Various Artists

Pops, We Love You

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OK, so the 12" red heart-shaped disco single of "Pops, We Love You," the title track, lingered around the Top 60 and Top 90 positions in Cashbox magazine in February of 1979 and the Top 70 in Billboard during January of that same year, and is generally regarded as too sappy and excessive. Berry Gordy Sr. certainly deserved a better single from the likes of Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Smokey Robinson -- four of the biggest stars to ever launch out of Motown. But the album, originally released April 26, 1979, is a real treasure, and this 25th anniversary edition released on Hip-O Select is a terrific and proper tribute to the father of the father of Motown Records. There are superb novelties from the day, including a remix of "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)" -- Ross' first "solo" hit from 1970 -- along with a re-edit and remix of Gaye's "God Is Love" from his What's Going On 1971 masterpiece. These are remixes from a time before such things would truly catch on, from an era before CDs would make them mandatory. Tata Vega's "Come in Heaven (Earth Is Calling)" is considered a classic with unrequited chart results, and it certainly holds up to the underground "buzz" it maintains decades after being recorded. Other gems include Robinson's stunning "Mother's Son," the Commodores' "This Is Your Life," and a truly exceptional duet between Ross and Gaye on Leonard Caston and Terry McFaddin's "I'll Keep My Light in My Window." This was the day when Rod Stewart topped the chart by asking "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" and Chic were immersed in "La Freak." Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight hit number one six years later with "That's What Friends Are For" -- a then-obscure Rod Stewart performance from the 1982 soundtrack to the film Night Shift. The remake became a much-covered monster hit and is exactly the kind of nugget Motown should have sought out for such a special project. Had the powers that be only searched for and found a truly wonderful song to remember Berry Gordy Sr. with instead of the Las Vegas opening act throwaway tune title track, this underappreciated album would have a much more stellar place in history. Thane Tierney and Heather Whitten at Hip-O Select deserve credit, as do reissue supervisor Harry Weinger and mastering engineer Ellen Fitton, for bringing the other music here back to life. This CD version could even have Berry Gordy Sr. offering forgiveness from the heavens for the tacky 45-rpm misfire.

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