pretty much everything they recorded, both separately and together.

The Elgins' hit 1965 single Darling Baby provided the title track of their V.I.P. album of the following year, which also included the hits Heaven Must Have Sent You, Put Yourself In My Place and Stay In My Lonely Arms. The entire album, mixed in stereo, is included in full and comprises the first twelve tracks of disc one. Saundra shines on all the lead vocals on the album, apart from 634-5789 and When A Man Loves A Woman on which Johnny Dawson sings lead. It was mostly recorded in 1966, but It's Gonna Be Hard Times dates from 1962, and was the B-side of her solo single on which she was joined by the three Vandellas and Marvin Gaye on piano. Most of the album was produced by Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier, with several original Holland-Dozier-Holland songs from when they were on a huge roll, but one of my favourites is No Time For Tears, which Norman Whitfield produced. The Marvelettes did the great original version of this but that was buried on a B-side, and Saundra here makes it her own.

The original mono singles and their B-sides are also included separately, as well as those by Saundra Mallett and the Downbeats, but the revelation here once again is the quality of the wealth of previously unreleased material. The second disc includes fifteen tracks by the Downbeats, more than enough for a pretty good album, and all but three of these are appearing for the first time (one is a superior alternative mix of a 1962 single). A couple of these may never have been intended for release as they are fairly blatant carbon copies of existing songs: Party Time bears a strong similarity to Pony Time by Chubby Checker, and Let The Groove Roll On is a secular version of Mahalia Jackson's Let The Church Roll On via Chris Kenner's I Like It Like That. Both bring out the gospel fervour of the Downbeats, though, and sound terrific.

Yvonne Vernee Allen took over as lead singer in 1968 but nothing was released from her tenure with the Elgins, until now: there are four excellent examples of her work with the Elgins on disc one, produced by James Dean and William Weatherspoon, and reflecting the Motown sound of the time.

These Motown Anthologies are pure treasure trove and this opens another largely unknown chapter.
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on 2 July 2007
Motown fans will love this superlative collection.

It's interesting to note that, of the twelve album tracks we know so

well, two are NOT Holland & Dozier productions. I knew that Berry

Gordy himself had produced IT'S GONNA BE HARD TIMES but had no idea

that Norman Whitfield produced NO TIME FOR TEARS - a favourite track

of mine.

With the likes of Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and

Shorty Long composing the previously unreleased material, you don't

even have to hear them to know that the Elgins recorded some very

special songs.

Saundra Edwards has just confirmed my opinion that she was one of the

very best female vocalists Motown ever recorded. The wonderful

Clarence Paul produced three jazzy tracks, I STILL LOVE YOU, ALL FOR


really shines. She sings a song convincingly, so that you believe every word.

Dean & Weatherspoon's THAT'S THE NIGHT THE LOVE DIED, it says in the

notes, was destined for Jimmy Ruffin, and sounds a little like one of his

released tracks. I just

wish Dean & Weatherspoon had recorded more with the Elgins!

The Stevie Wonder song THANK YOU LOVE has long been one of my

favourites and Saundra makes it her own - absolutely wonderful!

It's great to hear more of Johnny Dawson's lead vocals. he's a fab

singer and he really shines on the cover versions of non-Motown songs

and is perfect on the two Shorty Long produced tracks. Both songs are

expertly handled and treated differently enough to Shorty's originals

to make them great recordings in their own right.

Loving Saundra so much, I've always kind of dreaded having to comment

on Yvonne's stint as lead singer with the Elgins. Of course, I get my

wish here, as Dean & Weatherspoon wrote and/or produced Yvonne's

three tracks. I can imagine these as Velvelettes songs - so it's

interesting to see that LOVE WHERE ARE YOU HIDING was intended for

that group. Well, two of Yvonne's songs are the ones that the

Northern Soul fraternity will be going ape over but, for me, Yvonne

shines best on the third track, the afore-mentioned LOVE WHERE ARE

YOU HIDING, but all three tracks are impressive and a welcome

addition to the Elgins Motown Anthology.

It's amazing to see that each of the Downbeats (Robert Fleming,

Johnny Dawson, Cleotha Miller and Tommy Salisbury) had a hand in

composing some of the material on the second disc of the Elgins

Motown Anthology. It sounds like at least two of the guys sang lead,

so this was a pretty talented and versatile group.

I love the early R&B flavoured Motown recordings and the Downbeats

come up trumps with some real gems. The swinging DON'T YOU KNOW I

LOVE YOU BABY sounds like a classic Marv Johnson type of song, and I

FEEL SO FINE is in the same vein. There are hints of the Contours and

Smokey's Miracles in some of the other recordings too. What a shame

that the rumoured Downbeats album never materialised, as the group

was that good, that it may have led to a long career for the guys.

THEY SAY YOU DON'T CARE is a step nearer the classic Motown sound and

is a polished affair. Of course the previously unleashed YOU SAY YOU


gigantic hits and the finger-snapping latter song ought to be a dance-

floor anthem by now.

The power of Saundra's early solo sides is remarkable. Her take on

Marvin Gaye & Mary Wells' ALL I GOT compares favourably with that

classic. It's the sheer gutsiness of her singing on BOO HOO (YOU GOT

ME CRYIN' OVER YOU) and FIRST TRY AT LOVE that must have ear-marked

her as a force of nature and a talent to be nurtured. I dread to

think how young she must have been then, for she sounds like a

seasoned soul singer. Incredible!

