Various Artists

Free Soul: The Classics of 70s Motown

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Motown's output during the 1970s occupies a strange place in popular music history. Landmark albums like Marvin Gaye's What's Going On and Stevie Wonder's Innervisions redefined the label's image, proving its artists capable of deeply moving, intimately personal and powerfully political statements that belied the carefree spirit that defined the Sound of Young America during the previous decade; At the same time, a new generation of acts like the Jackson 5 proved Motown still a potent source for ebullient, sweeping pop, escapist bubblegum virtually impossible not to love. Yet the sheer dominance of Motown suffered as the decade wore on -- rival labels like Philadelphia International proved formidable competitors, and with the explosive popularity of disco, Motown seemed a relic of a different world altogether, no longer the sound of any America, young or old. It's taken decades to accurately reappraise the music beyond the hits and the classics, and while the 1970s won't yield as many forgotten or unreleased gems as the Motown vaults of the decade previous, a disc like Free Soul: The Classics of 70s Motown nevertheless is an eye-opening experience. Like virtually every entry in the Free Soul series, this smartly-compiled collection deftly juxtaposes familiar material with little-known rediscoveries, strongly emphasizing the latter -- obscure singles and album cuts like Odyssey's "Battened Ships," G.C. Cameron's "No Matter Where," Hearts of Stone's "If I Could Give You the World" and Sisters Love's "Give Me Your Love" won't make you forget the Temptations or the Supremes, but will make you reconsider a time and place you'd probably written off.