“Go west, young man”, and after a decade that moved and grooves millions of people around the world, Berry Gordy did just that by expanding Motown Records to the West Coast. While Motown already has a number of subsidiary labels (Gordy and Tamla among many), MoWest was a way to stand out from the norm to say “now let’s make a presence in the West”, which was not only geological, but also economical. Motown had been an independent label that ruled the charts as if they were a major, so it was only right for them to explore as many different possibilities as they could, as they did in the 1960’s.
About 15 years ago, I offered a suggestion to both Universal and Rhino to do a compilation for the MoWest label. I knew of MoWest because they were often listed on Motown inner sleeves. Universal said they were not interested, and Rhino were more into “other things”. This was of course at a time when Rhino wasn’t Warner Bros. reissue left nut, and Rhino worked with everyone in order to come up with some incredible compilations and reissues. I learned early on that a lot of labels don’t really want “outside A&R”, despite my pleas that it would be a worthy project. They more or less said “we need projects that sell”, even though British reissue labels were more than willing to dip into American music and reissue it like crazy. Out of nowhere, the good people at Light In The Attic have come up with the idea to do a comp on MoWest, and to the label, I have to say “thank you’.
Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love: Motown’s MoWest Story 1971-1973 is the first (but could’ve been second had Universal or Rhino taken my idea in 1996) MoWest retrospective ever released, and it features a side of Motown only the deep diggers and collectors known about. Here’s the official track listing:
1. You’re A Song (That I Can’t Sing) – Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
2. Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love – Odyssey
3. Give Me Your Love – The Sisters Love
4. Act Like A Shotgun – G.C. Cameron
5. I Love Every Little Thing About You – Syreeta
6. Black Maybe – Syreeta
7. Sun Country – Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
8. Battened Ships – Odyssey
9. I Can’t Give Back The Love I Feel For You – Suzee Ikeda
10. Don’t You Be Worried – The Commodores
11. You’ve Got To Make Your Choice – The Sisters Love
12. Broken Road – Odyssey
13. A Heart Is A House – The Nu Page
14. I Hope I See It In My Lifetime – Lodi
15. The Night – Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
16. I Ain’t Going Nowhere – Thelma Houston
By looking at the track listing, it might seem simply enough, but for a number of artists, these were their first releases, specifically The Commodores. Believe it or not, the label was also a brief home for Lesley Gore and The Crusaders, but after two years of not being able to come up with a solid hit, MoWest closed shop. Both The Commodores and Thelma Houston moved to Motown proper, where they ended up with very prosperous careers.
The compilation will be out on June 14th, and will be released on both 2LP vinyl and a single CD.