Archive for Motown

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , , on February 13, 2011 by 30daysout

Wrapping up our duets albums just in time for Valentine’s Day: today we spin the Motown/Tamla classic You’re All I Need, by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, from 1968.

Marvin Gaye was an established star at the Detroit label Motown when he was asked to cut a duet with a female singer in 1967.  Gaye, who had giant hits way back in 1965 with “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” and “Ain’t That Peculiar,” Gaye recorded “It Takes Two” with singer Kim Weston for Motown’s Tamla label in ’67.

Written and produced by William “Mickey” Stevenson (also Weston’s husband), the song wasn’t Gaye’s first duet but at that time it was his most successful.  It also made him an international star by going to No. 1 in the United Kingdom.  But there wasn’t gonna be a followup: by the time the record hit the top of the charts, Weston and Stevenson had already left Motown.  In fact, at this point Gaye had three duet partners: Weston, Mary Wells and Oma Page, and they had all left the label.

But label chief Berry Gordy wanted to repeat the duet success, so he enlisted Motortown Revue singer Tammi Terrell, who also happened to be the girlfriend of singer David Ruffin, of the Temptations.  Initially she cut her vocals separately from Gaye, and they hit with “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Your Precious Love,” both written by Nicholas Ashford and Valerie Simpson.

Gaye and Terrell toured behind these singles and their first duet album, but in 1967 Terrell collapsed onstage and was later diagnosed with a brain tumor.  She had the first of six brain surgeries, and she was pretty much finished as a live performer.  When she came back in a wheelchair to cut vocals with Gaye, it was face-to-face in a studio and one of the first songs they recorded is a classic: “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing,” by Ashford & Simpson.

“Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing” is perhaps the archetypical Motown duet, with instrumentation by the Funk Brothers and the “sweet” Motown strings usually present on the label’s more romantic offerings.  Gaye and Terrell hit their marks as vocalists, and this was a nearly perfect record: listeners thought so as well, as it was an R&B and pop hit in 1968.

“You’re All I Need To Get By” was even bigger: it was a Top 10 pop hit in the United States and the United Kingdom and reached No. 1 on the R&B charts, where it stayed for quite a while in ’68.  “You’re All I Need” had a sort-of gospel backing choir (which included Ashford & Simpson) but it was assembled in the studio, with Gaye and Terrell cutting their vocals separately.

In fact, due to Terrell’s condition it was impossible for her to record new vocals for a full album.  So they took some of her old solo songs and overdubbed Gaye’s vocals into them to create duets.  Some of these included “Memory Chest,” “Baby Dont’cha Worry”, “Give In, You Just Can’t Win” and “When Love Comes Knocking At Your Heart.”

The album, You’re All I Need, on the Tamla label, was a moderate success (Motown usually had more success with singles) and would be the final album the duo would really record together.  A third duet album, Easy, was assembled and released in 1969, but Valerie Simpson sang along with Gaye in the studio for “guide vocals” then Terrell came in and painstakingly cut her own vocals.  In 1969 Motown also released Terrell’s only solo LP, Irresistible, but by this time she was too ill to promote either album.

She finally died in 1970 of the brain tumor.  Marvin Gaye would later say Tammi Terrell was his best duet partner, and her death would really tear him up emotionally.  His classic album What’s Going On is reportedly partially inspired by Terrell’s death.  Marvin Gaye would himself die prematurely, shot fatally by his own father in 1984.

MP3: “You’re All I Need To Get By”

MP3: “When Love Comes Knocking At My Heart”

MP3: “Keep On Lovin’ Me Honey”

MP3: “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing”

MP3: “I’ll Never Stop Loving You Baby”

Review: “Going Back” by Phil Collins

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 11, 2010 by 30daysout

Artists have been recording cover songs for years, and putting them out as singles, or b-sides. However, the trend recently has been to put out an entire album of hits recorded by others. Rod Stewart sold millions of CDs using this formula, and now Phil Collins is hoping to follow in “Big Nose’s” footsteps with his latest batch of Motown tunes titled, Going Back.

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Review: “Soulbook,” Rod Stewart

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , on October 27, 2009 by 30daysout

Music Review Rod Stewart

OK, enough is enough.  Yeah, I know Rod Stewart has been selling a shitload of records with his “Songbook” series.  And I realize that boomer nostalgia is golden and it makes those cash registers ring.  And really, an album full of Rod Stewart covering mostly Motown songs is probably a good thing to sell at Starbucks and Wal-Mart around Christmastime.  But man, I listened to this a couple of times and really got a miserable feeling.

Because despite the title, nothing here even remotely resembles “soul.”  When songs like “My Cherie Amour” and “Tracks Of My Tears” were big hits, nobody really considered them “soul” songs – they were more like “pop” songs, you know?  Rod also covers a few Sam Cooke tunes and duets with people like Stevie Wonder, Mary J. Blige and Jennifer Hudson but this is all pretty cold stuff.  Aside from a few high spots – his cover of Tony Joe White’s “Rainy Night In Georgia” comes close to being interesting and his version of the O’ Jays’ “Love Train” is peppy – everything here is pretty slick and overplanned.

