Album: The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 9: 1969 (Hip-o-select 2008)


1968 may have been a bit of a bumpy ride for Motown, with the loss of Holland Dozier Holland, and Berry Gordy’s relocation to Los Angeles, but the company still ended the year with five 45s in the US top ten. 1969 was the year that the cracks really began to show, and these are apparent on the latest instalment of Hip-O-Select’s monumental round-up of every single released by the Motown group during the Detroit era.

The early volumes of the series are notable for the inclusion of some really awful misfires – be they wacky novelty numbers, terrible supper-club MOR or cornball country. This desire to be more than just a pop and soul company was reined in by about 1964, and with the exception of the odd beat and garage group (most of whom were actually not bad), Motown concentrated on what it was best at. The result was that volumes 4 to 8 of this series were collections of an incredibly high standard – full of indisputable pop classics and long lost gems. For some reason, though, 1969 saw the return of some gruesome novelty tunes. Soupy Sales’ “Muck Arty Park” is indescribably bad. It was also the year that Gordy made a serious, full-scale attempt at garnering a slice of the burgeoning contemporary rock market with the establishment of the Rare Earth imprint. Its first year made little impact, but persistence paid off at the beginning of the next decade.

Fortunately, the vast majority of music across these six CDs carries the classic Motown hallmarks of soulful vocals, brilliant pop hooks, and tight, insistent music. And there are classics aplenty: Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour”, Marvin Gaye’s “Too Busy Thinkin’ About My Baby”, David Ruffin’s “My Whole World Ended”, the Supremes’ “Some Day We’ll Be Together” and the Originals’ gorgeous “Baby I’m For Real” to name but five. But dig a little deeper, there were definite signs that things weren’t as hot as they had been. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas had a poor year, the Marvelettes had more or less split up, the Four Tops only had two singles, the Miracles were hardly firing on all cylinders, and even the all-conquering Supremes had a number of misfires before their big smash (which, ironically, didn’t even feature Cindy Birdsong or Mary Wilson, and was the last 45 to feature Diana Ross). The big stars on the horizon were, of course, the Jackson Five who had the first of four straight number ones at the end of the year with “I Want You Back”. Despite that, 1969 saw Motown dominated by one man – Norman Whitfield.

Whitfield had two main charges as writer and producer. Gladys Knight and the Pips gave him the best female voice that the company ever had to work with. His songs and her singing fitted perfectly in a place way deeper and more soulful than the company’s usual output. Secondly, Whitfield had, since 1966, virtually full control over the Temptations, and it’s their contributions which glow brightest in this collection. Taking the template established the previous year with “Cloud Nine”, the Tempts’ ‘psychedelic soul’ was as urgent and as real as any of their rock-influenced contemporaries such as Sly and the Family Stone and the nascent P-Funk groups. The group’s four 1969 singles (“Runaway Child Running Wild”, “Don’t Let The Joneses Get You Down”, “Can’t Get Next To You” and “Psychedelic Shack”) were all mini-masterpieces which completely reinvented the way a soul vocal group worked. Aside from the funk-rock backing, harmonies took a back seat to the singers’ taking turns to impart lines. With no obvious lead singer/backing singer dynamic, these tracks helped pave the way for the rap groups that would begin to appear a decade later. Whitfield’s productions were some of the earliest examples of the exciting rock-funk hybrid music that dominated the Blaxploitation era of the early seventies.

To say that 1969 saw Motown in decline is to overstate the case. It was the end of the company’s dominance of the pop 45 market, but the Jackson Five ensured that its commercial fortunes weren’t about to wane. Artistically, too, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye had barely flexed their muscles yet, and would both go on to produce era-defining albums over the next half dozen years. But the era of the driving, punchy two and a half minute drama was drawing to a close.

As ever, the sound mastering, packaging, presentation and annotation of the set is faultless. The cover-mounted 45 on this occasion is (unsurprisingly) “I Want You Back”.

