Various Artists

Motown: The Musical [Original Broadway Cast Recording]

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Opening in April of 2013, Motown: The Musical is the Broadway adaptation of Motown founder Berry Gordy's autobiography, one stuffed with over 50 song segments from the legendary label's towering '60s glory days. Trying to contain the various vivid stories, personalities, and characters of Motown's early history in one compact musical would be hard enough, let alone trying to get into any of the music. Thusly, the original Broadway cast recording of Motown: The Musical is mostly a long string of medleys, grabbing truncated versions or seconds of hooks from classic Motown hits by everyone from the Supremes to the Jackson 5. In between the dizzyingly speedy mash-ups there are equally short snippets of dialogue alluding to the civil rights movement happening concurrently with Motown's rise to worldwide acclaim and the occasional banter between the star players before they break into song. Studio musicians and cast members offer surprisingly faithful renditions of ubiquitous hits like the Temptations' "My Girl," the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back," and the rousing album-closing version of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." The serviceable Broadway medley versions are fine, but they play so closely to the originals that they end up reinforcing how truly magical and unique the original sessions were. Trying to re-create the impossibly rare beauty of early Motown is a fool's errand, and while the musical isn't aiming to do that, Motown: The Musical can't help but fall flat as an album when compared to any of the innumerable Motown hits collections that have come before it. As a souvenir for those particularly moved by the musical, or Motown fanatics, this is a great production and a document of an enormously entertaining show. For anyone turned on to the sound of young Detroit for the first time by the musical, investigating the real artifacts isn't just the best place to start, but the only place.

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