CD Reviews: The Temptations and the Supremes

The Temptations 50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection 1961-1971 (3 CDs) (Motown)

Diana Ross and the Supremes 50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection 1961 – 1969 (3 CDs) (Motown)

by Brian Arsenault

If you are old enough to remember, you know how good this music is.  The close harmonies, the lyrics of love and betrayal, the emergence of a new pride called soul, of hope and optimism from despair. Music to dance to or just hold each other close on a beach on a summer evening.

It was an era in which you could hear the Detroit sound of the Temptations, the Liverpool era Beatles and the southern California sounds of the Beach Boys on the same AM radio stations. Unimaginable now, but a Roy Orbison hit could be followed by one from Wilson Pickett. It was in the words from “Goodfellas,” “a glorious time.”

The music endures. These aren’t period pieces only. A few years ago I saw the Temptations on The Green in New Haven, Connecticut.  And even though there was only one original member, the sound was still unmistakably The Temps and “My Girl” was almost overwhelming in its joy of “sunshine on a cloudy day.”

Many of the Temptations’ tunes were penned by Smokey Robinson who Bob Dylan once called the greatest composer of his era and who headed his own group, The Miracles, typified by Smokey’s high end singing and again marvelous harmonies.

The Four Tops, Ben E. King, Sam and Dave all brought something special to the airwaves. The Shirelles, the Ronettes, Martha and the Vandellas and others all contributed something to this “sound.” But the Temptations and the Supremes were unmatched Soul Royalty.

These collections contain all the hits:

From The Temptations: “The Girl’s Alright with Me,” “Get Ready,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” my personal favorite “I Wish It Would Rain,” and on and on.

From The Supremes: “Baby Love,” “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Stop in the Name of Love,” “Back in My Arms Again,” “My World Is Empty Without You” and so many more.

Many of the singles I didn’t even have to play, though I did. They are still in my head. Always will be.

But there are also the rewards of hearing singles that may have had play on R&B stations but didn’t make it to be crossover hits heard by white audiences as well.  There was, after all, an awful lot of music crowding in to be heard.

The early Supremes — Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Flo Ballard — came out of the same public housing project in Detroit. They were first the Primettes, sister act to the Primes with two of the founding members of The Temptations. Along with a few others, these two groups virtually founded the Motown Sound.

Yes, Diana Ross was destined to be a diva and her name eventually received first billing with The Supremes but in the early days it was the group that mattered most, it was a “sound” as immediately identifiable as a Beatles hit.

If you are under 50, you probably know Ross from her long career as a star and you have probably heard “My Girl” and a few other Temptations tunes on “oldies” radio.  Now you have a chance to immerse yourself in “a glorious time” with song after song that heralded a new era in America but endures as simply great music.

Enjoy.

To read more reviews by Brian Arssenault click HERE

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