30 November 2015

Motown and Soul Gift Goodness!

Motown, Soul, and Sweetness!
By Kristin Battestella

What's not to love about these great gentleman – and some of their special lady compatriots – when there are such sweet compilations like this to gift, enjoy, and sing along again and again? That's what I thought!

The Best of The Temptations Millennium Collection Volume 1: The 60s – The title is a mouthful and this decade leg is not nearly as exhaustive as my beloved Temptations Anthology LP set, but the big Motown tunes such as “My Girl,” “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” and “Get Ready” are here. However, I won't lie, my sole purpose in picking up this CD was for the Diana Ross and the Supremes powerhouse duet “I'm Gonna Make You Love Me.” Hot Diggity! The staples are generally in chronological order from “Beauty is Only Skin Deep,” “Ain't Too Proud to Beg,” and “You're My Everything” to “I Wish It Would Rain,” “(I Know) I'm Losing You,” and “Can't Get Next to You.” Regardless of who's singing lead, if you like one tune, you like 'em all! I can't believe I had almost forgotten some of the songs I hadn't heard in a long time, but then it's all the nicer when you hear them again without any vinyl hiss. It's sad that this half hour session goes by quick, as there is certainly enough material and disc space to have something longer. The track list here isn't totally comparable to the group's first 1966 Greatest compilation, either, so why skimp customers into a Volume 2 and leave an early hits set incomplete without “The Girl's Alright with Me” and “Since I Lost My Baby”? Although “Cloud Nine” feels slightly psychedelic soul tacked on, I can accept the fact that my favorite “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” doesn't meet the inclusion criteria – for the title does indeed do what it says in capturing the classic Smokey Robinson produced era of the group. This is an affordable download or easy gift for the nostalgic audience to revisit some excellent music.

The Greatest Hits of Jackie Wilson – Can you imagine the media frenzy that would follow him if Jackie Wilson had lived today? There are indeed numerous compilations featuring the late star, but this 1998 CD is quite complete with 16 songs including everything from the catchy brass of “Reet Petite” and simply dreamy “To Be Loved” to us all trying to sing along with “Lonely Teardrops” and of course, “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.” The foot tapping doesn't let up with “That's Why (I Love You So),” “I'll Be Satisfied,” and “Talk That Talk,” and the sweeping romance blossoms with “Night,” “Doggin' Around,” and “A Woman, a Lover, a Friend.” That's already all the magic for most albums, but “Am I the Man” and “Baby Workout” add more grooving while “Danny Boy” provides mellow high notes. Later career hits “Whispers (Getting Louder),” “I Get the Sweetest Feeling,” and “You Got Me Walking” conclude this quick moving session, and with most all tracks under three minutes, a lot is packed in to this 43 minute set. A similar song listing is on the earlier 1994 The Very Best of Jackie Wilson, however neither has a companion download edition compared to the more recent two disc Ultimate Jackie Wilson release. Smooth sounds at the office or accenting dinner for two – this is a great starter gift for newfound fans as well as an essential for any classic soul lover.

Marvin Gaye 15 Greatest Hits – Talk about some more turbulence in which TMZ would revel! This 1990 hour starts with “How Sweet It Is to be Loved by You,” ends with the twelve minute “Got to Give It Up,” and has quite a bit of pleasure and commentary in between with “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby,” “Let's Get It On,” “What's Going On,” and “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology).” While hits such as “I Heard it through the Grapevine” and the “Your Precious Love” and “You're All I Need to Get By” duets with Tammi Terrell are here, “Ain't Nothing like the Real Thing” and “Ain't No Mountain High Enough” also with Terrell are unfortunately absent, as is “Sexual Healing.” Thankfully, the Diana Ross duet “My Mistake (Was to Love You)” is included, and there are several other duets-alone compilations to be had. There's such a goldmine of Marvin both with and without his girls, I guess there had to be a cut off somewhere, and some of the tracks here are the shorter, single edits rather than the full album versions. “Ain't That Peculiar,” “That's the Way Love Is,” “Trouble Man,” and “I Want You” provide more swanky, smooth, and grooving hits while “Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)” continues the social statements. Again, some of the glaring absences leave a slightly incomplete feeling. However, I don't want to call this a 'budget' CD edition simply because this is still a lengthy session brimming with such sweet sounds – making for a delightful fix for mind and body.

These be skippers!

The Drifters 20 Greatest Hits (1993) and The Drifters Greatest Hits (1991) – I have to say, it is a right major pain in the fricking arse being a fan of The Drifters – a group that has had no less than fifty band members in its revolving door line up. Seriously, go have a look at the who's who chart on their wikipedia page! New or returning incarnations either attempt to differentiate as 'so and so with The Drifters' or 'The Drifters featuring who' billings while other same name line ups feel like they are trying to trick you with their inferior remakes, deceptive covers, and sound alike re-recordings of the classic Clyde McPhatter, Ben E. King, and Rudy Lewis fronted tunes. Often, it feels like unless you have the original LPs or 45s, you don't know what you're going to get on a CD or download, and like other classic rock and roll listeners, it is those R&B paragon originals that I want to hear. So, I've attempted to discern the tunes here to save us some trouble. Unfortunately, outside of poorly remastered, seemingly spliced up combinations, or live cover versions of “Ruby Baby,” Money Honey,” “When My Little Girl Is Smiling,” “Saturday Night at the Movies,” “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover,” “Another Saturday Night” “My Girl,” “I'll Take You Home,” and “Honey Love,” the remaining 11 of the tracks on 20 are copycat editions. On the 1991 compilation, gasp only my favorite “There Goes My Baby” and “Sweets for My Sweet” are the 'original recordings by the original artist.' I dearly love the mid-century heyday of this group and consider them one of my most beloved essentials in early rock studies, but my word the studio controlled or management owned rights battles and rocky rivalries make it nearly impossible for today's new listeners – and resentful classic fans – to appreciate The Drifters' impeccable catalog thanks to mash ups like the two here.

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