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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Complete Motown Singles, Volume 1; 1959-1961

Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2005 at 12:00 AM

Casual Motown fans look away. This is not for you. Tune to WOMC instead; they’ll play “Baby Love” in five minutes. In fact, Hip-O Select deserves its own wing in the Detroit Historical Museum for the mammoth significance of this project. Every single released on Motown and its affiliated labels (Tamla, etc.) between 1959 and 1972 will be put together in a 12-volume series. This, Volume 1, is six CDs covering the first three years, and is limited to 5,000 copies, available only online ( And it’s about damn time. Singles by the likes of the Satintones that have been priced as three-digit unobtainables are now here, in beautiful clarity.

The only drawback is the sometimes vaguely informative liner notes. Example: “Not much is known about the Ecuadors.” The liners go on to say how they recorded one single and that they may have done another on Atco, maybe even recorded with Chuck Berry. The whole time, you ask yourself, “Berry Gordy is alive and well! Why don’t they fucking ask him?” Fact is, Gordy is decidedly hands-off and it breaks your heart just imagining what information he’s sitting on.

The most valuable part of this collection is perspective. With songs like “Ich-I-Bon #1” by Gordy’s first white act, Nick and the Jaguars, or “Bye Bye Baby” by the overlooked Mary Wells, we find a connection with modern Detroit bands such as the Gories and Detroit Cobras, who covered these obscure sides, respectively.

Motown music is one of the few places left to find some civic pride (albeit nostalgic) in this damn town. Let’s just hope that isn’t ruined with a limp-dick Super Bowl halftime show.

Ben Blackwell writes about music for Metro Times . Send comments to


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