Most helpful critical review
43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on 7 June 2004
A 2CD retrospective of mostly singles, some in album-length versions, and for once nearly always in stereo. The mono tracks, from 1964-1969, are Ain't Too Proud To Beg, You're My Everything, The Way You Do The Things You Do, Since I Lost My Baby, Run Away Child, Running Wild (single version) and Please Return Your Love To Me, and as usual there is no indication of this for the prospective purchaser. This is especially frustrating since stereo versions of all of these have been available and most have turned up before in stereo on budget compilations.
The collection is drawn exclusively from Motown's Gordy-label recordings (they also made 2 albums for Atlantic in 1977-1978) and begins in 1964, after they had spent two struggling years on the label, with Eddie Kendricks mostly singing lead and Smokey Robinson writing and producing some of his best material. It might have been interesting to have heard something from their earlier work, unfamiliar to me, but perhaps it wasn't considered the Temptations at their very best.
After David Ruffin joined the group in 1963 he gradually began to take over the lead vocal duties, with hits such as the magnificent My Girl and I Wish It Would Rain, though Eddie Kendricks continued occasionally to front songs such as the beautiful Just My Imagination in 1971. David Ruffin too was supplanted, as he became more difficult to work with, by Dennis Edwards from the Contours, who led most of the Norman Whitfield-produced records of the turn of the decade, culminating in the masterpiece Papa Was A Rollin' Stone in 1972.
Disc 1 is drawn from this period with one exception, and includes three 1968 collaborations with Diana Ross and the Supremes, but there are altogether 11 tracks from between 1975 and 2000, including the funky and rather good Shakey Ground from 1975, showing how hard it is to continually renew the spark that seemed to come so easily at other times, with shifting line ups and producers not helping.
A song like Don't Look Back, a 1965 B-side later covered by Peter Tosh and Mick Jagger, is infinitely superior to a later A-side such as the ghastly discofied, synthesizer-led, Rick James-produced Standing On The Top from 1982.
Stay, taken from the 1998 album Phoenix Rising, actually samples the bass-line and guitar riff from the original My Girl, but is a mediocre song. The removal of most of these latter day efforts would have left a stronger single CD or, if replaced with material from their glory days, a far better double, as they clearly do not on the whole represent them at their best.
Two of their lead singers, David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks, plus the tenor Paul Williams and Melvyn Douglas, their trademark bass and occasional lead vocalist, have all sadly passed on and by 1995 only tenor harmony singer Otis Williams was left from the original and early line ups of Motown's must successful group.
Mastering is pretty good with the exception of the most recent track, I'm Here, which has buzzy background distortion - ironically it comes from an album called Ear-Resistible - and My Girl is (unforgivably) slightly truncated. All in all, a curate's egg