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The First Queen Of Motown,
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This review is from: Something New: Motown Lost & Found (Audio CD)
Due to the the fact that she left Motown too soon, she became far too underrated and only remembered for one hit on the label, despite the vast amount of material she left behind there. She had a distinctive emotional and plaintive voice that was richer and more wide ranging that any of her Motown contemporaries such as Diana Ross from The Supremes, Martha Reeves and either Gladys Horton or Wanda Young of the Marvelettes. But unfortunately, just after the Motown label was starting to explode due to their new distinctive backing sound that the label had only just invented that caught on with the whole world known as the Motown sound, she very abruptly left the label, upset with her royalties, and the label ended up flourishing without her. By then she spent three and a half years on the label from late 1960 to early 1964, releasing four studio albums and a live album on the label plus a duet album with Marvin Gaye which was released just before she left the label but recorded about a year earlier apparently. Unfortunately, some of the material she was given to record at Motown didn't quite match her vocal talents, probably because the label was in its infancy then and had not yet developed any definite sound, as she was one of the first stars there, and Smokey Robinson was the only major songwriter there then, and the only one capable of providing her with suitable material then, and this was back at a time when he had a lot less experience at songwriting and producing. Yet he had already developed his songwriting magic and his phenomenal poetry and was immediately writing a string of US hits for her. Yet he had nothing else to conjure with, not even a distinctive backing sound from Motown as this was long before the label developed their distinctive sound, only his own skills. It wasn't until late 1963 that the label finally developed its own catchy sound. But because Mary left not long after, she did not benefit a lot from it, and only about a dozen of her last recordings there benefited from their new sound. The vast majority of her recordings there were from before then and had a more primitive sound, like all the other early Motown recordings from then, from the likes of The Marvelettes, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and Smokey Robinson's own group The Miracles and all their label mates at the time. This CD set contains every track she made for Motown that was not released while she was on the label. About half of these tracks are completely previously unreleased. The rest have appeared on previous compilations as previously unreleased tracks either by herself or otherwise, but have been duplicated here, many in stereo for the first time. Obviously there is no My Guy here. I have noticed that tracks here that have appeared elsewhere in stereo do not give as much stereo separation here. But I have also noticed that a lot of tracks last longer here before they fade at the end. Apart from a handful of weaker tracks, it is impossible to understand why these tracks were not released while she was on Motown. They have that same high quality smooth soulful sound with plenty of great songs with her usual emotional sound. Obviously there are plenty of Smokey Robinson compositions here, including one excellent smooth but uptempo soul ballad I Want You Around featuring Smokey on duet vocals. A few of the tracks feature a pre-hit Supremes on backing vocals. One track here, Everybody Needs Love features The Temptations on backing vocals. Eddie Kendrick's voice is noticeable in parts.This was recorded about a year before The Temptations recorded their own version for an album, but in a much different style. There is also a previously unissued alternate take of an old B-side of hers You Lost The Sweetest Boy under the title Your Loss My Gain. But my favorite solo track of hers here is the Spectoresque One Block From Heaven written by Motown's Holland[/Dozier/ Holland songwriting team and should have been released as a single. My other favorite track of hers was I'm Gonna Stay from her first album. But back to this 2CD set, the real gems are the first seven tracks on the second CD. These were duets with Marvin Gaye, all recorded in 1963, four of which are completely previously unreleased and newly found at the Motown vaults, and three which first appeared as previously unreleased tracks on a Marvin Gaye box set in the States but have been duplicated here, and in stereo for the first time, two of them also lasting longer here before they fade at the end. Marvin roughens his voice on these tracks contrasting Mary's silky smooth voice making himself sound as though he is creating the driving force here, and these were excellent slices of funky soul, some of them featuring sharp saxophone passages in the middle. These are my favorite tracks here. But despite the number of Smokey Robinson songs that each of them recorded solo, there is only one additional composition of his among their duets, the excellent upbeat In Case You Need Love which Smokey Robinson also recorded with his own group The Miracles, but in a much different style. The remainder of the second Cd is entirely her versions of standards, four of them featuring backing vocals by The Four Tops who had only recently signed to Motown but before they started having hits on the label. The quality is variable from track to track, some excellent, others not so good. twelve of these thirteen tracks were going to be released on on yet another album of hers for Motown, but were shelved as she then decided she was leaving Motown. This was just after she was about to expanded internationally with her biggest ever hit My Guy which turned out to be her last hit in the States as well as her first but only international hit. This was just as the Motown label itself was starting to erupt. It also turned out to be the last of her Smokey Robinson written string of US hits. Then she very foolishly left Motown, recorded for other labels, but never had another hit, leaving all her successful label mates behind there, and just after she did a British tour with The Beatles. It was as though she jumped from the train into the freezing cold, and the train rolled off and left her there, with everyone else at Motown still on board, even The Marvelettes. She then had to look elsewhere to get back into the warm, but there was nowhere else for her. But although these tracks were all recorded for Motown, a lot of it is an acquired taste. For those of you wanting a whole double CD with that classic Motown sound, don't expect too much here. But I would still give it four stars.