Hitsville U.S.A.

Complete Motown Singles 1966We need our little and not so little indulgences every once in a while, right? I did a little post-Christmas splurge and bought The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 6, a box set containing every A- and B-side of every 45 single Motown released in 1966. It’s … amazing. This is part of the ongoing effort by Hip-O Select to release every Motown single on year-by-year CD sets spanning the company’s 1959 to 1972 period in Detroit. Each set is neatly packaged with a hardback book and an actual 45 rpm single (the ’66 one has The Four Tops’ “Reach Out”). Originally I was just planning on getting the ones covering the late sixties — but now that I can actually see what a fantastic job they did, I want them all! At a hundred bucks a pop, that might take a while.

Listening to this stuff in order, it’s interesting to hear how Motown slowly evolved during 1966. Often they’d have a stretch of really strong, classic singles followed by another stretch of obscure oddities or songs without that telltale “Motown” sound. Therefore you have plenty of Supremes, Vandellas, Temptations and Stevie Wonder alongside MOR singers like Billy Eckstine and Barbara McNair or a garage rocker from The Mynah Birds, a group which counted both Rick James and Neil Young as members. You can also tell that whenever an artist would have a hit, it would usually be followed with another single attempting to sound as much like the previous song as possible. This particular one contains Wonder’s “Nothing’s Too Good for My Baby” (“Uptight” part II) and The Marvelettes’ “You’re the One” (“Don’t Mess With Bill” redux), two tunes nearly as enjoyable as the hits they emulated. 1966 also saw the arrival of The Isley Brothers and Gladys Knight & The Pips, two A-list R&B acts who suddenly found themselves B-listers amongst the other Motown talents. We can’t forget the fabulously underrated efforts of Kim Weston, The Velvelettes and The Elgins, either! One thing that surprised me is that they used mono 45 mixes here, so the sound is not quite as full as what I’m used to. I’m something of a liner notes geek, and the annotations accompanying this set are really fantastic — each single has a great story behind it. A great set for a great Motown year; now I gotta save some dough for ’67 (which, incredibly, was an even better year for them).

2 Responses to “Hitsville U.S.A.”

  1. Dan Says:

    Probably no surprise to you, but I’ve been purchasing this series since the first one (1959-1961) came out a few years back. Talk about listening to the Motown sound evolve! I received my copy of Volume 9 (1969) just before Christmas and I love, love, love hearing all the obscure singles and/or B-sides that have never made it to CD until now!

    I must admit, I’m surprised you were surprised about their use of mono 45 mixes on the set. They don’t call the series “The Complete Motown Singles” for nothin’! This has allowed me to have not only the stereo versions but to add the mono (and sometimes mono single–read “alternate”) versions to my collection. There hasn’t been a set yet (even from the early years–and I tend to be more of a 1964-1972 Motown Fan) that I haven’t enjoyed and been glad I’ve added to my collection.

    Enjoy the ride, Matt–don’t get off ’til it’s over!

    PS – Word on the Hip-O grapevine is that a long-awaited (I knew of it being in the planning stages a year ago!) “Supremes Lost & Found” is coming later this month or at the beginning of February. Start saving your nickels and dimes now, pal! *G*

  2. Matt Says:

    Hey, Dan! Poor yet? I put a bug in Christopher’s ear so maybe he’ll get me another one of these for the next birthday/anniversary/Christmas.

    The mono mixes aren’t bad per se, they just take some getting used to. Much rougher sounding, but it really makes you feel like you’re listening to a stack of vintage 45s. I’m also hearing little differences in these mixes, like the added female vocals on the Isley’s “Guess I’ll Always Love You”. Those alternate mixes are verrry subtle. Often I can’t hear anything different about them at all.

    Anyway, really cool stuff. I’m already saving up for ’67 (or maybe ’65!). Supremes Lost & Found? Count me in!

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