Disc: 1
1. Twenty Five Miles – Edwin Starr
2. Love Is My Destination – Edwin Starr
3. I’m Livin’ In Shame – Diana Ross & The Supremes
4. I’m So Glad I Got Somebody (Like You Around) – Diana Ross & The Supremes
5. Good Lovin’ Ain’t Easy To Come By – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
6. Satisfied Feelin’ – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
7. We Got A Way Out Love – Originals
8. You’re The One – Originals
9. We Got A Way Out Love – Originals
10. My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me) – David Ruffin
11. I’ve Got To Find Myself A Brand New Baby – David Ruffin
12. Muck Arty Park – Soupy Sales
13. Green Grow The Lilacs – Soupy Sales
14. I Don’t Know Why – Stevie Wonder
15. My Cherie Amour – Stevie Wonder
16. I Don’t Know Why – Stevie Wonder
17. Runaway Child Runaway Lovin’ – Temptations
18. I Need Your Lovin’ – Temptations
19. Don’t Mess With My Weekend – Shorty Long
20. I Had A Dream – Shorty Long
21. Ain’t No Justice – Shorty Long
22. Didn’t You Know (You’d Have To Cry Sometime) – Gladys Knight & The Pips
23. Keep An Eye – Gladys Knight & The Pips

Disc: 2
1. I’ll Try Something New – Diana Ross & The Supremes/The Temptations
2. Way You Do The Things You Do – Diana Ross & The Supremes/The Temptations
3. Are You Lonely For Me Baby – Chuck Jackson
4. Your Wonderful Love – Chuck Jackson
5. Are You Lonely For Me Baby – Chuck Jackson
6. I Feel Like I’m Falling In Love Again – Fantastic Four
7. Pin Point It Down – Fantastic Four
8. We’ve Got Honey Love – Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
9. I’m In Love (And I Know It) – Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
10. Runaway Child Running Wild – Earl Van Dyke
11. Gonna Give Her All The Love I’ve Got – Earl Van Dyke
12. For Better Or Worse – Jonah Jones
13. Don’t Mess With Bill – Jonah Jones
14. Composer – Diana Ross & The Supremes
15. Beginning Of The End – Diana Ross & The Supremes
16. My Cup Runneth Over – Billy Eckstine
17. Ask The Lonely – Billy Eckstine
18. Too Busy Thinking About My Baby – Marvin Gaye
19. Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home) – Marvin Gaye
20. What Is A Man – Four Tops
21. Don’t Bring Back Memories – Four Tops
22. Cherie – Honestmen
23. Baby – Honestmen
24. What Does It Take (To Win Your Love) – Jr Walker & The All Stars
25. Brainwasher – Jr Walker & The All Stars

Disc: 3
1. Don’t Let The Joneses Get You Down – Temptations
2. Since I’ve Lost You – Temptations
3. Just Ain’t Enough Love – Isley Brothers
4. Green Grow The Lilacs – Originals
5. No Matter What Sign You Are – Diana Ross & The Supremes
6. Young Folks – Diana Ross & The Supremes
7. No Matter What Sign You Are – Diana Ross & The Supremes
8. I’m Still A Struggling Man – Edwin Starr
9. Pretty Little Angel – Edwin Starr
10. Nitty Gritty – Gladys Knight & The Pips
11. Got Myself A Good Man – Gladys Knight & The Pips
12. Doggone Right – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
13. Here I Go Again – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
14. Abraham Martin And John – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
15. Abraham Martin And John – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
16. I’ve Lost Everything I’ve Ever Loved – David Ruffin
17. We’ll Have A Good Thing Going On – David Ruffin
18. Stubborn Kind Of Fellow – Diana Ross & The Supremes/The Temptations
19. Try It Baby – Diana Ross & The Supremes/The Temptations
20. Luney Landing – Captain Zap & The Motortown Cut-Ups
21. Luney Take Off – Captain Zap & The Motortown Cut-Ups
22. Oh I’ve Been Blessed – Bobby Taylor
23. It Should Have Been Me Loving Her – Bobby Taylor
24. Cheatin’ Is Telling On You – Lollipops
25. Need Your Love – Lollipops

Disc: 4
1. Oh How Happy – Edwin Starr & Blinky
2. Ooo Baby Baby – Edwin Starr & Blinky
3. My Spring Time – Terry Johnson
4. Suzie – Terry Johnson
5. My Girl Has Gone – Bobby Taylor
6. I Can’t Get Next To You – Temptations
7. Running Away (Ain’t Gonna Help You) – Temptations
8. That’s The Way Love Is – Marvin Gaye
9. Gonna Keep On Tryin’ Till I Win Your Love – Marvin Gaye
10. Honey Come Back – Chuck Jackson
11. What Am I Gonna Do Without You – Chuck Jackson
12. Baby I’m For Real – Originals
13. Moment Of Truth – Originals
14. Taking My Love (And Leaving Me) – Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
15. Heartless – Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
16. In Bed – Wes Henderson
17. Reality – Wes Henderson
18. Weight – Diana Ross & The Supremes/The Temptations
19. For Better Or Worse – Diana Ross & The Supremes/The Temptations
20. Whiter Shade Of Pale – Shorty Long
21. When You Are Available – Shorty Long
22. Just Another Lonely Night – Shorty Long
23. Don’t Care Why You Want Me (Long As You Want Me) – Fantastic Four
24. Midnight Cowboy – Joe Harnell
25. Green Grow The Lilacs – Joe Harnell

Disc: 5
1. That’s How Heartaches Are Made – Marvelettes
2. Rainy Mourning – Marvelettes
3. Home On The Range (Everybody Needs A Home) – Stu Gardner
4. It’s A Family Thang – Stu Gardner
5. Mend This Generation – Stu Gardner
6. Place In The Sun – Monk Montgomery
7. Your Love – Monk Montgomery
8. Never Had A Dream Come True – Stevie Wonder
9. Yester Me Yester You Yesterday – Stevie Wonder
10. I’d Be A Fool Right Now – Stevie Wonder
11. It’s Private Tonight – Arthur Adams
12. Let’s Make Some Love – Arthur Adams
13. These Eyes – Jr Walker & The All Stars
14. I’ve Got To Find A Way To Win Maria Back – Jr Walker & The All Stars
15. Friendship Train – Gladys Knight & The Pips
16. Cloud Nine – Gladys Knight & The Pips
17. In My Diary – Spinners
18. She’s Gonna Love Me At Sundown – Spinners
19. I Want You Back – Jackson Five
20. Who’s Lovin’ You – Jackson Five
21. If You Will Let Me I Know I Can – Jimmy Ruffin
22. Farewell Is A Lonely Sound – Jimmy Ruffin
23. Gonna Put It On Your Mind – Dorothy, Oma & Zelpha
24. Henry Blake – Dorothy, Oma & Zelpha

Disc: 6
1. Someday We’ll Be Together – Diana Ross & The Supremes
2. He’s My Sunny Boy – Diana Ross & The Supremes
3. Don’t Let Him Take Your Love From Me – Four Tops
4. Key – Four Tops
5. Baby I’ll Get It – Chuck Jackson
6. Day My World Stood Still – Chuck Jackson
7. What You Gave Me – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
8. How You Gonna Keep It (After You Get It) – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
9. Generation (Light Up The Sky) – Rare Earth
10. Magic Key – Rare Earth
11. I’m So Glad I Fell For You – David Ruffin & The Hal Davis Singers
12. I Pray Every Day You Won’t Regret Loving Me – David Ruffin & The Hal Davis Singers
13. I’m So Glad I Fell For You – David Ruffin
14. Point It Out – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
15. Darling Dear – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
16. Point It Out – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
17. Can We Talk To You (For A Little While) – Anonymous Children Of Today
18. Love And Peace – Anonymous Children Of Today
19. Can’t You Hear The Music Play – Rustix
20. I Guess This Is Goodbye – Rustix
21. I Will Never Love Another – Five Smooth Stones
22. Love Unto Me – Five Smooth Stones
23. How Can I Forget – Jerry Long & Marvin Gaye
24. Gonna Give Her All The Love I’ve Got – Marvin Gaye
25. Psychedelic Shack – Temptations
26. That’s The Way Love Is – Temptations


One response to “Album: The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 9: 1969 (Hip-o-select 2008)

  1. Great article. I talk about the influence Sly Stone had on Norman Whitfield and how it resulted in “Cloud Nine” in my book about Sly. Check it out.

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