Posts Tagged ‘Motown’

The Flirtations

Sunday, July 5th, 2015

Listen: Nothing But A Heartache / The Flirtations
Nothing

This is simply the greatest Motown single that was never on Motown. Even though the UK Deram label really didn’t specialize in releases for the soul or RnB market, ‘Nothing But A Heartache’ suddenly appeared in mid ’68. Re-released a few months later, with a different B side, the record started to get play in the US, eventually peaking on the Billboard charts at #34. It was overseen by Wayne Bickerton, who had produced the lavish, for it’s day, album by UK band, World Of Oz. Their single, ‘The Muffin Man’, was almost a hit, garnering pretty solid airplay in a lot of US markets during summer ’68, for about two weeks. Literally, every local chart I’ve ever seen it on was for a two week run. I guess the checks didn’t clear and onto the payola victim scrap heap that fantastic single went.

Years later, this Flirtations track became a Northern Soul success. Northern Soul records, in simple terms, are non hit, copy versions of the Tamla/Motown sound. Many were still being recorded into the early ’70′s, after that original era had long past. The clubs in the North of England were insatiable for anything resembling it and hence the tag Northern Soul.

Proof of the song’s validity comes in the fact that, despite being a UK act and UK made record, like most of the Motown singles from the 60′s, ‘Nothing But A Heartache’ was only a hit in America.

Little Stevie Wonder

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

I CALL IT PRETTY MUSIC…BUT THE OLD PEOPLE CALL IT THE BLUES / Little Stevie Wonder:

Side 1:

Listen: I Call It Pretty Music But The Old People Call It The Blues (Part 1) /Little Stevie Wonder
I

Listen: I Call It Pretty Music But The Old People Call It The Blues (Part 2) /Little Stevie Wonder
I

Side 2:

Listen: Workout Stevie Workout / Little Stevie Wonder
Workout

Listen: Monkey Talk / Little Stevie Wonder
Monkey

When it comes to hitting puberty and it’s accompanying voice change for males, I often wish Little Stevie Wonder had never grown up to be Stevie Wonder. Michael Jackson’s keepers allegedly had the good sense to castrate the fellow in order to avoid losing that money printing vocal ability.

So when speaking of voice alone, I prefer the early days as exemplified on this EP, hand’s down.

Although ‘I Call It Pretty Music But The Old People Call It The Blues’ may be one of the best song titles ever, it pales as rather standard early Motown next to ‘Workout Stevie Workout’ and ‘Monkey Talk’.

Now these two songs have the imaginary ability to transport me outside the window ledge at 2648 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, looking in. The songs are like a soul steam bath, possibly amongst the greatest examples of the assembly line sweat shop known to produce the Motown sound and all their wonderfully tambourine heavy swinging singles.

And then, there’s Little Stevie Wonder toiling away his publishing and performances in the middle of it all. Nowadays that might be considered a child labor offense. I never did follow the blow by blows of the label’s financial abuse accusations towards their artists, but he has stayed with the company for his entire career, so go figure.

It’s not hard to see why all those English soul nuts clamored over this initial UK EP release, with it’s aforementioned musical content and period piece primitive artwork.

The Contours

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Side 1:

Listen: Can You Jerk Like Me / The Contours
Can

Listen: That Day When She Needed Me / The Contours
That

Side 2:

Listen: Can You Do It / The Contours
Can

Listen: I’ll Stand By You / The Contours
ContoursIllStand.mp3

Looking back, The Contours probably released more dance instruction songs than anybody, with a possible exception being Chubby Checker. ‘Can You Jerk Like Me’ was one of their earliest.

They were never an act to achieve much more than lower chart success in the US, and excepting the reissue of ‘Just A Little Misunderstanding’, none in the UK. They mirror The Marvelettes in Motown’s history books. That being, there was always some other act getting the best songs from their in-house writing machines, and ultimately the push at radio.

And like The Marvelettes, for my two cents, that became a benefit. Not to take away from The Four Tops or The Temptations, clearly on the A list then, but the quick in/quick out studio policy meant The Contours’ records remained unpolished and messier in the best way.

So in Berry Gordy’s world, if The Marvelettes were to The Supremes as The Rolling Stones were to The Beatles, let’s take it a rung lower in the case of The Contours. They were to The Temptations what The Pretty Things were to The Beatles.

Hence I covet every single they ever recorded. And heavens knows, no price is too high for their only EP.

The Marvelettes

Friday, December 6th, 2013

THE MARVELETTES / The Marvelettes:

Side 1:

Listen: Too Many Fish In The Sea / The Marvelettes
Too

Listen: He’s A Good Guy (Yes He Is) / The Marvelettes
MarvelettesGoodGuy.mp3

Side 2:

Listen: You’re My Remedy / The Marvelettes
MarvelettesRemedy.mp3

Listen: Little Girl Blue / The Marvelettes
Little

If you believe all the accusations contained in the handful of detailed Motown history books on the market, The Marvelettes got the second tier of important songs coming off the in-house songwriting assembly line. The cream of the most obviously commercial works went to The Supremes. It had been deemed early on that they were the label’s female superstars, and so The Marvelettes had fewer home run hits, but in the end, came off more intellectual. One might even slot them in as Motown’s biggest cult group.

Mind you, The Supremes were great, I loved them. The world loved them. But The Marvelettes, they had the darker slant, minor key at times, thereby giving them edge, even a touch of danger.

Their patch of Smokey Robinson written and produced ’66 to ’68 singles rate amongst Motown’s highest calibre. ‘The Hunter Gets Captured By THe Game’ and ‘My Baby Must Be A Magician’ to name a few.

But this EP, with earlier songs from ’63 – ’64 and their accompanying Motown bounce, mark a time when all things were a bit more juvenile and created a bit more equal, and the first division songs went around to all.

In the end, my two cents maintains The Marvelettes were to The Supremes what The Rolling Stones were to The Beatles. And I just love that.

Yvonne Fair

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

It Should Have Been Me / Yvonne Fair

Listen: It Should Have Been Me / Yvonne Fair YvonneFairShould.mp3

Taking a page right out of the Millie Jackson handbook, Yvonne Fair ripped into Norman Whitfield’s written and produced ‘It Should Have Been Me’. Taken from the equally powerful THE BITCH IS BLACK album, how the fuck this wasn’t a hit in America is just bewildering.

Scaling to #5 in the UK, it went unheard back home and it wasn’t like she was an unknown here. Cutting her teeth as a member of The Chantels and then The James Brown Review, she joined Motown in the early 70′s. Now this song certainly deserved a serious video, still does.

Eddie Holland / The Birds

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Listen: Leaving Here / Eddie Holland
Leaving

Bizarre thing this. ‘Leaving Here’ has to be the only song from the entire Motown machine’s output with literally a chorus so weak, you might even declare it has no chorus at all.

Despite seeming like a poor man’s ‘Fingertips’, I always loved the momentum and, I guess you could say, groove of this version, but was never ever able to sing it around the house.

Listen: Leaving Here / The Birds
Leaving

Along come The Birds, and as part of the British beat boom’s stampede to cover American Motown and soul records, wisely chose to tackle ‘Leaving Here’.

In the process, the band actually write a strong chorus, something that was never needed before, certainly not at Motown, and has probably never happened since. And they don’t even try claiming part of the publishing, which they would have deserved. Chalk it up to the innocence of youth, a weak manager or both I suppose.

Vicki Wickham / Earl Van Dyke & The Soul Brothers

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Listen: The Flick (Part I) / Earl Van Dyke & The Soul Brothers
The

Listen: The Flick (Part II) / Earl Van Dyke & The Soul Brothers
The

Of Earl Van Dyke & The Soul Brothers’ six Soul/Motown single releases, ‘The Flick’ is one of the lesser known.

Sounding very much like the casual late night jam at 2648 West Grand Boulevard that it probably was, Motown’s house band, as they were, or The Funk Brothers, as they became known, got to record some instrumentals under the name Earl Van Dyke & The Soul Brothers. These guys really didn’t like the commercial records they were required to make by day, preferring jazz instead. So not surprisingly, these dabbles sound not unlike the Jimmy Smith and Jimmy McGriff soul jazz releases from the period, and make for great jukebox ambience.

Let me tell you, there’s nothing like a late Sunday afternoon spent digging through a few hundred Motown promos. Happened yesterday, so I can attest.

This all started at the Brooklyn Bowl 60′s Music & Memorabilia Show. One dealer displayed a Motown white label, and it set me off. To be honest, I’d been waiting a few years to start filing these, Vicki Wickham’s Motown singles, into my wall shelves. It suddenly felt like that moment had arrived.

Yes, Saint Vicki. This woman has performed many miracles in my world. As if giving me her record collection several years back wasn’t miracle enough, she out of the blue rang a few days before Thanksgiving 2010, announcing another multi-box discovery in storage. About a thousand singles from her READY STEADY GO days, completely forgotten about for decades.

“Might you want them?”

I nearly had to make the trip over to hers in an ambulance.

There they were, several white boxes, all stacked, labelled and waiting for me to collect. Plus perfectly separated out, a Vicki VIP section: two boxes of Oriole/Stateside/Tamla/Motown. All organized chronologically by label, then catalog number.

Now I have tripped out on these many times, even let a few friends have a look through, well Phil and Eric, and that’s about it. Duane wasn’t interested.

Yesterday began the process of folding these into the master collection. Playing many and nearly blacking out a few times.

No drug has ever gotten me this high. Not ever. Not any.

LaBrenda Ben & The Beljeans

Monday, August 13th, 2012

Listen: The Chaperone / LaBrenda Ben & The Beljeans
The

LaBrenda Ben was an early Motown signing, releasing ‘Camel Walk’ b/w ‘The Chaperone’ in December ’62. By the end of ’63 though, with just two Gordy singles on the market, she and her group were dropped, thereby also becoming an early roster casualty. Too bad. Sure sounds like she could sing to me, even have succeeded with some Holland-Dozier-Holland or Smokey Robinson songs.

Years later, this B side gained some traction in Northern Soul clubs. The label eventually repressed ‘The Chaperone’ as an A side, this time on Motown (M 1033) as opposed to the original Gordy (G 7009). In keeping with Northern Soul’s formula of non hit Motown sounding knock-offs though, ‘The Chaperone’ more than fits the bill. Just shy of a real chorus, the metallic thumps and all the right jingle jangles were almost enough to cover for lack of one. Records like this came off the label’s conveyer belt as often as cars did down the street. All in all, ‘The Chaperone’ might have worked if only it had gotten some airplay as opposed to being relegated to the flip.

Listen: I Can’t Help It, I Gotta Dance / LaBrenda Ben
I

Cursed with a seemingly misspelled stage name, LaBrenda’s back up singers’ moniker, The Beljeans, probably didn’t help.

Looks as though that opinion wasn’t mine alone, given they were nowhere in sight on the label copy for their followup and swan song.

No idea who was making the decisions around Motown then, but legend has it Berry Gordy was a major control freak, and he clearly knew a hit. So how did ‘I Can’t Help It, I Gotta Dance’ end up as a B side? I thought lightning never struck twice.

Not only, as with ‘The Chaperone’, was ‘I Can’t Help It, I Gotta Dance’ the noticeably stronger track, the song was about The Contours. And they were on the label for God’s sake.

The Devastating Affair

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Listen: You Don’t Know (How Hard It Is To Make It) / The Devastating Affair
You

Probably Motown had nearly the most instrumental singles, non-charting at that, out of any other major label during the early/mid 70′s. I just seem to stumble on so many, like unfinished songs issued for…..not sure why.

Possibly CTI would run neck in neck with Motown actually. Deodato got the trophy for mainstream, worldwide success there via his disco/jazz take on ‘”Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)’. Every last one of these songs a perfect soundtrack to grainy, low budget, drug cartel films shot in Harlem.

Despite being issued a few years past MFSB’s similar ‘TSOP’, it’s the flanged phasing that polishes off ‘You Don’t Know (How Hard It Is To Make It)’ perfectly, thereby making a brief return after the studio effect helped both The Status Quo’s ‘Pictures Of Matchstick Men’ and The Small Faces’ ‘Itchycoo Park’ become US Top 20′s during the height of psychedelia.

Rick James

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Listen: Love Gun (Edit) / Rick James
Love

Rick James may as well been a Parliament/Funkadelic alumni in my world. He had the glitzy clothes and all the horn jabs required, even if they were played a little too manically. In fact, his overtly obvious psychedelicness goes way back to bandmates during the late 60′s, including guys from Kaleidoscope , Steppenwolf, The Yellow Payges, T.I.M.E. and The Buffalo Springfield.

There was a time when ‘Love Gun’, being a strictly RnB mid-chart single (late ’79), had no place on my college radio shows, made very clear via the frostbite those other student disc jockeys who populated the stations lobby/lounge, and airwaves, sent my way. Most of them were dabbling in reggae or fumbling through the occasional jazz track, but never funk or anything really hardcore RnB. Seems it all rang very disco to those guys, which is fair enough upon a revisit of the track last night. But to get your back up over Rick James, sorry, I could never understand the unified intolerance.

