Various Artists

The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 12A: 1972

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Two songs into The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 12A: 1972, the Four Tops sing "L.A. (My Town)," an ode to the city that became Motown's new hometown in 1972. By the middle of the year, all Detroit operations closed and Motown now belonged to Los Angeles, and this five-disc box set chronicles the first six months of 1972, the time when Motown was in transition. Certainly, the 113 tracks here -- the uneven number of songs derives from the number of alternate mixes and promo versions -- showcase a label in the throes of change, its '60s superstars struggling to keep up with the times as the new groups never quite made waves. At this point in time, Motown's heavy hitters were Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and the Jackson 5, and these three are responsible for the instantly recognizable songs here: Marvin's "You're the Man," Stevie's "Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)," and Michael Jackson's "Rockin' Robin." The lack of big hits surely would've been concerning to Motown in 1972, but this paucity of pop hits makes The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 12A a fascinating listen, as there are covers of familiar songs (the Undisputed Truth's original version of "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone," Edwin Starr's cover of "Ball of Confusion"), an early single from the Commodores, Bobby Darin covering Randy Newman, attempts at both bubblegum and Latin-tinged funk rock in the vein of War, plus a bunch of stuff that would've seemed comfortable on Invictus, the label founded by former Motown hitmakers Holland-Dozier-Holland. All these contradictory styles, when combined with an increasingly slick production polish, makes this particular Motown box feel very much of its time; it evokes an era of polyester knits, long sideburns, fuzz guitars, show biz strings, and productions larger than the songs themselves. Much of the fun of this box is enjoying certain portions for their feel, while digging deep in others to find the handful of gems scattered throughout. There may be no question that the glory days of Motown were over, but hearing the label struggle to find footing in a new decade in a new town makes The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 12A: 1972 nearly as compelling a listen as the boxes that showcased the label's best years.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:58
2 2:43
3 3:14
4 3:01
5 2:49
6 2:31
7 2:37
8 3:18
9 2:46
10 2:47
11 4:58
12 2:43
13 3:26
14 3:55
15 3:01
16 3:03
17 3:10
18 2:45
19 3:08
20 3:08
21 2:51
22 2:50
23 2:33
24 2:50

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:11
2 3:37
3 3:09
4 3:43
5 4:07
6 3:26
7 4:10
8 3:44
9 3:39
10 3:22
11 5:00
12 2:46
13 2:28
14 4:21
15 3:01
16 3:10
17 3:10
18 2:48
19 3:19
20 2:39

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:09
2 2:23
3 3:12
4 3:17
5 3:30
6 3:27
7 3:23
8 3:14
9 3:34
10 3:26
11 2:50
12 3:19
13 2:41
14 3:24
15 3:11
16 2:51
17 3:12
18
Xit
2:59
19
Xit
3:07
20
Xit
3:01
21 2:52
22 2:56
23 5:04
24 3:07

Track Listing - Disc 4

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:33
2 3:57
3 3:32
4 2:44
5 3:31
6 3:27
7 2:47
8 3:27
9 3:13
10 3:05
11 2:59
12 3:01
13 3:49
14 3:34
15 4:48
16 3:34
17 3:18
18 2:05
19 3:07
20 3:02
21 2:53
22 3:08
23 2:42

Track Listing - Disc 5

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:08
2 3:08
3 3:11
4 3:37
5 3:20
6 2:48
7 3:03
8 3:05
9 2:35
10 3:04
11 3:16
12 3:30
13 2:34
14 5:14
15 3:37
16 3:27
17 2:52
18 3:20
19 3:00
20 5:18
21 3:26
22 3:59
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