That’s Where It’s At

After yesterday’s Supremes post I thought we should have some Temptations today although the two songs I’ve gone for are later than 1967, the year covered in depth in Stuart Cosgrove’s Detroit 67 book. The Temptations spent much of 1967 struggling with the behaviour of David Ruffin, who was replaced by Dennis Edwards in 1968. Ruffin’s voice was a key feature of the group’s sound, raspy and raw, but by ’67 his behaviour had become an issue. Just as The Supremes were being rebranded as Diana Ross and The Supremes, Ruffin had begun to feel a similar situation was called for with The Temptations. Ruffin’s issues with cocaine and habit of missing shows or turning up late and crashing the stage caused further friction and when he began to dig into Berry Gordy’s accounting and Motown’s finances relations broke down further. In 1968 Ruffin sued Motown and Motown counter-sued Ruffin. Holland- Dozier- Holland had withdrawn their labour in ’67 too, unhappy at their share of the money and their perception of their status. The Temptations had begun working with Norman Whitfield whose string-laden, multi-tracked, orchestral sound pushed the group in a new direction, coupled with a side order of psychedelia and some socially conscious lyrics.

By 1970 the Motown sound had gone, Whitfield’s productions taking in sound effects, synths, the left to right sweep of stereo production, guitar solos, multi-tracked drums and vocals and The Funk Brothers jamming like a rock band. Hence, they partied at the psychedelic shack…

Psychedelic Shack

Also released in 1970, Ball Of Confusion was released to promote their second Greatest Hits compilation, a state of the world address- the breakdown of the civil rights movement, several summers of rioting in the US cities, the assassinations of King, Malcolm X and the Kennedys, Black Power, Vietnam, My Lai, Kent State University, Nixon- on and on the list goes. And the band played on. I don’t know where this Alt Mix is from- I must have downloaded it from somebody/somewhere.

Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today) Alt Mix

I recently found a copy of their 1971 album Sky’s The Limit in a second hand shop, which has the twelve minute opus Smiling Faces Sometimes on it, a song that Whitfield and Barrett Strong wrote and produced for The Temptations but then re-recorded as a single with The Undisputed Truth. The album is in perfect condition, surprising given it is nearly fifty years old, but the disc is so thin it is almost a flexidisc. The album saw a return to ballads, a step away from the psychedelic soul of the previous three years. It also the break up of that line up of the group with Eddie Kendricks leaving due to continuing tensions and Paul Williams retiring due to ill health.

Various Artists

There’s a good chance that if you grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, at some point, having heard a Motown song via your parent’s record collection, the telly, a youth club disco or through a film, you bought one of these Motown compilations. You’ve probably got some of them and their companions in your house. Our parents generation bought the singles. We bought these bumper albums, stacked with up to twenty songs, as many as the grooves could take and still be audible. The cd boom of the 1990s saw the Chartbusters series released on shiny digital disc, often knocked down to a quid or two in HMV. Pound for pound some of the best purchases you could make.

We all like to find the songs hidden away in the corners- the B-sides, the remixes, the album tracks, the ones that only we know about. With Motown it’s all about the hits. And a bumper Motown Various Artist compilations post means a bumper song selection today; The Supremes, The Four Tops and The Temptations.

Automatically Sunshine

I Can’t Help Myself

Cloud Nine