The only problem I saw with spinning ‘Love Gun’ was trying to find a follow-up in the set. The Ohio Players ‘Love Rollercoaster’ worked, but only dug me deeper down the now what path. Usually rounding off the hour with it, then into the news worked best, almost like a cold shower. That way I could crank it again through the control room monitors while the news room did their five minute drill.

The Sandpebbles

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Listen: Love Power / The Sandpebbles
Love

Clocking in at just over two minutes, ‘Love Power’, like The Flirtations ‘Nothing But A Heartache’, could qualify as one of the greatest Motown tracks never to be issued by Motown.

Instead, the independently owned soul label, Calla Records out of New York, distributed by Roulette, released ‘Love Power’ in late ’66, and by the end of winter ’67, it was both an RnB and Pop hit (#14 / #22).

Nate McCalla was the guy, keeping his company active from ’65 to ’77 . Originally being both a bodyguard for and associate of Morris Levy, Roulette Records legendary owner, connects the dots to the label’s distribution setup and supposedly Nate’s execution style demise in ’80.

Calla Records was a rather unsung entity, and Nate McCalla certainly seemed to have an ear. In addition to The Sandpebbles, his roster included J.J. Jackson, Little Jerry Williams (aka Swamp Dogg), Jean Wells, The Emotions, The Fuzz, Lonnie Youngblood, The Persuaders and Betty LaVette. Not shabby.

‘Love Power’ was one of many greats written, and in this case produced, by Teddy Vann. Revived years later by Luther Vandross and made into an even bigger hit meant Teddy finally achieved a long awaited Grammy for such a powerful track.

The Sandpebbles may be little known. Still, lead vocalist Calvin White along with his two musical partners Andrea Bolden and Lonzine Wright, can always put claim to their performance on ‘Love Power’, one of soul’s best records ever.

I know, I sprang an entire week’s allowance for it, and my single still has the original price sticker to prove it.

Edwin Starr

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Listen: Ain’t It Hell Up In Harlem / Edwin Starr
EdwinStarrHellHarlem.mp3

Edwin Starr had some surprising US pop hits quite early on in his career curve. Surprising given they were precursors to Northern Soul, and usually those titles didn’t chart. That was the whole point. But ‘Agent Double-O-Soul’ (#21, ’65), ‘S.O.S. (Stop Her On Sight)’ (#48, ’66) and ’25 Miles’ (#6, ’69) all did well and even at the time, they had that magnetic something special.

By 1970, he switched up labels, leaving Ric Tic Records for Motown. Simultaneously trading in his soul stylings for the intense Vietnam protest diatribe ‘War’, he transformed a Temptations album track into a #1 chart story. But his US success was short lived.

Europe and the UK proved more loyal, and given the nature of his earlier hits, Edwin Starr relocated to England in ’73. Ironically, during ’74, he recorded a very American ‘Ain’t It Hell Up In Harlem’, main title of the HELL UP IN HARLEM film, itself an official sequel to BLACK CAESAR.

Despite a slightly cluttered arrangement, the track perfectly snapshots the sound of Blaxploitation, a near official genre, briefly prevalent at that time and very much synonymous with grainy, washed out color cinema.

Marie Knight

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Listen: Cry Me A River / Marie Knight
Cry Me A River / Marie Knight

Hey thanks Vicki Wickham, for keeping this one since the 60′s. Yes, it was part of her 45 collection that I was gifted by Saint Vicki herself last fall.

You know, I love you Vicki Wickham.

Let’s talk about Vicki Wickham. We first met in ’89, when she managed Phranc during her Island days. I remember exactly where we first shook hands: backstage at the Beacon Theater, in the the very stairway where Ahmet Ertegan took his last spill. Phranc had just hired her, and was at that time on tour with The Pogues.

I was actually meeting thee Vicki Wickham. The one that booked READY! STEADY! GO!, managed Dusty Springfield, co-wrote ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ with Simon Napier-Bell, produced Labelle. The one who not only booked the infamous Saville Theatre series, brought the Motown Review to England, worked at Track Records with The Who, Thunderclap Newman, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Marsha Hunt, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, John’s Children, and yes, The Cherry Smash; but also knew Scott Walker…and Brian Jones. I was nervous and in awe. Vicki Wickham was a higher form of life.

