by Devon Wendell
During a time in which pop musicians on the Billboard charts, radio, and television seem to know very little about harmony, class, or originality, it’s certainly refreshing that Motown has released three classic collections of some of their greatest artists appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show.
On the DVD The Best Of The Temptations On The Ed Sullivan Show, the intro to “Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)” with then feuding Eddie Kendricks and Dave Ruffin swapping the vocal leads, is worth the price of the DVD alone. The disc captures all of the Temptations performances on The Sullivan show between 1967 and 1971 which was a huge transitional era for the group. Dennis Edwards replaced Ruffin by 1969 and Eddie Kendricks left not too long after.
There is some schmaltz, however, like the Temps rendition of Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “You Make Me So Very Happy,” with cheesy choreography that feels forced and lacks the rawness of “Psychedelic Shack” and “Get Ready.” The Medley with The Supremes on “Get Ready”, “Stop! In The Name Of Love”, “My Guy”, “Baby Love”, and “(I know) I’m Losing You,” though historically prominent, doesn’t quite jell and lacks the power of each of these artists performing on their own. With that being said, it’s still fun to witness.
A true surprise and highlight is a gospel flavored take on George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord,” proving that The Beatles, individually and collectivel, had influenced The Temps just as much as the Temps had influenced the “Fab Four.”
The drastic change from the ballad crooning Temps of 1967’s “All I Need” to the Psychedelic soul of “Runaway Child Running Wild” is apparent in the change in dance moves, orchestration, and dress, but what never changes is the sheer joy and sincerity of each performance.
The Supremes performed 16 times on the Ed Sullivan show, more than any other artist on the history of the entire program. The DVD The Best Of The Supremes On The Ed Sullivan Show has highlights from these appearances between 1964 and 1970.
Though Diana Ross was crowned as the diva of the group, on “You Can’t Hurry Love” a reading of “My Favorite Things” and “Always,” the skillful harmonic contributions brilliantly performed by Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard shine through and the visual experience make it all the more exhilarating.
The Supremes prove you don’t need Lady Gaga-like gimmicks to present wonderfully crafted pop songs. The energy on “The Happening” and a brilliant “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You” are awe inspiring and hearken back to a more sophisticated and elegant time for music. The DVD may contain the longest medley in soul history with The Supremes jumping from “Baby Love” to “Stop! In The Name Of Love” to “Come See About Me” to “I Hear A Symphony” — and just about every track the group had previously performed on The Sullivan Show. There is a sentimental quality to this medley that makes it magical even if we only get about two or three bars of each tune.
The two DVD set Motown Gold From The Ed Sullivan Show presents highlights of all of Motown’s top artists who took the Sullivan stage between 1964 and 1970, from the electrifying Jackson 5 doing Sly And The Family Stone’s “Stand!” to Gladys Knight & The Pips belting out “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.”
Marvin Gaye’s “Take This Heart Of Mine” is a one of the greatest performances in the history of the Ed Sullivan Show. Gaye’s charisma and vocal abilities are second to none. A then “Little” Stevie Wonder performing “Fingertips Pt. 2” from 1964, gives the world an introduction to this young genius on chromatic harmonica.
It’s also great to hear The Four Tops Levi Stubbs distort the microphone on “Reach Out.” And Smokey Robinson And The Miracles start a party on the Sullivan stage with “Going To A Go-Go.”
For young people, it might be hard to imagine such non-pretentious electricity on TV as witnessed on “Dancing In The Street” by Martha And The Vandellas, and the playfulness of The Jackson 5’s “ABC” helps make this collection special.
I asked Smokey Robinson over 15 years ago in Atlantic City, “How do you make a hit record that lasts forever?” He simply replied, “You need everyone playing and singing hooks. Hooks everywhere and don’t take yourself too seriously. Enjoy yourself.”
That sums up the magic of these recent Motown DVD releases, which will be appreciated by many generations to come.
To read more reviews by Devon Wendell click HERE.