Sunday, September 28, 2003

While in Toronto a few months ago, I walked into one of my favourite used CD Shops, Second Spin. When I walked in, one of the clerks was putting on a soul compilation. I was likely in the store for about thirty minutes, all the while falling madly in love with the songs from the compilation. The double CD compilation, which I ended up buying, is titled A Cellarful of Motown, and it's just that. The liner notes inform us that Motown recently found these forty tracks just sitting in the cellar. All but one track, being "Riding High on Love" by Jr. Walker & The All Stars, are unreleased.
Now keep in mind, these songs may have been released at some point in the past, but these versions, aside from the aforementioned track, are unreleased. Most of the tracks were recorded in the cellar at Motown's home office/studio, and somehow went missing for years. Don't conclude that these songs aren't up to Motown standards. Many of these songs could have been smash hits, and this double disc could stand up to many Motown greatest hits compilations. The songs have all been remastered, and all have high quality production.
Just so you know what we're talking about, the tracklisting is as follows:

Disc 1
1. Baby a Go-Go performed by Barbara McNair
2. All Your Love performed by Brenda Holloway
3. He Was Really Sayin' Somethin' performed by Earl Van Dyke & The Soul Brothers
4. Danger, Heartbreak Dead Ahead performed by Contours
5. Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) (alt mix) performed by Chris Clark
6. Baby Hit and Run performed by Contours
7. How Can I performed by Brenda Holloway
8. I Like Everything About You performed by Brenda Holloway
9. All I Do Is Think About You performed by Tammi Terrell
10. Lucky Lucky Me performed by Jimmy Ruffin
11. On the Avenue (In the Neighborhood) performed by Jimmy Ruffin
12. My World Is Crumbling performed by Brenda Holloway
13. Poor Little Rich Girl performed by Marvelettes
14. Save My Love for a Rainy Day performed by Marv Johnson
15. Tell Me It's Just a Rumour Baby [instrumental] performed by Funk Brothers
16. If You Ever Get Your Hands on Love performed by Gladys Knight & The Pips
17. Are You Sure Love Is the Name of the Game performed by Stevie Wonder
18. Until You Came Along performed by Carolyn Crawford
19. Before It's Over performed by Sammy Ward
20. Long Gone Lover performed by Velvelettes
Disc 2
1. My Sugar Baby performed by Frank Wilson
2. Here Are the Pieces of Broken Heart (single reference mix) performed by Gladys Knight & The Pips
3. There's a Definite Change in You performed by Temptations
4. Who You Gonna Run To performed by Brenda Holloway
5. (It's Easy to Fall in Love) With a Guy... performed by Martha & The Vandellas
6. The Touch of Venus performed by Patrice Holloway
7. I Wish I Liked You (As Much as I Love You) performed by Marvin Gaye
8. Trapped in a Love Affair performed by Brenda Holloway
9. I Know How to Love Her performed by Jimmy Ruffin
10. Riding High on Love performed by Jr. Walker & The All Stars
11. Why When Love Is Gone (single reference mix) performed by Originals
12. If This World Were Mine (single reference mix) performed by Fantastic Four
13. Don't Let Me Down performed by Kim Weston
14. Don't Put Off Till Tomorrow What You Can... (extended mix) performed by Monitors
15. (Tell Me) Ain't It the Truth performed by J.J. Barnes
16. You Made Me Feel Like (Everything Is... performed by Syreeta
17. A Weakspot in My Heart performed by Isley Brothers
18. Don't Make Me Live Without Your Love performed by Lewis Sisters
19. It Must Be Love Baby performed by Chuck Jackson & Yvonne Fair
20. Ain't No Place Like Motown performed by Velvelettes

Brenda Holloway fans likely fainted at the news of this 2002 compilation, as five of her songs are uncovered here. The Contours, who you may recall brought the world "Do You Love Me," have three songs on here. Jimmy Ruffin has three songs here as well. Aside from these artists, who had incredible work hidden in the vaults, many songs here will become instant soul favourites. Tammi Terrell's "All I Do Is Think About You" sees an incredible range to this smooth flowing gem, whose co-writer, Stevie Wonder, would include on his 1980 Hotter Than July album.
Two Isley Brother's songs appear here, only one actually featuring the band. The first, performed by the Funk Brothers, is Tell Me It's Just a Rumor Baby, which displays the phenomenal techniques of this Motown house band. The second is "A Weakspot in My Heart," which proves that the Isley's were amazing vocalists.
"If You Ever Get Your Hands On Love" by Gladys Knight & The Pips did its rounds on the Northern soul scene on low quality tapes, but only here do we get a crisp, high quality, northern soul masterpiece. Martha and the Vandellas' recording "(It's Easy to Fall in Love) With a Guy Like You" would have been a hit had it not been misplaced in the cellar.
Kim Weston's song "Don't Let Me Down" has similarities to the Supremes' hit "Baby Love," and it's just as catchy. Sadly, Weston's period with Motown was cut short in 1968, when she left the company. But with a gem like this, it's unfortunate that the company didn't find more success with her gorgeous voice.
And then there's J.J. Barnes' song "(Tell Me) Ain't It The Truth," which is like finding platinum in a bucket full of gold. With energy comparable to Otis Redding, Barnes gives this recording everything he has, and comes out with a killer recording. Unfortunately, Barnes never released anything for Motown, as they preferred his songwriting abilities, and as the liner notes tell us, his vocal similarity to Gaye limited his career. This song shows that Barnes' was more than a Gaye clone, and could have been a huge success, had he been given the opportunity.
Last but not least, the Velvelettes close out both CDs. The all girl vocal group never released an album for the label, overshadowed by the Supremes, but on the first track, "Long Gone Lover," they cover this Supremes' tune but make every bit of it their own. "Ain't No Place Like Motown" was likely chosen as the compilation closer the second it was found. This should be the unofficial label theme song, and though it's a little cheesy, it's hard not to smile while hearing the Velvelettes' giving props to the Detroit label.
As if all of this new material wasn't exciting enough, the liner notes mention on a couple of occasions that other unreleased tracks were found in the cellar, but are not included here. The thought of future releases of similar quality is too exciting for words. Hopefully Motown has realized that while the label's greatest hits compilations are big sellers, there are many fans out there who have most of those songs, and now want to dig deeper, and hear unreleased tracks by their favourite artists. A Cellarful of Motown provides just that, and is essential for any soul collection.
posted by Jonathan


Post a Comment

<< Home