Various Artists

Tamla Motown: Big Hits & Hard to Find Classics, Vol. 4

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Tamla Motown Big Hits & Hard to Find Classics, Vol. 4 is a 20-track reminder that Motown's beauty is more than skin deep. Of the artists here, only a couple (Marvin Gaye and the Marvelettes) are names the casual Motown fan might recognize. The rest are complete nobodies like Rick Robin and Him, the Elgins, and Terry Johnson, collector's darlings like Chris Clark and Barbara Randolph, or oddities like the San Remo Strings, the Hit Pack, or Paul Petersen (the kid from The Donna Reed Show of all places). Now that the proper amount of obscurity has been established, the real question is how do the tunes stack up to the well-known Motown classics? Favorably. The record is loaded with tracks that could have easily stormed the charts if given the right exposure. Eddie Holland's sweet 1961 love song "Jamie," Marv Johnson's storming Temptations-style rocker from 1966 "I Miss You Baby (How I Miss You)," Barbara Randolph's bubbly "I Got a Feeling" from 1968, and the Hit Pack's extremely hooky "Never Say No to Your Baby" from 1965 all fall into this category. The rest of the disc is just about as good, with wonderful tracks like the too-funky-for-Motown "I Like Everything About You" by the marvelous Chuck Jackson, Chris Clark's "Day by Day or Never," and the Lollipop's late-'60s sophisti-soul groover "Cheatin' Is Telling on You." Most surprising of all is probably the Paul Petersen track, "A Little Bit for Sandy." It's an R. Dean Taylor-written blue-eyed soul track that isn't very soulful but reveals Petersen to have some soul and makes you wish he had done more work for Motown. Hand it to Spectrum for making these fine tracks available. Unlike their U.S. counterparts at Motown proper, they realize that the only proper thing to do with a massive archive of killer soul tracks is unearth them. Wake up, Motown!

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