Having the 45 mono versions of the Elgins tracks is a most welcome

bonus and a perfect end to, perhaps, my favourtie Motown two-fer.

Seeing an abundance of Elgins photographs is a treat too. I

especially like the four photos taken at the same session, with

Saundra holding a microphone, and looking demure in her pink frock,

and the guys looking young and smart in matching suits.

Thanks to everyone involved in getting these excellent recordings out

to the fans.
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on 6 July 2007
If you've ever listened to that remarkable lead vocal on 'Heaven Must Have Sent You' and wondered who it was and where this group came from, then you simply must buy this fantastic Anthology.
Not only do you get the whole history of this wonderful group but you get to listen to the evolution of 'The Motown Sound'. Saundra Edwards was a young and powerful singer when signed to Motown but she only had one release: 'Camel Walk' which flopped. For the first time now you can listen to the other solo sides she cut at the time. The Downbeats were an all male group whose released 45 'Request Of A Fool' flopped, that's included here, together with other scheduled releases which never appeared. There are some tremendous sides here, all superb examples of that earlier, bluesy Motown sound and many with a great 'doo-wop' feel.
When Saundra joined the group to create The Elgins true Motown Magic was made with the release of 'Put Yourself In My Place' and 'Heaven Must Have Sent You', followed by an excellent album: 'Darling Baby'. If you liked what they released, wait until you hear what they didn't release! Some of the finest and varied Motown sounds of the mid sixties 'Golden Era'. Saundra was eventually replaced by Yvonne Vernee Allen who is still performing today. Included in the anthology are some stunning previously unreleased tracks with Yvonne on lead. There is something for everyone on this terrific release with it's huge variety of vocal styles and recordings from 1962 to 1968. A 2 CD set, with at least half the tracks never heard before, an informative booklet with rare photo's and all tracks fully annotated with recording dates and production credits, means this is a 'must buy' for all true Motown fans.
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on 3 July 2007
A neat little collection from The Elgins,many tracks capturing a 'live' quality, and therefore less processed sound than some of the other great Motown releases from the same era. The group is clearly having fun both with Motown original songs,or with covers of other 60's hits.The versatility of The Elgins is shown to great effect, with both female and male vocalists featured, with performances ranging from doo-wop, pop, soul and rhythm & blues. Unpretentious and effective Motown sound at its best.
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on 3 August 2007
These days we are getting more tracks released from the Motown vaults, albeit on an irregular basis. This is a Fantastic Collection, capitals intended, from a defniite "second tier" group from the Motown roster. Lots of vault material, solos from Saundra Mallett and the Downbeats - the forerunners to the Elgins, and the hits. What more could we ask for - except more like this. If I could give it 6 stars, I would.
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Soul in the late 60's/early 70's seems to have been divided into several camps, Motown (Supremes, Stevie Wonder et al), Atlantic (Ray Charles, Wilson Picket, etc.) and Stax (Sam and Dave, Otis Redding and so on), and form what I've heard of the music, there seemed to be very little crossover. This group is the forst real exception I've come across. As well as the traditionally Motown material, the Elgins covered quite a few Atlantic soul (634 5789, Midnight Hour for example) and stamped the Motown sound all over them, making them as memorable as the originals. The original material is just as memorable. Worth buying for any fan of soul music.
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on 3 February 2009
If you are a typical Motown fan you will have only heard a couple of tracks by the Elgins, but you will have thought that those songs were great on a compilation album. I have many many Motown CDs but to my surprise this is the best of them all. They even successfully take on the Atlantic sound with great results. I'm just surprised that they were never bigger. After this CD they are mega in my mind. If any of them are still around I salute you !
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on 2 July 2007
I have lived with this cd for a few weeks now and my enthusiasm for both the Elgins' hit records and the marvellous tracks from the vaults knows no bounds.

We have early Motown tracks from the forerunners of the Elgins, the Downbeats, which were recorded in the almost doo wop sound so familiar to the first couple of years of Motown's life. These are followed by Saundra Mallet's lovely efforts with a couple of songs backed by the Vandellas, Annette and Rosalind, but then all of these are superceded by the hit singles that so typify the emergent Motown sound.

The songs that have finally been released from the vaults are little gems and I can't see anyone being let down by them.

I love Saundra's voice and Yvonne, her replacement as the lead singer of the Elgins, certainly knows how to pack a punch

I think that the Elgins' "Heaven Must Have Sent You" is the epitome of the Motown sound.

Treat yourself to these cds and enjoy yet more of the Motown sound that is so well loved over here in the UK.
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on 15 February 2013
The Motown Anthology by The Elgins has some great Motown hits on it. Some hits are well-known, others not well-known but they all sound great. This set contains 2 CDs and there is another group included in the set (The Downbeats) and they sound great, too. A great album for all Motown, Northern Soul fans. I recommend it.
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on 5 December 2013
Other than the classics Put Yourself ....... and Heaven Must, I had not heard much more by the Elgins however, I am so pleased I took note of the good comments and purchased this. Classic motown and the Elgins take on some classic soul standards. Well worth the money and I certainly would recommend.
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