Friday, 11 March 2016

"Depend On Me: The Early Albums" by THE MIRACLES (2009 Hip-O Select 2CD Set - Ellen Fitten Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…Everybody's Got To Pay Some Dues…" 

You can’t accuse Hip-O Select of scrimping on this one - 5 albums across 2CDs, loads of non-album single sides and even Previously Unreleased. The presentation is lovely and the remasters absolutely top notch. There’s a huge amount on here so let’s get to those three-minute Soul Serenades straight away…

Released January 2009 in the USA on Hip-O Select B0012855-02 (Barcode 602527073071) – "Depend On Me: The Early Albums" by THE MIRACLES fans out as follows:

Disc 1 (79:04 minutes):
1. Who’s Lovin’ You
2. (You Can) Depend On Me
3. A Heart Like Mine
4. Shop Around
5. Won’t You Take Me Back
6. Cause I Love You
7. Your Love
8. After All
9. Way Over There
10. Money (That’s What I Need)
11. Don’t Leave Me
Tracks 1 to 11 are their debut LP "Hi, We're The Miracles" – released June 1961 in the USA on Tamla 220 and July 1963 in the UK on Oriole PS 40044

12. That’s The Way I Feel
13. Everybody’s Got To Pay Some Dues
14. Mama
15. Ain’t It Baby
16. Determination
17. You Never Miss A Good Thing
18. Embraceable You
19. The Only One I Love
20. Broken Hearted
21. I Can’t Believe
Tracks 12 to 21 are their 2nd LP “Cookin’ With The Miracles” – released November 1961 in the USA on Tamla 223 (No UK release)

22. Mighty Good Lovin’ – B-side of “Broken Hearted”, a USA 7” single released June 1961 on Tamla 54044
23. The Feeling is So Fine – A-side of a USA 7” single released September 1959 on Tamla 54028 but withdrawn
24. Shop Around (Second Regional A.K.A. “Slow” Version) – Second Pressing of a USA 45 on Tamla 54034 released September 1960
25. I’ll Try Something New – A-side of a USA 7” single released April 1962 on Tamla 54059
26. What’s So Good About Good Bye – A-side of a USA 7” single released December 1961 on Tamla 54053
27. He Don’t Care About Me – Recorded Late 1961
28. A Love That Can Never Be – Recording Details Unknown
29. I’ve Been Good To You – B-side of “What’s So Good About Good Bye” – see 26 – tracks 25 to 29, see also 1 to 5 on Disc 2

Disc 2 (74:44 minutes):
1. Speak Low
2. On The Street Where You Live
3. If Your Mother Only Knew
4. I’ve Got You Under My Skin
5. This Swear, I Promise
Tracks 25 to 29 on Disc 1, Tracks 1 to 5 on Disc 2 are their 3rd album “I’ll Try Something New” – released July 1962 in the USA on Tamla 230 (No UK release)
6. You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me
7. I’ve Been Good To You
8. Such Is Love, Such Is Life
9. I Can’t Take A Hint
10. Won’t You Take Me Back
11. A Love She Can Count On
12. Whatever Makes You Happy
13. Heartbreak Road
14. Happy Landing
15. Your Love
Tracks 6 to 15 are their 4th album "The Fabulous Miracles" – released May 1963 in the USA on Tamla 238 and November 1964 in the UK on Stateside SL 10099

16. Mighty Good Lovin’ (Live)
17. A Love She Can Count On (Live)
18. Happy Landing (Live)
19. I’ve Been Good To You (Live)
20. What’s So Good About Good Bye (Live)
21. You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me (Live)
22. Way Over There (Live)
Tracks 16 to 22 is their 5th album “Recorded Live On Stage” – released May 1963 in the USA on Tamla 241 and October 1963 in the UK on Tamla Motown TML 10055 (Mono) and STML 10055 (Stereo). 16 to 18 were recorded live at the Regal Theater, Chicago and 19 to 22 at The Apollo in New York.

23. Shop Around (First Regional Version) – A-side, 1st pressing, issued as a 7” single in the USA on Tamla 54034 in September 1960
24. The Only One I Love (Single Version) – B-side of “Ain’t It Baby”, A USA 7” single released March 1961 on Tamla 54036

The card digipak folds out into four-leaves and is very tastefully done in a sort of sepia feel – a bit of a trademark in Hip-O Select presentation. The 24-page booklet is gorgeous with detailed liner notes from STU HACKEL (profiled The Miracles many times before), black and white and colour publicity photos and indepth track-by-track annotation. But the absolute bomb is a foldout concertina of the colour album sleeves – it’s kept in the first flap and on the rear of each ‘detachable’ card is the back sleeve artwork – American Album covers that most fans simply never see. You get "Hi We're The Miracles" (June 1961), "Cookin' With The Miracles" (Nov 1961), "I'll Try Something New" (July 1962), "The Fabulous Miracles" (May 1963) and "Recorded Live On Stage" (May 1963). It’s a really nice touch and the ‘colour’ is beautiful.

Better still is the ELLEN FITTON remasters from first generation tapes. She’s been involved in huge swathes of Motown reissues for both Universal and especially Hip-O Select (she did all 13 of the award-winning “Singles” book sets. These are mostly MONO recordings not exactly put down in audiophile conditions – so her work here with the tapes is superb.

Musically these are early days – most of it is more Vocal Group than Sixties Soul. That nonchalant slow-paced Vocal Group vibe permeates “Who’s Lovin’ You”, “A Heart Like Mine” and “What’s So Good About Good Bye”. There are shades of the Marvelettes in “Ain’t It Baby” and heaps of Echo on “I’ll Try Something New” giving it a feel of Summer Nights at the Drive-In. The stand alone single “Mighty Good Lovin’” is a great dancer and the pleader “You Never Miss A Good Thing” has huge sound (and strings). It doesn’t say who the female vocalist on the rather excellent “He Don’t Care About Me” is (probably Claudette – Smokey’s wife) or the male lead on “A Love That Can Never Be” – but both are nice additions as is the mid-tempo B-side “I’ve Been Good To Soul”.

Despite its lovely presentation – there’s stuff on here that’s awful like their cheesy cover of “On The Street Where You Live” or Frankie’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”. Things improve immeasurably with Smokey’s wicked “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” – and easy to hear why it was an R&B Number 1. A nice bopper is “I Can Take A Hint” and the bluesy “Won’t You Take Me Back” even has a Joe Turner piano R&B feel. I find most of the live album unlistenable – crude recordings – but at least “Happy Landing” has some life in it. “The Only One I Love” was transferred from a mint 45 and noise-reduction technology used to dampen the crackle – and it sounds great.

Musically – I find the earliest Motown hard work – and these are no different. But if you’re a fan – the great sound, presentation and rarity value is going to be a huge draw…

PS: this 'limited edition' set is now deleted and commands heavy price tags in some quarters. (No pun intended) shop around - it can be bought for a lot less...

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is SOUL, FUNK and JAZZ FUSION - Exceptional CD Remasters - an E-Book with over 245 entries and 2100 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

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