Various Artists

The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 12A: 1972

  • AllMusic Rating
    7
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 12A: 1972 Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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 Stream
1 The Four Tops 02:58 Amazon
2 The Four Tops 02:43 Amazon
3 Jimmy Ruffin 03:14 Amazon
4 Jimmy Ruffin 03:01 Amazon
5 The Marvelettes 02:49 Amazon
6 The Marvelettes 02:31 Amazon
7 The Originals 02:37 Amazon
8 The Originals 03:18 Amazon
9 The Originals 02:46 Amazon
10 Blue Scepter 02:47 Amazon
11 Blue Scepter 04:58 Amazon
12 Blue Scepter 02:43 Amazon
13 The Undisputed Truth 03:26 Amazon
14 The Undisputed Truth 03:55 Amazon
15 Posse 03:01 Amazon
16 Posse 03:03 Amazon
17 The Temptations 03:10 Amazon
18 The Temptations 02:45 Amazon
19 The Temptations 03:08 Amazon
20 Devastating Affair 03:08 Amazon
21 Devastating Affair 02:51 Amazon
22 Devastating Affair 02:50 Amazon
23 Michael Jackson 02:33 Amazon
24 Michael Jackson 02:50 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Gladys Knight & the Pips 03:11 Amazon
2 Gladys Knight & the Pips 03:37 Amazon
3 Gladys Knight & the Pips 03:09 Amazon
4 Frankie Valli 03:43 Amazon
5 Frankie Valli 04:07 Amazon
6 Frankie Valli 03:26 Amazon
7 Frankie Valli 04:10 Amazon
8 Junior Walker & the All-Stars 03:44 Amazon
9 Junior Walker & the All-Stars 03:39 Amazon
10 Edwin Starr 03:22 Amazon
11 Edwin Starr 05:00 Amazon
12 G.C. Cameron 02:46 Amazon
13 G.C. Cameron 02:28 Amazon
14 Gladys Knight & the Pips 04:21 Amazon
15 The Sisters Love 03:01 Amazon
16 The Sisters Love 03:10 Amazon
17 R. Dean Taylor 03:10 Amazon
18 R. Dean Taylor 02:48 Amazon
19 Commodores 03:19 Amazon
20 Commodores 02:39 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Rare Earth 03:09 Amazon
2 Rare Earth 02:23 Amazon
3 Rare Earth 03:12 Amazon
4 Eddie Kendricks 03:17 Amazon
5 Eddie Kendricks 03:30 Amazon
6 Eddie Kendricks 03:27 Amazon
7 Thelma Houston 03:23 Amazon
8 Thelma Houston 03:14 Amazon
9 Willie Hutch 03:34 Amazon
10 Willie Hutch 03:26 Amazon
11 The Jackson 5 02:50 Amazon
12 The Jackson 5 03:19 Amazon
13 The Supremes 02:41 Amazon
14 The Supremes 03:24 Amazon
15 The Courtship 03:11 Amazon
16 The Courtship 02:51 Amazon
17 The Courtship 03:12 Amazon
18 Xit 02:59 Amazon
19 Xit 03:07 Amazon
20 Xit 03:01 Amazon
21 The Four Tops 02:52 Amazon
22 The Four Tops 02:56 Amazon
23 Vincent DiMirco 05:04 Amazon
24 Vincent DiMirco 03:07 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 4

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Stevie Wonder 03:33 Amazon
2 Stevie Wonder 03:57 Amazon
3 Eric & the Vikings 03:32 Amazon
4 Eric & the Vikings 02:44 Amazon
5 Eric & the Vikings 03:31 Amazon
6 Howl the Good 03:27 Amazon
7 Howl the Good 02:47 Amazon
8 Howl the Good 03:27 Amazon
9 Marvin Gaye 03:13 Amazon
10 Marvin Gaye 03:05 Amazon
11 Michael Jackson 02:59 Amazon
12 Michael Jackson 03:01 Amazon
13 Smokey Robinson & the Miracles 03:49 Amazon
14 The Undisputed Truth 03:34 Amazon
15 The Undisputed Truth 04:48 Amazon
16 The Undisputed Truth 03:34 Amazon
17 Chris Holland / T-Bone 03:18 Amazon
18 Chris Holland / T-Bone 02:05 Amazon
19 Chris Holland / T-Bone 03:07 Amazon
20 Martha & the Vandellas 03:02 Amazon
21 Martha & the Vandellas 02:53 Amazon
22 The Different Shades of Brown 03:08 Amazon
23 The Different Shades of Brown 02:42 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 5

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 The Temptations 03:08 Amazon
2 The Temptations 03:08 Amazon
3 The Temptations 03:11 Amazon
4 Bobby Darin 03:37 Amazon
5 Bobby Darin 03:20 Amazon
6 Suzee Ikeda 02:48 Amazon
7 Suzee Ikeda 03:03 Amazon
8 David Ruffin 03:05 Amazon
9 David Ruffin 02:35 Amazon
10 David Ruffin 03:04 Amazon
11 Blinky 03:16 Amazon
12 Blinky 03:30 Amazon
13 Junior Walker & the All-Stars 02:34 Amazon
14 Junior Walker & the All-Stars 05:14 Amazon
15 The Jackson 5 03:37 Amazon
16 The Jackson 5 03:27 Amazon
17 The Blackberries 02:52 Amazon
18 The Blackberries 03:20 Amazon
19 Syreeta 03:00 Amazon
20 Syreeta 05:18 Amazon
21 Crystal Mansion 03:26 Amazon
22 Crystal Mansion 03:59 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick