This limited-edition anthology spotlights an impressive four-dozen previously unissued Diana Ross & the Supremes' selections from the seemingly infinite Motown archives. Of course there have been similarly copious collections of vintage Supremes' rarities, outtakes, remixes, and the like; most notably the highly collectable 25th Anniversary (1986) and Never Before Released Masters (1987), not to mention a plethora of additional multi-artist packages and expanded editions of classic Supremes' long-players. With such a myriad of previous outlets, one could easily presume that these 48 tracks are scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel. Luckily for aficionados and enthusiasts of Florence Ballard, Diana Ross, and Mary Wilson, there seems to be plenty of quality leftovers -- some of which weren't even known about until the set's producers began their research on Let the Music Play: Supreme Rarities 1960-1969. Taking a chronological approach, the album begins with "(You Can) Depend on Me," one of the very first sides to have been recorded by the ladies. The number was co-written by Motown founder Berry Gordy and William "Smokey" Robinson, and actually predates the vocalists' "official" Motown signing. Similarly, the title "Tears of Sorrow" had been documented by the pre-Supremes' prototype, the Primettes, for a different label. (Barbara Martin was still in the group at this point and, as Andrew Skurow points out in his song-by-song annotations, she can clearly be heard on "Because I Love Him," which is among the sides that Gordy penned specifically for the Supremes.) Among his additional contributions are "Hey Baby (Version 1)," "Too Hot (Version 4)," "You're Gonna Come to Me," -- presented in two separate incarnations -- and "Come on Boy." All are offered from Gordy in the days before Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland, Jr. began churning out the the Supremes' chart-toppers. A prime example of their prowess can be found on the appropriately titled "Hits Medley: Come See About Me/Baby Love/Stop! In the Name of Love," which was worked up for the Supremes to lip-sync to during their high-profile appearance in the June 28, 1965 premiere episode of Dick Clark's teen-oriented rock & roll performance show Where the Action Is.
Throughout their career, the Supremes covered a wide spectrum of artists and Supreme Rarities includes some interesting non-Motown material. From the world of rock & roll are the Beatles' " I Saw Him (Her) Standing There" and Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away," -- initially meant for the A Bit of Liverpool project -- Sam Cooke's "Cupid," Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual," the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," Bacharach and David's "The Look of Love," and Jimmy Webb's "MacArthur Park." They join the Bob Merrill/Jule Styne show tune "People," "Somewhere over the Rainbow," and overhauls of pop standards "Canadian Sunset" and "Autumn Leaves" -- all of which were unbelievably relegated to the cutting-room floor. As were the Supremes' interpretation of fellow label mates the Miracles ("Mickey's Monkey"), the Vandellas ("Come And Get These Memories"), Stevie Wonder ("Uptight (Everything's Alright)") and the Four Tops ("I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)"). There are even alternates of a few well-known Supremes' tracks with "Back in My Arms Again," "You Can't Hurry Love," "I'll Set You Free," and "Love Child" being the best examples. The two CDs are visually augmented with lots of photos within the 32-page liner notes booklet that is likewise packed with interesting bits of trivia and discographical details thanks to Skurow's text.