Maybe Rod could have picked some lesser-known tunes, maybe he could have played them more “live” with less slickness.  But he didn’t.  So we have Soulbook – all cleaned up for the “American Idol” crowd and pretty soulless.  “It’s The Same Old Song,” indeed.

MP3: “It’s The Same Old Song”

YouTube: Soulbook photo session – this is what it’s all about, I suppose.

Rod Stewart official website

Motown 50th anniversary: Grab Bag

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , on July 23, 2009 by 30daysout


It’s still Motown’s 50th anniversary year, and although the celebration has been subdued quite a bit by the death of Michael Jackson, we still want to commemorate the great artists who have recorded for this Great American record label over the years.  So, here’s a grab bag of some of Motown’s best artists.

MP3: “Come And Get These Memories” by Martha Reeves & the Vandellas

MP3: “Your Love Can Save Me” by the Marvelettes

MP3: “I Found That Girl” by the Jackson Five

MP3:  “Baby Don’t You Go” by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

MP3: “Still Water (Love)” by the Four Tops

MP3: “Lonely Lover” by Marvin Gaye

MP3: “Run, Run, Run” by the Supremes

MP3: “I’ll Be There” by the Jackson Five

Motown 50th anniversary official website

Motown Turns 50: The Supremes

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2009 by 30daysout

 supremes-where-did-our-love-go            the-supremes-a-go-go-1966-front

We have neglected this feature of late, but Motown is celebrating its 50th year as a record label throughout 2009.  Today we take a look at two albums from a group that wasn’t really known for its long-players:  The Supremes.

The Supremes, of course, were Motown’s most commercially successful act, charting an incredible twelve No. 1 singles in the Billboard pop charts between 1964-69.  The classic trio of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard hit the radio consciousness with their second album, Where Did Our Love Go (1964).  This album was the linchpin of the Supremes’ success, as it featured four songs that would storm the Top 40 (all written by Holland-Dozier-Holland) and temporarily hold back the British Invasion.

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Motown Turns 50 – “What’s Going On?” – Marvin Gaye

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on January 17, 2009 by 30daysout


Motown celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and in the coming weeks we are going feature some of the labels greatest moments. Today, it’s Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On?

Released in May 1971, What’s Going On?  tells the tale of a Vietnam veteran who left to fight for his country, but when he got home, all he found was the same social injustice, racism, suffering and hatred he knew before he left.  The brilliant lyrics deal with everything from God to drugs to poverty to war to taking care of Mother Earth. He was “green” long before it was a fashionable money-making venture.  Gaye’s vocals were smooth and soulful.  The music put you right on the troubled streets of Detroit with a soul that still hasn’t been matched to this day.  It was soul music’s first concept album, and one of the finest ever made.

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30 Days Out (From Christmas): Motown 2

Posted in 30 Days Out (From Christmas) with tags , , , , , on December 22, 2008 by 30daysout


Day Whatever (I knew we’d screw this up) – Mo’  Motown holiday classics.  The Supremes, the Temptations, Smokey and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson Five.  What more do we need to say?  Except maybe that many of these versions, overlooked at the time as mere holiday tinsel, sound today like stone classics.

Tomorrow, we’ll visit another fine R&B record label for one of the greatest Christmas albums of all time.

MP3: “Little Bright Star” by the Supremes

MP3: “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” by the Jackson Five

MP3: “Love Comes With Christmas” by the Temptations

MP3: “I Want To Come Home For Christmas” by Marvin Gaye

MP3: “White Christmas” by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

MP3: “One Little Christmas Tree” by Stevie Wonder

MP3: “Give Love On Christmas Day” by the Jackson Five (feat. Michael Jackson)

MP3: “The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You)” (live at the Apollo) by Marvin Gaye

MP3: “Jingle Bells” by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

MP3: “Silver Bells” by the Supremes

Review: “Soul Speak,” Michael McDonald

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2008 by 30daysout

Michael McDonald has one of the most distinctive and best voices in rock and R&B. His last two discs of Motown classics were instant smashes and both sold millions. His latest, Soul Speak, follows the same the formula (although not strictly Motown), but sounds very tired.

McDonald seems to labor through classics like Stevie Wonder’s “Livin’ for the City,” Aretha Franklin’s “I Knew You Were Waiting,” Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher,” and the Teddy Pendergrass hit “Love TKO.” The few bright spots include his take on Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which seems to be recorded a lot these days. He does offer a couple of new original songs, “Only God Can Help Me Now,” and “Can’t Get Over You (Getting Over Me),” but both are forgettable.

I’ve always thought that if you are going to record someone else’s material you have to either do it better or at least different. Unfortunately, McDonald doesn’t do either on the majority of the tracks on Soul Speak.

MP3: Into the Mystic

MP3: Only God Can Help Me Now

Michael McDonald Official Website