Fast forward. Nowadays, we meet often for lunch, on 9th Ave and 44th Street at Marseilles, possibly her favorite restaurant. She always orders the asparagus omelette and eats about half. I grill her for details: RSG, The BBC during the 60′s, Rediffusion Television, Top Of The Pops not to mention every band and everybody she ever encountered. Did she visit the Immediate Records office, Deram, Philips, Fontana. What was the Ready Steady Go canteen like, did she know Tony Hall, Steve Marriott, Inez Foxx, Joe Meek, Dozy. When did she last speak with Andrew Loog Oldham, P.P. Arnold or Madeline Bell…..we cover, discuss, judge and trash tons of people. Yes, we are guilty. Needless to say, there’s never a loss for topics.

On one such occasion last year, she mentions having just found boxes of 45′s in storage, and the only one she can remember seeing in the whole bunch was the Bessie Banks ‘Go Now’ UK A label pressing. Was I interested in the lot? That’s like asking Alago, Duane, Joe and I if we’d like a free bump in the VIP bathroom at The Ritz in the 80′s. Ahh, yeah.

Vicki, you ARE a saint, and a beloved friend.

And you turned me on to Marie Knight. Praise be.

The Miracles

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

MiraclesHoldUKA, Miracles, Smokey Robinson, Tamla, Motown, Oriole, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones

Listen: You Really Got A Hold On Me / The Miracles
You Really Got A Hold On Me / The Miracles

I do think The Beatles cover version on a very early US album turned me on to ‘You Really Got A Hold On Me’. Not one for The Beatles after about two minutes into The Rolling Stones ‘Not Fade Away’ in ’64, it must have been their second album at most. Long gone from my collection, I can’t verify. Never mind – it did the job.

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, as time would eventually refer to them, indeed made many great singles – it’s virtually impossible to pick a favorite. But this I remember as one of those first times in life. I still feel the exact same wonderment with every listen. It has never gone away and there are very few records I can say that about.

Ty Hunter

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Listen: Bad Loser / Ty Hunter TyHunterBadLoser.mp3

With Berry Gordy’s sister Gwen, Billy Davis started Anna Records in ’59, and later the Checkmate label in ’61. Both were distributed by Chess and one of their first Anna signings were The Voice Masters, whose various members took the lead vocal, depending on the track. Ty Hunter was one, as were David Ruffin and Lamont Dozier.

That web and family tree is all tangled but in a good way. Simultameously, Ty Hunter released singles for each imprint, and had moderate RnB success.

When Gordy/Davis eventually sold the masters of both imprints to Chess, Ty Hunter continued as a solo artist for that label, and released a handful of 7′s. None were hits, but years later became in demand. He’s seldom name checked in the history of RnB/Soul but the purists among us had been well aware for years.

The one Chess release of his that eluded me until now, ‘Bad Loser’, became a jaw dropping Sunday morning rummage sale find. ’tis that season again.

Listen: Something Like A Storm / Ty Hunter TyHunterSomethingLike.mp3

Like Hi, Motown, Stax etc, each company’s entire roster seems to have played, recorded, written and produced each other. Noticing Bo Diddley co-wrote this B side, I can’t help wondering, is that him on the bv’s, did he play on it, was he there?

After Ty Hunter’s run with Chess ended, he joined The Originals in ’71. Signed to Motown, and with Marvin Gaye producing some of their intital hits, they continued to have a decent run of US RnB chart entries. Ty Hunter finally got some deserved recognition – it only took fifteen years or so.

Jackie Ross

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

Listen: Selfish One / Jackie Ross JackieRossSelfishOne.mp3

Always thought, for the longest time, this was a Mary Wells or Tammi Terrell single. With it’s intentional Motown swing and sound, I vaguely recalled hearing it as a current. And despite it’s somewhat pricey Northern Soul status (a genre loosely defined as Motown soundalikes that flopped), it was actually a US #11 Billboard pop hit.

Forever, ‘Selfish One’ evaded me, until my trip a few weeks back to Detroit. I’d completely forgotten about it’s unfilled slot in my wall shelf.

Great thing about collecting records, there’s always something you need. And when you find it at 94ยข plus tax, that moment of warmth is unbeatable.

