The Four Tops – Something About You – TMG 542
The Four Tops were one of Holland-Dozier-Holland’s two favoured acts (the other being the Supremes). However, they didn’t give the Four Tops the best possible song or production for this single release. It’s a nice enough song, but like the Miracles release that I featured a couple of days ago, it’s a weak follow-up to a great record. In the Four Tops case this followed up It’s The Same Old Song.
Musically it’s OK and can generate dance floor action ,but it sounds so much like a “Friday afternoon” product – created when everybody involved just wanted to go home for the weekend. I have no idea when it was recorded, but where is the energy from the Four Tops of from the backing band?
The Temptations – My Baby – TMG 541
The Temptations third UK Tamla Motown release was another record in the build-up to their own breakthrough to pop stardom. It was another writing and production credit for the talented and prolific Smokey Robinson and his Miracles colleagues.
The title promises much from the people that brought us “My Girl” and “My Guy”, but fails to reach the heights of either of them. If anything it owes more to My Guy than to the Temptations own hit.
In fact, it wasn’t even a case of Motown’s well documented bandwagon hopping with so many sound-alike follow ups to hit records, for Mary Wells hit in the USA had been almost 18 months earlier and the US hit with My Girl had been three records back in their release schedule.
In the UK, neither record would appear on Tamla Motown for some time to come.
The Miracles – My Girl Has Gone – TMG 540
This is not the best known of the Miracles catalogue and as the follow-up to The Tracks of My Tears, it simply isn’t a very strong song.
The track was lifted from the Miracles album, Going To A Go Go, although I am not sure whether the single or the album actually came first.
It was written by Smokey and the Miracles, who were becoming a seriously self-contained songwriting and production unit within the Motown stable, in my view outstripping even the Holland-Dozier-Holland Machine at this time. It was logical, therefore, for them to take control of their own output. However,from the evidence in these grooves, the pressure on Smokey and the team to come up with original hits for other artists seems to have led to him using a tried and tested formula song for his own group’s single.
Lyrically, it’s nowhere near Smokey’s best, but we can forgive him when the next single will turn out to be the title track, and timeless classic from that album, Going To A Go Go.
Marvin Gaye – Ain’t That Peculiar – TMG 539
Perhaps this was the record that sealed Marvin Gaye’s place in the top echelons of Motown’s stars. The transition from drummer to artist was complete with this song written by Smokey Robinson and the rest of the Miracles who had stuck pretty closely to the formula set by this team’s previous release, I’ll be Doggone.
He was nowhere near the creative peaks of his 1970’s albums yet, but the foundations had been laid and the concrete set solid with this great single.
Kim Weston – Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While) – TMG 538
After some wobbles in October 1965, EMI records got it’s Tamla Motown label on track. Although not every subsequent release would be a huge hit, it’s excursions back in time to the vanishing world of the crooner was over.
Kim Weston was the flag-bearer for a series of strong releases during the rest of 1965 and on into the following year.
The song has long been a staple of the UK Motown and Northern Soul scene and deservedly so. Written and produced by the legendary Holland-Dozier-Holland team, this was their first record with Kim Weston and turned out to be breakthrough her career needed.
Tony Martin – The Bigger Your Heart Is – TMG 537
In 1965, Motown was still establishing itself as the “Sound of Young America”, although some of its signings made this slogan sound ironic. In the wake of Motown’s signing of MOR crooner Billy Eckstine, Tony Martin was another artist whose best days had come and gone. Although this was his UK Tamla Motown debut (and only release), he had previously recorded a truly awful single for the US parent that deservedly vanished without trace.
This song isn’t actually bad. Its just not as good as the record buying public expected from the label. I think when it was written and produced by the in-house team at Motown of Ron Miller and William O’Malley, they were, consciously or otherwise, trying to make the kind of record that Tony Martin might have made five or ten years earlier.
It had to happen eventually, YouTube doesn’t have this song, so in the next few days, I’ll find a way to upload the sound file.
The Lewis Sisters – You Need Me – TMG 536
This echo-laden female vocal was produced by Berry Gordy himself. It sounds a little like the Motown boss was losing touch with the direction that his company’s sound was heading because, even for 1965, this sounds somewhat dated,
The sisters, Helen and Kay, were songwriters and occasional backing vocalists and after a couple of forays into the studio as recording artists, they returned to the backrooms where they had more success.
The UK release is quite a rarity, with this demo pressing valued at £250 and the regular issue being like hen’s teeth.
The Marvelettes – Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead – TMG 535
It feels like a relief to get back to familiar Tamla Motown territory with this single after Tamla Motown’s previous couple of excursions into music style dead ends with Billy Eckstine and Dorsey Burnett.
The Marvelettes were established mainstream Motown artists, with their debut, “Please Mr Postman” hitting the US Number one spot and being picked up by the Beatles. However, they never recaptured that peak and although they continued to record and release some good, even great, material, they were being overtaken by Motown’s other girl groups – notably the Supremes.
This record is a good one that gets plenty of plays and remains one that I really like.
Dorsey Burnett – Jimmy Brown – TMG 534
To my ears, this is the strangest record in the whole of the UK Tamla Motown singles catalogue. It’s a country song that is clearly inspired by Johnny Cash. It was lifted from the US Melody label, which was a subsidiary of Motown.
Dorsey Burnett was the brother of Rock ‘n’ Roller Johnny Burnett, who had hits in the UK with “You’re 16, You’re Beautiful and You’re Mine” and “Dreamin'”. Dorsey never emulated his brother’s success, but Motown in the USA kept faith with him until he departed to the more country-friendly Mercury label and they welcomed him back in the Mid 70s when US Motown had another stab at a country label.
I doubt that this song is even on the radar of most of the DJs and Radio shows that play Motown and I’d love to see the reactions of a norther soul crowd if this slipped onto a turntable at an all-niter!
Billy Eckstine – Had You Been Around – TMG 533
In 1965, Billy Eckstine’s career had passed its peak, but he was the biggest name to join Motown up to that point. From his roots in jazz and big bands, he had become a crooner in the 50s and made the transition to soul with his stint at Motown and later at Stax.
However, the record itself isn’t the last gasp of a fading artist, it’s actually rather good, if a little dated by the prevailing musical styles of 1965. Interestingly, Tamla Motown in the UK took the wise decision to relegate the US A side of this record and promoted the original, and in my view, better, B side for its UK release.
Although Billy Eckstine stayed with Motown for four more years, this was his only single release for the label.