This is an mp3 blog attempting to document the gross amount of music I listen to. About once a day, I'll post something I like. If you're a copyright holder on anything I host, get in touch, and we'll settle things in a steel cage instead of a courtroom.

Monday, December 18, 2006

"Like quicksand, pullin' me deeper" - Martha and the Vandellas

As Nathan Rabin so nailed it on the head in his ruminations on the soon-to-be-released Dreamgirls, for as great as Motown was, and for all the amazing songs and incredible performers, it was at heart a concerted effort to sell blackness to white America in the form of pop songs that weren't all that far removed from the Four Freshmen.

I think that's why I never really cottoned to the Supremes in the same way as so much of the Big Chill generation has. I never really cared for Diana Ross' voice, and the rest of the group was negligable at best. Of course, they were helped by the fact that Berry Gordy assigned them all the best songs coming out of the Motown house, especially 'most all of the A-list winners penned by the unbeatable team of Holland/Dozier/Holland. Shit, even Kelly Clarkson sounds pretty good when she's got a good enough song written for her. It makes sense that once Ms. Ross was removed from the protective bubble of the Motown staff, she degenerated into the frizzed-out crap soul singer that she really always was. If Fergie has a counterpart in 70's singers, it's Diana Ross.

I bring this up because I am stupidly in love with the girl groups of the 60's (not to mention their spiritual descendents, female-fronted twee bands), which is really no secret. But since most people consider the Supremes to be the greatest girl group of them all (because, hey, you can measure quality in terms of #1 singles), I'm forced to retort, "they weren't even the best girl group on Motown, much less of all time."

So who is, Mr. Know-it-all-rock-snob? That's easy, kiddo - Martha and the Vandellas. They weren't restrained; they were all for riotous dancing, being racous, shouting out your feelings, letting it all hang out and not giving a damn who saw. It was messy and soulful and unafraid. Shit, they changed their name from the Del-Phins because one time, when they were doing a backup session for Marvin Gaye and drowning out the king of soul himself, he referred to them as "vandals." How fucking cool is that? It wasn't fake, either; Martha Reeves got herself institutionalized for a while in the late 60's.

Basically, everything these gals recorded was pure gold, although you'll be pressed to find anyone under 40 who can name any of their songs that aren't "Dancin' in the Street." If you can find it, the 1965 LP Dance Party is jaw-droppingly good, and I've yet to hear a bad song from the group. Here's hoping the people that own the Motown catalogue finally get off their asses and put out a comprehensive box set.


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