Posts Tagged ‘The Supremes’

The Contours

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Side 1:

Listen: Can You Jerk Like Me / The Contours

Listen: That Day When She Needed Me / The Contours

Side 2:

Listen: Can You Do It / The Contours

Listen: I’ll Stand By You / The Contours

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

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

Side 2:

Listen: You’re My Remedy / The Marvelettes

Listen: Little Girl Blue / The Marvelettes

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.

Jason Crest

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Listen: Turquoise Tandem Cycle / Jason Crest

The most hardcore psychedelic music prioritized itself just as it read: psychedelic first, music second. I loved the insanity of it as much as the next guy, it’s power to baffle the unsuspecting listener was hard to top. Unfortunately, struggling through a whole side of what LSD supposedly sounded like on a compilation, or worse yet an entire cd, always got tedious around these parts.

A 7″ single, freestanding, that was another story. I like to think I was well adept in the style, with The Smoke ‘My Friend Jack’ or The Pretty Things ‘Defecting Grey’ being favorites when current. Compared to the average American teenager, my friends and I were definitely hardcore. But to the true psychedelic addicts, we were lightweight I’m sure. Given the choices were everywhere for a summer or two made stumbling on the obscure not very difficult, especially when, in my case, a cousin in London was happily exchanging UK psychedelic singles for US soul hits.

If I’d read about something, or just saw a trade ad in DISC & MUSIC ECHO or MELODY MAKER, on to my list it would go. And weeks later, for the simple task of mailing off something like The Supremes ‘Reflections’ or Gladys Knight & The Pips ‘The End Of Our Road’, The Accent ‘Red Sky At Night’ or Jason Crest ‘Turquoise Tandem Cycle’ would turn up in my parents postbox. Good deal.

‘Turquoise Tandem Cycle’ certainly could double as a blueprint for sweet shoppe lyrics meets kitchen sink production, all carefully assembled for the psychedelic cause. Add in a large dose of no fun, and ptoff, we have a masterpiece. I’ve seen this record called just that on a few occasions. I don’t necessarily disagree as long as were clear of what kind of a masterpiece.

Having played it many, many times during those long, late summer vacation nights, it will always touch a soft spot. It’s admittedly silly compared to The Pink Floyd ‘See Emily Play’, but so is Napoleon XIV ‘They’re Coming To Take Me Away’ and anyone who snubs that is a moron.

H. B. Barnum

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Listen: Heartbreaker / H. B. Barnum

Let’s not forget what seemingly mediocre productions of non charting, weak Motown copy songs from the late 60′s and early 70′s became. They became a genre to themselves: Northern Soul.

Everyone loves the greatest songs ever written. Some people love the dodgy followups and non hits just as much. To be exact, that would be me, and in this particular situation, followers of Northern Soul.

Give a few of these songs two or three listens and you won’t believe what can happen. All those supposedly calculated, devoid of original idea tracks get under your skin in the most addictive way.

Scour the label for writer, arranger or producer credits, plus certain publishers and/or production companies, and you’ll start to find several reoccurring names, some whose careers blossomed later; or critically acclaimed folks that you want to like, but just never really got round to.

For some, the producer of ‘Heartbreaker’, David Axelrod, fits that bill. One of the house production guys at Capitol during the period, you’ll notice him often on label credits. Pay closer attention and a whole new world of untapped records will be come into your life and onto your want list.

Likewise H. B. Barnum, but more so as an arranger, back when songs needed arranging I guess: The Supremes, Little Richard and, in a most hands on capacity, Lou Rawls.

A few of H. B. Barnum’s many non hits spilled over to Northern Soul, like ‘Heartbreaker’, re-released in ’76 as a result of the UK’s insatiable taste for flops from America.

Darrell Banks

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

DarrellBanksOpenDoorUS,  Darrell Banks, Stateside, Revilot, Northern Soul

DarrellBanksOpenUKA, Darrell Banks, Stateside, Revilot, Northern Soul

Listen: Open The Door To Your Heart / Darrell Banks
Open The Door To Your Heart / Darrell Banks

All the Northern Soul hits from this period, around ’66, sound like baby versions of The Supremes ‘Nothing But Heartaches’. Not that there’s a problem with that idea, you couldn’t find a better parent. Must be that xylophone bit, gives it a signature sound every time.

It’s easy to fall in love with the era as relived through the obscure club music of it’s day. Every time you hear a classic that should’ve been, you want more, a great example of why Northern is so addicting. This one’s of particularly good value for the money, given the record’s a true double sider.

DarrellBanksOurLoveUS, Darrell Banks, Stateside, Revilot, Northern Soul

DarrellBanksPocketUKB, Darrell Banks, Stateside, Revilot, Northern Soul

Listen: Our Love (Is In The Pocket) / Darrell Banks
Our Love (Is In The Pocket) / Darrell Banks

This was actually the original US A side. I first knew ‘Our Love (Is In The Pocket)’ as one of the best tracks from ROUND by The Amen Corner, who were England’s version of Wayne Cochran and The C.C. Riders I guess one could proclaim. Their version indeed did go out as a single in Holland. But little did I know at the time, Darrell Banks had slam dunked this right here at home, in fact, just a town or two away, in Buffalo.

Barbara Randolph

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Barbara Randolf / I Got A Feeling

Listen: I Got A Feeling / Barbara Randolph BarbaraFeeling.mp3

Back in the 70′s, when Howard was still in London, we had a pretty intense record exchange thing going on. This started in the early punk days of ’76. Great records were literally coming out weekly. We’d keep each other up on the latest from the UK and US respectively. Pretty quickly, we were exchanging more than punk though.

This Barbara Randolph record was one such example. Undeservedly, a non hit when originally released by US Motown in ’67, ‘I Got A Feeling’ eventually received exposure in the 70′s via the UK Northern Soul clubs and was reissued a few times as a result. One such time, in ’79, Howard thankfully sent a copy my way. I’d not heard it until then.

On Saturday night night, Vicki Wickham contributed her original A label (above) to my wall shelf. More on her singles to come.

Barbara Randolph was actually a member of The Platters and almost replaced Florence Ballard in The Supremes but word is Diana Ross nixed that. Probably a blessing. Maybe someone from the studio heard her audition and the result was this classic.

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.

The Supremes

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

supremesbabyloveps, Supremes, Motown
Above: Front Cover, Below Back Cover
supremesbabypsb, Supremes, Motown

Listen: Baby Love / The Supremes SupremesBaby.mp3

How many consecutive hits did they have once their amazing chart run began with ‘When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes’? Somewhere between twenty and thirty, many after Diana Ross split – as though nothing had changed. It’s pretty hard to tire of those many singles, even the few that are overplayed.

Despite being their first US and UK #1, ‘Baby Love’ is always positioned to be the not quite as successful followup to ‘Where Did Our Love Go’. Hmm, my dime’s on ‘Baby Love’ as the favorite.

Beware, this picture sleeve is getting mighty scarce these days.

And by the way, Flo was the hottest. I have a feeling she was a real good night out.