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Various: Motown 50 (Universal)

Various: Motown 50 (Universal)

It would be very easy to acclaim this -- 50 of Motown's greatest hits over three discs to celebrate the classic soul label's 50th anniversary. Wow, what's not to like, huh? But then you listen to it: the copy that has arrived for Elsewhere consideration (and presumably the one in New Zealand stores) isn't the UK edition but something else....

MARY WILSON OF THE SUPREMES INTERVIEWED (2009): The Dreamgirl goes on

MARY WILSON OF THE SUPREMES INTERVIEWED (2009): The Dreamgirl goes on

There are many things that stars of stage and screen these days seem very happy to talk about: their former or current addictions, the assault case, the booze-fuelled nights, that bitch/bastard of an ex, their fall from grace and so on. Then there is the taboo area: money. About 15 minutes in to a wide-ranging conversation with a founding...

SMOKEY ROBINSON: The man and the Miracle worker

SMOKEY ROBINSON: The man and the Miracle worker

It was one of those fortunate circumstances that Motown Records founder Berry Gordy from Detroit met his label’s star (and later his producer and boardroom exec) Smokey Robinson -- who had been around the Detroit scene in high school groups for years -- when both of them happened to be in New York. The ambitious Gordy, who’d...

THE TEMPTATIONS: Creating Heaven for Motown right here on Earth

THE TEMPTATIONS: Creating Heaven for Motown right here on Earth

The ever-changing line-up of the legendary Motown soul group the Temptations (only two original members of the '61 founding group by the mid-Nineties when the five-disc retrospective Emperors of Soul was released) made their career a little difficult to follow. But they were one of the cornerstone acts on Motown. Even their most ardent...

Fat Freddy's Drop: Dr Boondigga and The Big BW (The Drop)

Fat Freddy's Drop: Dr Boondigga and The Big BW (The Drop)

I was among the seven people in the country who wasn't totally besotted with Fat Freddys' debut Based on a True Story (although perhaps a more appropriate title might have been Based on a Best Seller).  Didn't it quickly turn into dinner music for people too cool for Norah Jones? So given that, maybe my opinion on this long awaited...

Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5: The Motown Years (Motown/Universal)

Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5: The Motown Years (Motown/Universal)

Presumably scheduled for the Motown 50th anniversary rather than Recent Events, this three-disc collection soaks up 32 tracks of Michael Jackson with the 5, and on the third disc 16 outings under his own name. Aside from it being a typically cheap product in its packaging etc (no liner notes), this is a fair-enough overview but serves to...

Opensouls: Standing in the Rain (Dirty)

Opensouls: Standing in the Rain (Dirty)

To be honest, I wasn't expecting to like this quite as much as I do. Certainly some songs lack a soulful punch and you'd wish for more power in the vocals of Tyra at times. But these people write a good tune -- albeit it grounded in Motown classic riffs and shifts -- and the edgy guitars elevate it a little more than I had anticipated. It is...

Mayer Hawthorne: A Strange Arrangement (Rhythmethod)

Mayer Hawthorne: A Strange Arrangement (Rhythmethod)

There's a lot of soul -- and faux-soul -- around these days what with Duffy, Amy Winehouse (is she still around?), James Hunter, Beth Rowley who gives it a blues and rock twist, Alice Russell with a funk spin and, on the local front, Opensouls. Of them all, on paper at least, Hawthorne might have the hardest task persuading an...

Various: Michael Jackson; the Remix Suite (Universal)

Various: Michael Jackson; the Remix Suite (Universal)

Motown may have missed their golden opportunity with the shoddily compiled 50th anniversary albums, but they aren't so stupid as to let yet another marketing opportunity go by -- and so here comes wee Michael with (mostly) the life remixed out of him. There will be a great Jackson remix album (it won't be official of course, it'll be out...

MOTOWN, THE FIRST TWO DECADES: There's a place in the sun

MOTOWN, THE FIRST TWO DECADES: There's a place in the sun

In 2009, Motown celebrated its 50th anniversary. Not that there was much to celebrate in 2009. The golden years for this classic and culture-shifting label had started to wither some three decades previous and it was notable that when it released compilation albums to cash in on this anniversary they were shoddy and sorry affairs, woeful in...

Plan B: The Defamation of Strickland Banks (Atlantic)

Plan B: The Defamation of Strickland Banks (Atlantic)

East London 'ard-man rapper Ben Drew -- aka Plan B -- can deliver some bruising rap about utterly nasty characters (and in an uncompromising manner which suggests you shouldn't mess with him). But he also showcases another side on this, his second studio album. That of an aching falsetto-Smokey Robinson/Motown-styled soul singer. He goes...

