The Satintones

Sing: Complete Tamla & Motown Singles

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For all the many reissues of Motown material famous and obscure in the CD era, there are some groups and recordings that have been overlooked by the label's principal reissue programs. Thankfully, some of the stuff has eventually gotten farmed out to specialists, one case in point being this 26-track anthology of one of the company's earliest groups, the Satintones. They never had a hit, but put out about a half-dozen singles on the Motown and Tamla labels as Motown was getting off the ground in 1959-1961. All of them are here, along with many previously unissued cuts and a 1959 solo single by the group's Chico Leverett. There were reasons, however, the Satintones didn't become famous either in their lifetime or retrospectively, although they were competent at what they did, and Motown was competent at recording them. Their music was very much grounded in the late doo wop era, and although some songwriters (including Berry Gordy himself) who would be very involved with Motown's prime era contributed material, there are only hints at the innovative soul for which the company would become known. A few different approaches were tried, including straightforward harmony ballads, more comic numbers that verged on novelty, and uptempo tunes (the most notable of which was the 1959 single "Motor City," which helped solidify the company's profile with Detroit/Motown). Shades of the Drifters can be heard on the tracks with orchestration, as well as bits of the Coasters in the more lighthearted outings. There was also an ill-considered decision to rewrite the Shirelles' classic "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" as "Tomorrow and Always," which resulted in litigation over the songwriting credits. At other points, more definite anticipation of the early Motown soul sound can be heard, with some particular similarities to some of the work by the Contours. Overall, however, the Satintones were lacking those special songs that would have been contenders for hits. The special production touches that would make Motown so identifiable were present only in embryo, making these recordings reminders of a time when Motown was following trends rather than setting them. As an interesting, little-known chapter in the label's early history, however, it has its value, embellished by Ace's typically in-depth liner notes.