The Originals began recording as a quintet comprised of Freddie Gorman, Crafthman "C.P." Spencer, Henry Dixon, Walter Gaines, and Joe Stubbs. Stubbs left and joined the Contours and was featured on releases by both groups in 1966. Essential Collection consists of Originals' recordings made after Stubbs' departure and others after Spencer left (Ty Hunter replaced him). Perennial background singers, you can hear these guys on virtually all of Jimmy Ruffin and Edwin Starr's recordings. Producers were mystified as how to best present them since every member was more than capable of handling lead. Marvin Gaye had the best idea; he exemplified their boss harmony prowess, often incorporating each member's voice on a piece of the lead. This is why his productions stand out above the others here. Five of Gaye's productions are onboard, including masterpieces "Baby I'm for Real," "The Bells," and "We Can Make It Baby." Other producers most often featured Freddie Gorman's blustery, readily identifiable baritone, still incorporating the sweet backing harmonies, but not in the drop-dead doo wop style Gaye did. However, other than "I've Never Begged Before," the compilers left those off. Most of these feature multiple leads, not as many as Gaye employed, but usually two, sometimes three. The irresistible "Don't Stop Now," from Portrait of the Originals, showcases a lighter style of these serious singers. Holland-Dozier-Holland's "We Got a Way Out Love," one of their first singles, flopped, but its eerie vocals shine; they always did, but even more so on CD. Ty Hunter's signature falsetto shines on "Good Lovin' Is Just a Dime Away." None of their original first tenor's -- C.P. Spencer -- leads, i.e., "You Want Hearts and Flowers," are included; an oversight for sure. None of their '70s disco hits made this disc either; you have to purchase The Very Best of the Originals to get "Down to Love Town." This probably isn't the last Originals compilation that will jump out of Universal/Motown's chute; though they only had a handful of real significant hits, they recorded a library of albums wherein lie some of their most memorable material.
AllMusic Review by Andrew Hamilton