MICHAEL JACKSON; LIVE IN '96: The man who fell to Earth

MICHAEL JACKSON; LIVE IN '96: The man who fell to Earth

Somewhere around the midpoint of his often exceptional but undeniably messianic concert in Amsterdam 10 days ago, Michael Jackson fell to his knees and appeared to weep uncontrollably. Jackson -- whose stage craft was impeccable and dancing as exciting as expected -- remained hunched over and apparently sobbing on the enormous stage for...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Michael Jackson; Off the Wall and Thriller (Sony)

THE BARGAIN BUY: Michael Jackson; Off the Wall and Thriller (Sony)

Michael Jackson has been dead for over a year now -- almost 18 months in fact -- and the marketing rolls on: there will be a new album (entitled Michael) on December 14 2010 and you can read the details here. But while we now expect such posthumous things from our dead musicians, there's also a place for simply looking back at what once was...

Ardijah: The Best; PolyFonk (PolyFonk)

Ardijah: The Best; PolyFonk (PolyFonk)

In the decade before hip-hop became the distinctive voice of South Auckland, the Polynesian soul-funk of Ardijah was the most prominent and carried to a wider audience by the singles Give Me Your Number, Watching U and Time Makes a Wine from their platinum-selling 88 album Take a Chance. Helmed by multi-instrumentalist/writer/producer...

STKS: Rhythm and Brown (M4U Records)

STKS: Rhythm and Brown (M4U Records)

In November 2010, when most media people were looking the other way unfortunately, a new Auckland-based record label M4U launched itself with a showcase of its talent in a hip bar on Ponsonby Rd. The two most impressive acts bookended the night: the terrifyingly talented young singer Ria who stopped the chatter from her first...

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Jayson Norris

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Jayson Norris

Expat-Kiwi Jayson Norris has lived in London since 2004 and has, I am told, released two albums internationally before his Freedom Twenty Eight on New Zealand's Loop label -- which puts him in excellent company. I'm not quite sure how this works out but his bio says he has seen him "sharing the stage with huge names such as Andrea...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Marvin Gaye; 4 Original Albums (Motown)

THE BARGAIN BUY: Marvin Gaye; 4 Original Albums (Motown)

In a flip-top box like a cigarette packet, Motown have packaged up four albums by the great Marvin Gaye, but to be fair some of this is ashes or fag ends of his genius. Not all of it of course: this four disc set includes his sultry, sexual Let's Get It On album (1973) remastered -- the one which followed his singular What's Goin' On -- and...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Charles Bradley: No Time for Dreaming (Daptone)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Charles Bradley: No Time for Dreaming (Daptone)

The title here is certainly true: 63-year old Florida-born Bradley -- an exceptional soul singer who sounds like a distillation of James Brown, aching Otis Redding, the troubled Marvin Gaye, searching Al Green and the much overlooked Sonny Charles of the Checkmates -- has barely had a chance to dream in a hard-working life. Bradley seems to...

Seth Haapu: Seth Haapu (Sony)

Seth Haapu: Seth Haapu (Sony)

Although this suffers a little, but only a very little, from the showcasing which often attends any debut -- and has one of those now customary intro tracks which seem de rigueur on hip-hop albums, here the tasty but too brief Hurly Burly -- this is one enormously impressive collection from a young man who would seem to have important people at...

The Supremes: Floy Joy (1972)

The Supremes: Floy Joy (1972)

In the mid Sixties when people were earnestly looking to Bob Dylan for answers, someone asked him who his favourite poet was. "Smokey Robinson," he replied. Fair call. Smokey's songs like Got a Job had wit and Tracks of My Tears had heart. You can't add or subtract a word from My Guy or You Really Got a Hold On Me. But even...

Jerry Butler: Mr Dee Jay, I Got A Heartache (1968)

Jerry Butler: Mr Dee Jay, I Got A Heartache (1968)

Jerry Butler, one of the greatest soul singers to emerge out of Chicago, came up through the usual route: gospel in church, inspired by Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers, formed a group (the Impressions) and recorded for Vee-Jay down on what was known as Record Row. "Record Row was the scene," he said. "It went from just south...

STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN DVD REVIEWED (2003)

STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN DVD REVIEWED (2003)

When music magazines make up lists of great players - best drummer, top guitarist or whatever - one name invariably appears in the best bassist countdown: James Jamerson. At which point most people might fairly ask, "James who?" Which is exactly the problem this exciting, moving, good-natured soul-funk documentary seeks to redress....

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