Another gem for Motown fans, a new box set of seven 7″ singles exploring the side of music that was not released in a proper fashion at the time they were recorded and mixed. The Motown 7s Box: Rare And Unreleased Vinyl Volume 2 (Motown/UMC) shows how well the Motown and Northern Soul still holds up, as artists today are dipping into it and making a killing from the style of music that was popular 45+ years ago. All of these songs are not the big hits we know and love, so it’s a chance to hear these artists in a way that is unfamiliar to most of us. This includes Stevie Wonder’s “I Want My Baby Back”, Jimmy Ruffin’s “He Who Picks A Rose”, and Brenda Holloway’s “We’ll Keep On Rolling”. Other mixes here include songs made/mixed for box sets and compilations, including a 1994 box set version of “Angel Doll” by The Temptations, an outtake of “I Know Better” by Barbara McNair, and a 2004 anthology mix of “That’s A Funny Way” by The Velvettes. Considering all the mono/stereo variations and outtakes/alternate takes that exist, there is still something worthy here for even the completist, plus it’s all on vinyl to boot, some being released in that format for the very first time. Overall, a very nice set and a perfect companion to the first volume released late last year.
(The box set is available from Amazon.co.UK.)
Two powers of music are brought together for a new mix of “Travellin’ Man Part II”, so now you can hear Marvin Gaye join Yasiin Bey (the man who may also know as Mos Def) in this very cool Distant Lovers mix by Amerigo Gazaway. On top of that, you also get the instrumental mix too.
You see the two individuals on the picture sleeve above and are probably thinking “what is Mos/Yasiin doing with Marvin Gaye?” They have been merged together by Amerigo Gazaway in a track called “Inner City Travellin’ Man'”, so if you ever wanted to know how these two guys would have made you holler, your dream is about to come true. Not only that, but you’re able to download the instrumental for it too.
A recent episode of Unsung on TV One made people realize the many ups and downs singer Melba Moore has had in her career. With the help of Shanachie Records, she has teamed up with Phil Perry for an album that puts her back into the spotlight once again. The Gift Of Love has them doing primarily covers with a small hint of original tunes from Perry, and the album opens with a personal favorite, a cover of Sounds Of Blackness‘ “Optimistic”. They show how great they are, and how great they are together, on a song that still works 20 years after the fact.
Another great performance of them is their cover of Stevie Wonder‘s “Weakness”, which he wrote and recorded for The Woman In Red soundtrack. It’s a nice ballad that will definitely be some nice mood music for those special moments. Also here are two Ashford & Simpson compositons made famous by Marvin Gaye & Terri Terrell, “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing” and “You’re All I Need To Get By”.
If there’s a song that stands out as something exceptional, it would have to be “We’ll Be Together, Then”, written by Dwayne C. Palmer. In this song, Moore takes the lead and while the background vocals are shared by three people, there’s a primary male vocal that stands out in this song. It’s credited to Vonquest but I’m not sure if it’s Gary Vonquest. Nonetheless, he and the arrangement from Palmer is exceptional, very reminiscent of Howard Hewett and Tony! Toni! Tone!-era Raphael Saadiq and in better times, this would be promoted with a classy video and a push that would make this a hit single. Moore’s performance sounds like some of Patti LaBelle‘s best, but in truth it’s one of Moore’s best and you can now hear why she has moved people in the last 40 years.
If there’s one downside, it’s the smooth jazz approach to some (read “some”) of the songs, where everything is synthesized and computerized, songs that would have sounded a lot better if it sounded less plastic and more down to Earth. The songs that do work on this album, they should have done more like that. Nonetheless, it is a Gift that will keep on giving, and one must give thanks to The Gift Of Love that they have chosen to share. Perry as always is in fine form with his vocals, and perhaps it will get more people to explore their collective catalogs, especially Moore. With luck, it will also bring more work her way too.