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Author Topic: What Was Motown's Best Period?  (Read 9005 times)
JK
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« Reply #75 on: June 28, 2017, 05:42:42 AM »

Oh yes, Smoky Robinson and the Miracles are superb!
Great songs you posted. Other faves for me are "I Second that Emotion" and "The Tears of a Clown."

For Jr. Walker and The All Stars, another favorite is "Shake and Fingerpop." I love the lyric "Put on your wig, woman, we're going out to shake and fingerpop" LOL. And that wailing sax. Fun stuff.

Thanks, E. I bought "Shake And Fingerpop" at the time. What a groove! Bought "Going To A Go Go" as well and played it to death all that first evening! I think those were my only Motown singles...

As for albums, I had three Hitsville USA comps, Jr. Walker's debut with all the good stuff and a stonking instrumental album of Motown covers by Earl Van Dyke that included this one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ly7WKsh3x-Q
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« Reply #76 on: August 07, 2017, 06:44:26 AM »

Tried to post this earlier in a more elaborate form but lost it while juggling with multiple windows!

This forgotten gem from 1964 by (in those days) Little Stevie Wonder was produced by Jack Nitzsche. It just failed to scrape the top 50 in the US.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTgVe_onF8U 
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« Reply #77 on: August 07, 2017, 10:27:37 AM »

Man, Motown was awesome! Motown's best period, that's a tough question.

I think the Tempts were at their best from 1967-1975. I love the early records and David Ruffin, and With A Lot O Soul is a fantastic album, but Cloud Nine and All Directions are two of their other masterpieces and came in the late 60's to early 70's. Norman Whitfield, as mention earlier, is a total genius and I could listen to his work for hours and hours. He wrote some of Motown's most iconic songs and was a true visionary: I'd argue he saved Motown with his consistently excellent work in the late 60's and early 70's. Barrett Strong was also a great lyricist.

The Four Tops were at their best from 1967-1973. Reach Out is great, as are H-D-H, but I LOVE their Frank Wilson produced work: Still Waters Run Deep and Changing Times in particular. Such a unique sound, and fascinating lyrics and production. Main Street People, their second post-Motown album, should be mentioned also even though it's not Motown. It's no surprise that he was a Whitfield protégé.

The Supremes were pretty consistent throughout, as were Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, but they too seemed to hit a stride in 1966/67. Plus, I love Edwin Starr's music from this period as well. His album '25 Miles' is quite good. My favorite songs of his are Soul City, Love Is My Destination and Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On. Time is another good one.

So I'd say 1967 is when Motown probably peaked in terms of artistic AND commercial success, but a lot of their artists went on to do great (arguably their best) work in from '67 onwards and into the mid-70's. And of course I haven't even mentioned Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and the Jacksons, who obviously were incredibly successful in the 70's. David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks also had some success as solo artists, especially Kendricks, or Jimmy Ruffin, who was big around the same time. So I'd say 1967-1975 is my favorite Motown period, and their best.

My top Motown songs (in no particular order, just ones I love), if I had to make a list, would be:

Mother Nature (Tempts)
I Can't Be Hurt Anymore (David Ruffin)
In These Changing Times (Four Tops)
Reflections (Supremes version or Tops version, either one)
The Agony and the Ecstasy (Smokey)
Runaway Child, Running Wild (Tempts)
Love Is My Destination (Edwin Starr)
Living for the City (Stevie Wonder)
The Onion Song (Gaye and Tami Terrell)
Love Woke Me Up This Morning (Tempts version)

Honorable mentions would be Right Before My Eyes by the Four Tops, Mercy, Mercy Me by Marvin, Tuesday Heartbreak by Wonder, Quiet Storm by Smokey. Wow, now I feel like I should've put those as my absolute favorites, and I could keep going. And this post is a lot longer than I'd thought it'd be.  LOL
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« Reply #78 on: August 07, 2017, 10:37:11 AM »

Man, Motown was awesome! Motown's best period, that's a tough question.

Great post there, JL. We're clearly of different generations as for me Motown peaked in '66. ;=)
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« Reply #79 on: August 07, 2017, 10:45:46 AM »

Man, Motown was awesome! Motown's best period, that's a tough question.

Great post there, JL. We're clearly of different generations as for me Motown peaked in '66. ;=)

Lol thanks. Yeah, I've always loved Motown, the Temptations are probably my favorite group aside from The Beatles and The Beach Boys.

