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Motown Greatest Hits

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Talking Book is about the tunes, but it’s also about the times – and that’s the spoonful of medicine that helps the melodic sugar go down. That title track opened the floodgates for a cycle of songs that, far from being the hippy-soul peace-and-love fest it can at first appear, would address the human cost of war (What’s Going On), environmental breakdown (Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)), the protection of innocence (Save The Children) and social injustice (Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)), to a soundtrack of honeyed, loose, rock-solid soul with strings and a uniquely expressive singer pleading for sanity and humanity. The bonus titles span Brenda’s Motown career, from 1964’s pop-sounding ‘Mr Lifeguard (Come And Rescue Me)’ to the soulful ‘It’s Love I Need’, completed just a few months before her departure from the company in 1968. The compilation features legendary Motown artists including The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Temptations, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, The Jackson 5 and Lionel Richie. Profane though such thinking might be, What’s Going On is the kind of album to make you imagine parallels between its narrator and Christ: both driven to spread a message of brotherhood and suffering for the sins of the world, only for their Fathers to have other plans.

Within Universal, Motown was incorporated into various other subsidiaries including Universal Motown Records Group from 2000 to 2011 and later moved to Island Def Jam Music Group until both label groups were disbanded by UMG in 2014. Gaye ends with Just To Keep You Satisfied, in which the sweet loving is weighed against “the bitching” and Marvin ends up concluding that maybe he’ll see her “somewhere down the line”.It was bought again by PolyGram in 1993, becoming a part of the Universal Music Group after it purchased PolyGram in 1999.

In recent years many of my unissued Motown recordings have been released for the very first time, most of which I had completely forgotten about.To conclude, a few words from Brenda: “While I was signed to Motown I was constantly in and out of the studio. In addition to the tom-tom-crazy title track, the album had two of the group’s most mesmerising ballads, the rightly famed Tracks Of My Tears and the breathtaking, heartaching Ooo Baby, Baby, slightly less well-known but, frankly, better, with Smokey’s bittersweet vocal, at the top of his register, raising twice as many goosebumps. Legend has it that when the first experimental batch of MDMA powder turned up on the streets of Detroit in the cold early months of 1971, one of the first curious recipients was Temptations producer Norman Whitfield. Not only was this James’s strongest set of songs, with powerful arrangements and production by the artist, there was a cohesive vision, too, leaning heavily on ‘in the life’ observation and personal experience – Ghetto Life, Below The Funk, Mr Policeman, Super Freak – and sticky lurve interest from tough funk (Give It To Me Baby) to smouldering slow grooves (Fire And Desire). A man whose private darkness was deep, he also knew that “only love can conquer hate” was not the whole truth; Flyin’ High (In The Friendly Sky) sees the famously sweet-nosed Marvin self-diagnosing the drug problem that would later consume him, while Inner City Blues contains the threat, “God knows where we’re heading”.

Plus, a special bonus disk of The Best of Motown the 1970’s featuring: Rick James, The Commodores, The Jackson 5, Rare Earth, Edwin Starr and others - Over seven hours of soul-pop classics! Witness the seven-and-a-half minute, clavinet-stomp of Living For The City – a biting exposé of metropolitan decay in which the boy “born in hard time Mississippi” struggles to find a job “’cause where he lives they don’t use coloured people”. Registered address: WRD Music Ltd, United Friendly House, 282 Camden Road, London, NW1 9AB, UK, Tel: +44 20 7267 6762. Both are loved by the masses of music fans for their fearless unselfconsciousness and sometimes maligned by the chin-strokers as vendors of cheese.But for all the talk of daily danger and strife, his burning spiritual optimism, first crystallized on 1972’s Music Of My Mind, still thrives. She was the best female singer, bar none, to cross the threshold of 2648 West Grand Boulevard, but Gladys Knight was never considered an A-List priority act as far as Motown was concerned, so intent was the focus on promoting Diana Ross’s career. The “Artistry” album was issued in mono and stereo, but the stereo version is much rarer today, so we have decided to go with that for our CD reissue, with one exception. The latter is another staging post on Wonder’s political journey, a deceptively honeyed assault on the self-serving representatives of a white American status quo who “killed all our leaders” but will bring themselves down through their own iniquity.

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