Last month's column seemed to run away with me (just slightly eh?) so have opted to finish it off this time around while listening to The Temptations' "Give Love At Christmas" album which, despite its age, born in 1980, is scratch free. This was, by the way, the group's second Festive release following "The Temptations Christmas Card" a decade earlier. With the line-up of Otis Williams, Glenn Leonard, Dennis Edwards, Richard Street and Melvin Franklin, whose distinctive bass voice adds a slice of glory to their version of "Silent Night", this is a super combination of classic Christmas songs - "Little Drummer Boy" for one - and originals, like Smokey Robinson's "Christmas Everyday". So, yeah, well and truly in the Festive mood now. However, before I finish writing, will switch to "Phil Spector's Christmas Album" which is my definite favourite at this time of year. And for a treat to myself, will play the vinyl version.
So, let's round up the remaining albums from March/April 1977. Smokey Robinson claimed his "Deep In My Soul" was his life saver because it proved he was open to young writers and producers working with him. Subsequently, none of the tracks on the album were his own compositions. "I got comments like 'you've petered out' or 'you don't know how to write songs anymore' so…I wanted young talent… to know Motown is open-minded about good material. They can come anytime and record an album on me, somebody who has been doing his own stuff for several years." Brenda Sutton, Jeffrey Bowen, Michael B Sutton, Kathy Wakefield and Hal Davis were among his background team, and while delivering a sophisticated product, Smokey once again suffered saleswise. The Miracles'-inspired "There Will Come A Day (I'm Gonna Happen To You)" was the first outing, while it was left to the future single "Vitamin U" in the June to crack the UK dance chart. Ironically, Smokey admitted that stashed away were a thousand unfinished songs but he was hampered by his other commitments which he didn't identify. What he did admit though - his intention to retire from the professional spotlight was thwarted when he realised he missed that side of his life, and longed to be in the recording studio again. It appears one of his original plans was to record with his wife Claudette, and to this end had, at this time in 1977, completed four tracks. While the idea was brilliantly conceived, Smokey suffered a major hang-up, as he explained. "It's very difficult on some nights to work, if you see what I'm saying. I might criticise her with something in the studios, as I would do any artist, when maybe she doesn't want to hear it. So, I think that in order to complete this particular project we're going to have to get another producer." I reckon the project was shelved, don't you?
The Originals' "Down To Love Town" (naturally) named after the hit single - which in itself was originally a track on the group's 1976 elpee "Communique" - looked set to become a big seller. The established group was one of many to benefit from the advent of disco/dance music, although Motown stalwarts already held The Originals in high esteem for their breathtakingly beautiful ballads. Having said that, disco gave their career a huge stab of adrenalin that had previously bypassed them in the mainstream record market. One reviewer noted – "This collection of seven is built on their new found disco acceptance and sees them switch over from their usual ballad orientated album to one that is made up mainly of dance tunes." Built around three different production units, the opening infectious title "Hurry Up And Wait" led into a full length cut of "Down To Love Town", the pace of which continued into "You Are A Blessing To Me". Fortunately the soulful tones of "warm and gentle" from the past returned with "Mother Nature's Best" yet the magic fell apart with "Six Million Dollar Man" intended as a single, but abandoned when the owners of the television show bearing the same name threatened legal action. Instead, agreement was reached for the song to remain an album track. "We worked with Frank Wilson and Mike Sutton on the album and it was our first time working with Mike" Freddie Gorman explained in a January 1977 interview. "He and his wife Brenda had written some songs so he ended up co-producing the album with Frank. It seems like it was a good concept, mixing the disco things with ballads." Yes it was yet sales were lower than expected.
Following "Deep In My Soul", were the Commodores and G.C. Cameron. Known as "Commodores" in the
G. C. Cameron's "You're What's Missing In My Life" also benefitted from
Over on the Mowest label launched here in 1972, the last album out was Gaylord & Holiday's "Second Generation" in April 1977, while on the TMSP series Marvin Gaye's "Live! At The London Palladium", was slotted in between "An Evening With Diana Ross" and the Commodores' "Live!". Originally members of The Gaylords, Ron Gaylord and Burt Holiday paid their dues over the years to eventually become a duo. As such Barney Ales signed them to his Prodigal label during 1975, which Berry Gordy later purchased. "Second Generation" was issued in November 1975 and much later turned up on Mowest over here.
Marvin Gaye's "Live! At The London Palladium" was a dazzling reminder of his long awaited
I think I'm right in saying, Motown's first breakthrough into country and western music came in 1974 with the Melodyland label, not to be confused with the 1962-65 outlet Me-lo-dy, the home to artists like Howard Crockett, The Pirates and Lamont Dozier. So, Melodyland was launched in the
The all-American, squeaky clean Pat Boone was obviously the biggest name bagged with his "Texas Woman" album a steady seller. Wendel Adkins' "Sundowners" was the label's final release, whereupon MC Records replaced it in August 1977. Despite at least eleven titles being earmarked for release under this
Remarkably – but probably due to American pressure – Hitsville Records was launched over here under the prefix HVS, first with the compilation "The New Direction In Country Music" featuring ten artists over eighteen tracks followed by "Nashville Hitmaker" from T. G. Sheppard and Pat Boone's "Texas Woman"/"The Country Side Of Pat Boone". The fact that these were the only
Something different now. Nearly two years in from negotiating their departure from Motown for Epic/CBS Records, the Jackson 5 (now known as The Jacksons) were riding high on their debut eponymous album released in November 1976. Following his marriage to
I meant to have mentioned this release before now but other things got in the way, so my apologies. As you know, Dusty's love of Motown is well documented, her versions of classic tracks were included on some of her albums and those that didn't make it, she included in her stage acts. So, "Dusty Springfield – Transmissions 1962-1968" should fill in some of those gaps, with a selection of Motown classics high on her list. She belts out three from Martha and the Vandellas' – "Dancing In The Streets" (although that's misspelt as 'Streets' - grrr), "Heatwave" and "Nowhere To Run"; Stevie's "Uptight (Everything's Alright)"; Mary Wells' "You've Lost The Sweetest Boy" and The Temptations' "Get Ready". These rare slices of
And while on the subject of 'huge historical value', last month I mentioned the unique, limited edition of "Kim Weston - Live In Detroit 1978" CD instigated by Paul Stuart Davies to raise much needed funds for the lady. The release stems from a recently unearthed recording of her performance at
While writing this I've also dipped into the 1969 "Merry Christmas From Motown" compilation, where among the sleeve notes I read "This album glows with the warmth of the traditional yule tidings brought to you in the soulful style of Diana Ross and the Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Temptations and Stevie Wonder….(The album) is a greeting from the heart, that ever-throbbing receptacle wherein soul dwells." There's more, of course, but honestly, I felt myself cringe as I attempted to type them out to share with you. So deleted them instead: the music's great though!
So, this rounds off another year of being in your company; a year that nobody could ever have imagined, yet a year that now offers a shred of hope and a new world ahead. As for the Christmas period, all I can say, with hand on heart, is enjoy what you can with who you can. And stay safe y'hear. My love and undying appreciation to you, as always.
THE TEMPTATIONS : SILENT NIGHT (LIVE)
THE COMMODORES: "ZOOM (LIVE)
DUSTY SPRINGFIELD (LIVE, NME POLL WINNERS CONTEST 1965)