You really can't go wrong with any era of Motown. 1966 was a great year for the label too. Admittedly I'm not as big a fan of the late 70's-80's Motown, but there's some amazing stuff there too.
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« Reply #80 on: August 07, 2017, 11:26:54 AM »

While I love early Motown, the later (1967 through 1975 or so) appeals to me more. There's more variety with the songs, topics wise.
For hard hitting songs, in my opinion, recordings by Stevie Wonder (Livin for the City, among many others), Edwin Starr (War), Temptations (Papa was a Rolling Stone), Supremes (Love Child), Marvin Gaye (What's Goin On and others) hold up very well even now.
Love Motown.
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« Reply #81 on: August 08, 2017, 07:30:19 PM »

While I love early Motown, the later (1967 through 1975 or so) appeals to me more. There's more variety with the songs, topics wise.
For hard hitting songs, in my opinion, recordings by Stevie Wonder (Livin for the City, among many others), Edwin Starr (War), Temptations (Papa was a Rolling Stone), Supremes (Love Child), Marvin Gaye (What's Goin On and others) hold up very well even now.
Love Motown.

Good post! I agree with you, even your favorite time period of '67-75. Motown wasn't the consistent hit machine it once was in the later years, but every artist flying off in different directions made for some great music.
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« Reply #82 on: August 11, 2017, 07:52:09 AM »

I dislike Motown. Listened to famous names - boring. Is obscure artist who fans who read this thread could advise to hear?
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« Reply #83 on: August 11, 2017, 11:28:01 AM »

I dislike Motown. Listened to famous names - boring. Is obscure artist who fans who read this thread could advise to hear?

To each their own, as they say!

If you dislike the main stars of Motown, there's certainly plenty of more obscure artists that maybe had a couple of hits before fading away.

As mentioned, Edwin Starr is good, but I forgot to mention that even some of his 70's disco hits like H-A-P-P-Y Radio and Contact are solid. His version of My Sweet Lord is also good.

The Undisputed Truth had the one hit Smiling Faces Sometimes, but did other songs too (including the ORIGINAL Papa Was a Rolling Stone).

Jimmy Ruffin has some nice music too.

Also dig deep into the catalogs of The Four Tops and Temptations, they're not obscure, but some of their later music is. They had some big flops that never scraped the Top 40 and you never hear talked about, but are still fantastic.

And of course there's a smattering of other Motown groups that had very brief periods of mild success (The Velvelettes, The Monitors, Shorty Long) that are worth hearing, if you want REALLY obscure.
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« Reply #84 on: August 11, 2017, 12:39:24 PM »

And of course there's a smattering of other Motown groups that had very brief periods of mild success (The Velvelettes, The Monitors, Shorty Long) that are worth hearing, if you want REALLY obscure.

Love The Velvelettes, particularly "Needle In A Haystack": 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hh7Vpr4V6HM

Shorty Long's "Function At The Junction" is another corker. And The Elgins did some great stuff too...
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« Reply #85 on: August 12, 2017, 04:30:16 PM »

Question to JL: which song everybody likes you don't? Which 'town artist many regard great you just like casually?

Thanks to the list. After 60s psych music shall check Edwin Starr et al.
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« Reply #86 on: August 12, 2017, 06:19:57 PM »

Question to JL: which song everybody likes you don't? Which 'town artist many regard great you just like casually?

Thanks to the list. After 60s psych music shall check Edwin Starr et al.

You're welcome!

To be honest with you, outside of Marvin Gaye's big hits in the 60's and his What's Going On album, I feel like he's pretty overrated as an artist. I haven't listened to all of his work yet, but 'Let's Get It On' is considered a masterpiece album by many: I found it decent but dull and monotonous. I feel similarly for 'Here, My Dear': supposedly one of the greatest albums ever made to many. I DO find it sloppy and at times incoherent, but on the plus side it is more interesting than LGIO. And for better or worse, it's a real, painfully honest look into the mind of Marvin Gaye at that point in time (much like say, 'Love You' was for Brian Wilson). I actually like his last album, "Midnight Love" more than the other two 'classics'. Marvin is still a legend for What's Going On alone, and his singing voice, but I think that Curtis Mayfield had him beat as a songwriter/producer and David Ruffin as a vocalist.

I like Smokey Robinson a LOT: but mostly his more mature solo work. I feel some of his cutesy early lyrics were effective but already outdated by the mid-to late sixties. Listen to what his next single for the Temptations was going to be before Norman Whitfield took over as their producer (Little Miss Sweetness) and compare it to what Whitfield wrote (Ain't Too Proud To Beg), and you'll see how other songwriters were already beginning to equal or surpass him, or at least keep up with the times better (which Smokey eventually did as well in the 70's). Whitfield/Barrett Strong and Holland-Dozier-Holland were both better, more consistent composers/lyricists overall.

I'd say those two are the biggest examples. Again, I 'do' like them, but there's other Motown artists that I not only like more personally, but even from a more unbiased perspective, I feel like they're not quite as great as some claim them to be. Which isn't to say they aren't great at all, or unimportant in history: just overrated, sometimes at the expense of better artists.
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« Reply #87 on: August 19, 2017, 08:53:11 PM »

The only pop songwriter I might put alongside Brian's 3-5 years of genius is Stevie Wonder's early 70's genius.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qS2yMn3JbQk
^
Every bloody note in that song is complete perfection. Ditto this one:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wZ_b_uUAdQ
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