Thursday, June 28, 2018


Like most Motown acts in the '60's, The Supremes were kept busy in the studio, as writers and producers tried out all sorts of material, looking for hits. Unlike most others, the hits weren't elusive for the trio. They had access to the best material from the best production and writing team, Holland-Dozier-Holland, responsible for all their biggest hits to that point. Since they had so many tracks in the can, this 1967 album was put together as an afterthought, with cuts left over from their previous release, The Supremes A' Go-Go, the group's first #1 album. It was also the first-ever album by a female group to top the charts. The trio was rivaling The Beatles as the top vocal act in the world.

The album had a couple of huge hits to lean on, You Keep Me Hangin' On and Love Is Here And Now You're Gone, both of which went to #1. As with assorted b-sides and leftovers, it was easy to come up with a 12-track release. But rather than slap-dash, this was all top-quality material, as H-D-H didn't waste their precious time with the group. Several of these tracks had come to life as potential singles, which is confirmed by writer-producer Lamont Dozier in the liner notes. That includes Mother You, Smother You, its only problem being an awkward title. I'll Turn To Stone was one that had been recorded earlier by the group, but was then given to The Four Tops who got the single release. Also found on the disc are Supremes' versions of hits by other Motown artists, Heat Wave (Martha & the Vandellas) and It's The Same Old Song (Four Tops). That was the Motown equivalent of filler material for albums; instead of wasting a new composition, they'd recycle proven hits among their other acts, sometimes even using the same backing track.

This expanded edition is beefed up to two discs, with a whopping 51 tracks, although there's significant repetition. The 12 album cuts are here twice, in mono and stereo. The rest of the tracks are technically unreleased, although several are alternate mixes of the album cuts, extended or early takes. Most are pretty similar, but a few feature altered parts that are noticeable. Also included is the big hit that followed the album, The Happening, another #1 that wasn't included on any album at the time, so it happily finds a home here.

The rest of disc two is made up of a newly-released live set.  There is a Supremes At The Copa album, but it's from 1965. This concert was from the group's third appearance at the famed club, in 1967, and features their more sophisticated nightclub act. Berry Gordy always felt the future for his acts was in the adult market, once they grew too old for the teen record buyers, and he had a point. But the slick showbiz style would go out of favour soon, and hearing the young trio doing material such as Put On A Happy Face and The Lady Is A Tramp, plus a medley of all their early hits is disappointing these days, compared to the better parts of the show, full versions of You Keep Me Hangin' On and I Hear A Symphony. This is an important show though, as it's the last recorded concert of the original group, with Florence Ballard about to be replaced by Cindy Birdsong. That's actually the reason these tapes exist, as they were made to give to Birdsong so she could polish up on her parts.

As with previous expanded editions of The Supremes' albums, this is a high-quality package, with excellent research and track notation, historical notes, and even a reproduction of the souvenir tour book from that era. What frightens me is the threat to the future of such releases, with the talk of the elimination of the CD format growing. This type of set would be easily over $100 if released only on vinyl, and their probably wouldn't be a market for that, while putting it out only as digital files would mean we wouldn't get the booklets and great packaging. Save the CD!

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