Album: The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 8: 1968 (Hip-o-select 2007)


In George Pelecanos’ 1968 set novel Hard Revolution, black rookie DC cop Derek Strange dismisses Motown as “soul music for white people” (although he retains affection for DC-born Marvin Gaye). The quote is indicative of how things had changed in America by 1968. It was a country at war with itself, with huge schisms opening up between the old and the young, between liberals and conservatives and, particularly, between black and white. The year started with a massive escalation of the war in Viet Nam with the Tet Offensive, and continued with the assassinations of Dr Martin Luther King and Senator Robert Kennedy. Detroit was riven by bloody rioting for the second year in succession, but so were many other cities throughout the country. The Black Panthers and other radical organisations were rapidly gaining in influence among young blacks – it was the year of the famous Black Power salutes of athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos after they’d won two of the medals in the 200 metres at the Mexico City Olympics. Motown’s slogan “The Sound of Young America” sounded increasingly hollow. The label even had its own internal militant problem when Abdullah (aka singer Joseph McLean), a black nationalist muslim, threatened white A&R chief Ralph Seltzer with a letter opener! His tenure at the label didn’t last long after that.

Motown’s family image was crumbling. First, the executives moved into a new building, away from the studios, writers and producers. Berry Gordy then moved with his family to Los Angeles (the label would up sticks altogether in 1972). Lamont Dozier, Brian and Edward Holland had split from the company in late 1967, and now there were law suits and counter-suits flying in all directions. Some of the acts clearly suffered from the loss of one of the label’s key writing teams, especially the Four Tops whose 1968 singles consisted of dusted down HDH tracks from the vaults or covers of contemporary pop hits by the Left Banke and Tim Hardin. The upbeat, backbeat driven Motown sound, dominated by the 2 minute 40 single, was beginning to sound anachronistic in 1968 compared to the deep soul coming out of Atlantic and the new rock-infused sound of the Chambers Brothers and Sly and the Family Stone. And yet the company ended the year with five records in the Billboard top ten, and its biggest seller to date. The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 8: 1968 tells the story of a very turbulent year over 6 CDs.

The hole left by Holland Dozier Holland was largely filled by two new teams who’d come to the fore. Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson specialized in a more sophisticated soul sound that looked ahead to the “sweet soul” of the seventies. Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong brought a more earthy sound to the table. The most radical change came on October 1st 1968 when the backing tracks to the duo’s “Cloud Nine” were laid down, marking a complete break from the past. Otis Williams of the Temptations claims he had an epiphany when he and Kenny Gamble (of Gamble and Huff) heard Sly Stone’s “Dance To The Music”. He mentioned it to Whitfield who dismissed the rock-soul sound as a fad, so when the group returned from a tour, he was surprised to hear the new song that Whitfield and Strong had written. Everyone connected with it has always denied the drug connotations, but however it was intended, it is not hard to see it as a reflection of the increasing addiction problems of the ghetto underclass. “Cloud Nine” was one of the five top ten entries that Motown had on December 28th 1968. At number one was another Whitfield-Strong tune, Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (the cover mounted seven inch single included with this set). Originally shelved in favour of Gladys Knight’s version, the song was issued as an album track, but due to massive radio play, starting in Chicago, was finally put out as a 45. It went to number one on both sides of the Atlantic and was the biggest seller in the company’s history at that point.

The beauty in this series, of course, is the fact that it is not just about the familiar, or the epoch defining tracks. In including every A and B side issued or scheduled to be issued during the year, it has its share of filler. It is remarkable, though, how little of this there is. Many of the B sides would have been perfectly acceptable A sides – indeed some, like the Isleys’ “Behind A Painted Smile”, were utterly wasted on the flip. There are also some hidden gems from lesser known acts, like Rita Wright’s (aka Syreeta) Supremes-influenced “I Can’t Give The Love I Feel For You”, Chris Clark’s northern stomper “Whisper You Love Me Boy” and the Detroit Wheels’ explicitly druggy rock song “Linda Sue Dixon” (unlike the Beatles’ “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever what this is about. Sample lyric “you make me see things other people can’t see”). Solid gold, carved in stone classics include “Love Child”, “Gotta See Jane”, “For Once In My Life”, “Walk Away Renee” and “You’re All I Need To Get By” and there are rare oddities like the Miracles’ ode to their home town “I Care About Detroit” which was only ever issued as a one-sided promo on the Standard Groove label.

As always with this series, the packaging is second to none, and there are 132 pages of notes and pictures with two excellent essays by Otis Williams and activist and academic Herb Boyd. I’ll reiterate what I’ve said before when reviewing the previous volume in the series that these issues set the benchmark when it comes to archiving catalogue material.

Disc 38
1. I Can’t Give Back The Love I Feel For You – Rita Wright
2. Something On My Mind – Rita Wright
3. Night Fo’ Last – Shorty Long
4. Night Fo’ Last – Shorty Long [instrumental]
5. Walk Away Renee – Four Tops
6. Your Love Is Wonderful – Four Tops
7. The End Of Our Road – Gladys Knight & The Pips
8. Don’t Let her Take Your Love From Me – Gladys Knight & The Pips
9. (You Can’t Let The Boy Overpower) The Man In You – Chuck Jackson
10. Girls, Girls, Girls – Chuck Jackson
11. Why Am I Lovin’ You – Debbie Dean
12. Stay My Love – Debbie Dean
13. Thank You Love – Billy Eckstine
14. Is Anyone Here Goin’ My Way – Billy Eckstine
15. If You Can Want – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
16. When The Words From Your Heart Get Caught Up In Your Throat – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
17. Whisper You Love Me Boy – Chris Clark
18. I’ll Say Forever My Love – Jimmy Ruffin
19. Everybody Needs Love – Jimmy Ruffin
20. Does Your Mama Know About Me – Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers [promo version]
21. Fading Away – Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers
22. Does Your Mama Know About Me – Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers [commercial version]
23. Forever Came Today – Diana Ross & The Supremes
24. Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While) – The Isley Brothers
25. Why When Love Is Gone – The Isley Brothers

Disc 39
1. Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day – Stevie Wonder
2. Why Don’t You Lead Me To Love – Stevie Wonder
3. I Am The Man For You Baby – Edwin Starr
4. My Weakness Is You – Edwin Starr
5. Where Would I Be WIthout You – Barbara McNair
6. Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
7. Little Ole Boy, Little Ole Girl – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
8. Bring Back The Love – The Monitors
9. I Promise To Wait My Love – Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
10. Forget Me Not – Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
11. Gotta See Jane – R. Dean Taylor
12. Gotta See Jane – R. Dean Taylor [second pressing]
13. If I Were A Carpenter – Four Tops
14. Wonderful Baby – Four Tops
15. I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You) – The Temptations
16. Gonna Give Her All The Love I’ve Got – The Temptations
17. Linda Sue Dixon – The Detroit Wheels
18. Tally Ho – The Detroit Wheels
19. Here I Am Baby – The Marvelettes
20. Keep Off, No Trespassing – The Marvelettes
21. Sing What You Wanna – Shorty Long
22. Here Comes The Judge – Shorty Long
23. Ain’t That Lovin’ You – The Volumes
24. I Love You Baby – The Volumes

Disc 40
1. Yester Love – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
2. Much Better Off – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
3. It Should Have Been Me – Gladys Knight & The Pips
4. You Don’t Love Me No More – Gladys Knight & The Pips
5. What The World Needs Now Is Love – Diana Ross & The Supremes
6. Your Kiss Of Fire – Diana Ross & The Supremes
7. Some Things You Never Get Used To – Diana Ross & The Supremes
8. You’ve Been So Wonderful To Me – Diana Ross & The Supremes
9. Don’t Let Him Take Your Love From Me – Jimmy Ruffin
10. Lonely Lonely Man Am I – Jimmy Ruffin
11. You Met Your Match – Stevie Wonder
12. My Girl – Stevie Wonder
13. I Am Your Man – Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers
14. If You Love Her – Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers
15. Yesterday’s Dreams – Four Tops
16. For Once In My Life – Four Tops
17. You’re All I Need To Get By – Mavin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
18. I Care About Detroit – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
19. Please Return Your Love To Me – The Temptations
20. How Can I Forget – The Temptations
21. Hip City (Part 2) – Jr. Walker & The All Stars
22. Hip City (Part 1) – Jr. Walker & The All Stars
23. I Can’t Dance To That Music You’re Playin’ – Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
24. I Tried – Martha Reeves & The Vandellas

Disc 41
1. Special Occasion – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
2. Give Her Up – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
3. A Little Bit For Sandy – Paul Peterson
4. Your Love’s Got Me Burning Alive – Paul Peterson
5. I Wish It Would Rain – Gladys Knight & The Pips
6. It’s Summer – Gladys Knight & The Pips
7. For Love Of Ivy – Billy Eckstine
8. A Woman – Billy Eckstine
9. Can I Get A Witness – Barbara Randolph
10. Chained – Marvin Gaye
11. Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream – The Ones
12. I’ve Been Good To You – The Ones
13. Step By Step (Hand In Hand) – The Monitors
14. Time Is Passin’ By – The Monitors
15. Alfie – Eivets Rednow
16. More Than A Dream – Eivets Rednow
17. Destination: Anywhere – The Marvelettes
18. What’s Easy For Two Is Hard For One – The Marvelettes
19. Think (About The Good Things) – The Detriot Wheels
20. For The Love Of A Stranger – The Detroit Wheels
21. His Eye Is On The Sparrow – Marvin Gaye
22. Just A Closer Walk With Thee – Gladys Knight & The Pips

Disc 42
1. I’m In A Different World – Four Tops
2. Remember When – Four Tops
3. I Love You Madly – The Fantastic Four
4. I Love You Madly – The Fantastic Four [instrumental]
5. Keep On Lovin’ Me Honey – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
6. You Ain’t Livin’ Till Your Lovin’ – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
7. Love Child – Diana Ross & The Supremes
8. Will This Be The Day – Diana Ross & The Supremes
9. Love Child – Diana Ross & The Supremes [alternate version]
10. You Could Never Love Him (Like I Love Him) – Barbara McNair
11. Fancy Passes – Barbara McNair
12. I’ll Pick A Rose For My Rose – Marv Johnson
13. You Got The Love I Love – Marv Johnson
14. Malinda – Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers
15. It’s Growing – Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers
16. Malinda – Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers [alternate mix]
17. Sweet Darlin’ – Martha Reeved & The Vandellas
18. Without You – Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
19. For Once In My Life – Stevie Wonder
20. Angie Girl – Stevie Wonder
21. I Comma Zimba Zio (Here I Stand The Mighty One) – Abdullah
22. Why Them, Why Me – Abdullah
23. Bad, Bad Weather (Till You Come Home) – The Spinners
24. I Just Can’t Help But Feel The Pain – The Spinners

Disc 43
1. Cloud Nine – The Temptations
2. Why Did She Have To Leave Me (Why Did She Have To Go) – The Temptations
3. Way Over There – Edwin Starr
4. If My Heart Could Tell The Story – Edwin Starr
5. All Because I Love You – The Isley Brothers
6. Behind A Painted Smile – The Isley Brothers
7. I Wouldn’t Change The Man He Is – Blinky
8. I’ll Always Love You – Blinky
9. Gonna Keep On Tryin’ Till I Win Your Love – Jimmy Ruffin
10. Sad And Lonesome Feeling – Jimmy Ruffin
11. The Impossible Dream – Diana Ross & The Supremes& The Temptations
12. I’m Gonna Make You Love Me – Diana Ross & The Supremes & The Temptations
13. A Place In The Sun – Diana Ross & The Supremes & The Temptations
14. Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer – The Temptations
15. Silent Night, Holy Night – The Temptations
16. I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Marvin Gaye
17. You’re What’s Happening (In The World Today) – Marvin Gaye
18. This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You) – Tammi Terrell
19. Just Too Much To Hope For – Tammi Terrell
20. Baby, Baby Don’t Cry – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
21. Your Mother’s Only Daughter – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
22. Home Cookin’ – Jr. Walker And The All Stars
23. Mutiny – Jr. Walker & The All Stars
24. I’m Gonna Hold On Long As I Can – The Marvelettes
25. Don’t Make Hurting Me A Habit – The Marvelettes


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