Various Artists

Motown's Blue Evolution

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From the beginning, Motown was almost exclusively devoted to soul. But they did have a few blues-oriented artists on their roster, especially in the early 1960s. Truthfully, though, this 20-track compilation isn't exactly a blues anthology. It's more like a collection of soul cuts with a bluesy feeling, by performers who had substantial or deep roots in pure blues. Mable John (Little Willie's sister) and Sammy Ward, for instance, sing R&B/soul with some bluesy shadings; jump blues veteran Amos Milburn sings modified earthy R&B, married to Motown's embryonic production machine; Earl King has a slight New Orleans flavor to his previously unreleased performances. The unknown Arthur Adams sings blues/soul crossover; Luther Allison comes by far the closest to real blues, and is the only one of the artists whose selections date from the 1970s. You can quibble about the accuracy of the compilation's theme, but it's not a bad excuse to get some interesting Motown performances out of the vaults and onto CD, though it's not truly top-drawer blues or soul. Only one of these was even a modest hit (Sammy Ward's 1960 single "Who's the Fool"), and seven tracks were previously unreleased (King and Adams never even got to officially release anything on Motown), so even seasoned Motown collectors will find much of interest here.

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