The Contours

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

The Contours / Just a Little

ContoursLittleUKA, The Contours, Tamla

Listen: Just a Little Misunderstanding / The Contours 06 Just A Little Misunderstanding.mp3

Most times the really successful acts are great, but after they’re pounded into your brain relentlessly, you can go off them a bit. The Beach Boys come to mind and their biggest hits at that. I love ‘California Girls’ but never need to hear it again. Likewise ‘Hey Jude’ or ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’.

So yeah, we all loved The Supremes and The Four Tops too, but those lesser known Motown acts were just as great. Some had the occasional smash, Like Mary Wells or The Marvelettes, yet some just never got near their fair share. Like The Contours.

It’s in hindsight I’ve come to appreciated them. Northern Soul has given a lot of great singles an unexpected success story, if not in big sales at least in big appreciation. ‘Just A Little Misunderstanding’ is one. I heard this on a few of those truly great Northern comps like THE IN CROWD – THE STORY OF NORTHERN SOUL and it’s accompanying must-read book.

Gladys Knight & The Pips

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Listen: Nitty Gritty / Gladys Knight & The Pips GladysNitty.mp3

What’s really proof of this record’s power: the most addicted to any other genre of music fan can’t resist instant curiosity when ‘The Nitty Gritty’ powers through a set of speakers. I had quite the time spinning singles at Brooklyn Bowl last Sunday with Lord Wardd, playing mostly 60′s – present, basically tomorrow’s sound today stuff – even the one’s from the 60′s and 70′s, when released, would have been considered that: The Small Faces, T. Rex, or X. So it’s really fun to watch a younger but musically informed crowd light up when some down and dirty funk or soul hits. Even better, a whole bunch of parents and their young kids, out bowling for a fun afternoon, suddenly doing an about face toward the DJ booth with that ‘Oh my God, I remember this’ look burned onto their face.

Gladys Knight could belt it out every time, when she was given the green light that is. Looking back on a few gems like ‘The Nitty Gritty’ need only one listen to show us why.

Some friends stuck with her from the Motown move to Buddah. Suddenly she was sounding a touch buffed around the edges for my tastes, but the pre ‘Midnight Train To Georgia’ era, all that Tamla/Norman Whitfield stuff, there’s no topping it.

Pat Lewis

Monday, March 29th, 2010

PatLewisCan'tShake, Pat Lewis, Solid Hit, Golden World, Northern Soul

Listen: Can’t Shake It Loose / Pat Lewis PatLewisShake.mp3

Using the title, ‘Can’t Shake It Loose’, to describe how you feel after the first few listens would be a little ‘done before’. This time there’s coincidentally no better way to say it that I can think of.

Turns out ‘Can’t Shake It Loose’ was Pat Lewis’ very first single as a solo artist. I stumbled on it at a record treasure trove that doubled as a junk store in Brooklyn. It led me to pick up anything I’d find by her through the years, every last one a monster Northern track. That process all began in the late 90′s.

I’ll tell you she was an early Motown backup singer and guess what, has a Facebook page with the most incredible bio. Do yourself a favor – go there. Everyone of you will find out you’ve got Pat Lewis’ voice all over your music collection.

Finding the singles is not an easy or cheap process, but well, well worth it.

Gladys Knight & The Pips

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

GladysEndRoad, Motown, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Soul, Norman Whitfield

Listen: The End Of Our Road / Gladys Knight & The Pips GladysEndRoad.mp3

Feeling victims, as were The Marvelettes and Mary Wells, of being tossed the leftovers, those songs passed on by Motown’s A level acts (The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations) according to legend, really pissed off Gladys Knight and her Pips (all family members as it turns out). Having moved from Vee Jay to Motown in ’65 with wider success in mind, they quickly found themselves relegated to subsidiary Soul, set up for the more RnB, less leaning pop acts. good call there. From ’66 – ’68, they recorded some of the label’s dirtiest and most raw sides. I’m sure to Berry Gordy’s surprise, ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ became the company’s biggest selling single at that point, leaping to #2 pop and bringing Gladys Knight’s signature rasp to the mainstream.

Even better was “The End Of Our Road’, it’s followup. Peaking at #15 on Billboard’s Hot 100, it was a mighty strong showing for such a picture perfect dirt and grime black single. Their performance, recording and mix are so aggressive, it’s impossible to not be dragged in. Played this a few nights ago at the Otis Clay show – it sounded mighty powerful through that big system, filled the room, every last head and foot surrendering.