Part of the new wave of British two-LPs-on-one-CD Motown releases, these two albums, issued almost exactly two and a half years apart, bookend the early-'70s successes of the Temptations. As an album, Psychedelic Shack was as contemporary as anything ever released by Motown, built around intense, enveloping arrangements with extended instrumental breaks that gave extraordinary prominence to the backing band. The voices of the group members were well-represented, to be sure, intoning lyrics that were far removed from "Since I Lost My Baby" or even "Get Ready," to tempos and arrangements that were as fierce and raucous as anything the members could have imagined even two years before. Psychedelic Shack was a more political album than Berry Gordy could ever have conceived of releasing when he founded Motown a dozen years earlier, and credit for its existence, as well as its success, must rest with producer-composer Norman Whitfield -- it also helped open the way for albums like Marvin Gaye's What's Going On. The reissue is the best it's ever sounded, a thunderous wall of sound that's nearly as impressive for the care that went into its arrangements (especially on "Friendship Train," a spellbinding closing number) as for its piercing lyrics. All Directions was less ambitious in its time than Psychedelic Shack, but considering that it was thought by many to be the group's impending swansong, it is an astonishing record -- actually, much of All Directions, especially on its first side, had an outsized soul sound simlar to Psychedelic Shack and a funky beat to boot. The remastered full-length "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" is essential listening -- crisp, soaring, and downright hypnotic in its intensity and complexity. Even material off of the softer, more ballad-oriented side two is enhanced by the lushness of the sound, however, and well worth hearing. This group of songs also allows the group and Whitfield to turn their talents toward reshaping the work of other artists from across the musical spectrum -- Ewan McColl's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" is represented, as is a surprisingly lyrical version of Isaac Hayes' then-contemporary piece "Do Your Thing" (from Shaft), and "I Ain't Got Nothing" is a tribute to the style and sound of the Flamingos and their 1959 hit "I Only Have Eyes for You," right down to its tempo and its "shoo-bop-shoo-bop" chorus. The only flaw on the reissue is the absence of a full list of credits to give the band members (especially those on Psychedelic Shack) their due.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder