Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Going To A Go-Go, Tamla TS-267, 1965
If your goal is to collect every Motown album, you sometimes pick a placeholder. It would be a really great if I found a near mint stereo copy of this incredible Miracles album for $3, but all I got was this “good” copy. There are pops and crackle galore through the best songs, but it’s still really great to hear these classic Motown tracks in original stereo. The production is all incredible, especially seeing as the music was all recorded in the basement of a cramped old house in West Detroit.
Actually, side 2 plays really well. With all four top 40 hits from the album on side 1, I’m guessing the original owners hardly every played side 2. The non hits are songs I’ve barely ever heard, so it’s easier to hear how good The Miracles were. I always pay more attention to a new (to me) song when I hear one than I do to, say, the 26,851st time I’ve heard The Tracks Of My Tears.
The original owners, who were apparently not very good at maintaining their record players. but also used the back of the jacket to make a list of their favorite Miracles songs. They must have been real fans though because the songs listed go all the way back to Bad Girl, one of the first Miracles records to chart. This copy is good enough to hold me over for the near mint copy that I’ll find one day, but I’m grateful to have it.
Cost: $3, $42 Remaining
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Four In Blue, Tamla 297, 1969
Could Smokey Robinson look any more bored if he tried? In fact, all of The Miracles look like they’re phoning this album in. What with Motown planning Diana Ross’ departure from The Supremes, Smokey decided to stay with The Miracles for one more year. If it wasn’t for the surprise and unplanned success of The Tears Of A Clown, that might have happened too.
This album makes it seem as though Smokey was trying to cost to the finish line. There are no hits here, and the album has more covers than any other Miracles album up to this point. The Motown art department also had an easy the here, putting four random candid shots on the black and white back cover with not one word of a liner note.
Albums like this are fairly easy to find in great condition. If this had classic Miracles track on it, the cover would have been torn up and the record all scratchy. As it is, this original album plays like new, and I can wonder why The Miracles tried their hand on Hey Jude whenever I want (even though I probably won’t very often!).
Cost: $3, $376 Remaining
Various Artists, The Motor-Town Reveue, Vol. 1, Motown MT-609, 1963
Even when she was just one singer in the opening act for The Marvelettes, Diana Ross still found a way to be front and center of a Motown live album. This must have been quite the concert to attend, with I don’t even know how many top ten records recorded by these groups. With The Supremes as the opening act, you know it’s gonna be a good show.
I just wish they had recorded it better. When I found this, I almost couldn’t believe my luck. Any Motown album is worth buying at $2, but even though this one is only the 9th album released on the label, it’s just not that great to actually listen to.
True, the record isn’t in great shape, which never helps. But the recording is so primitive, probably just like the microphones and acoustics were, that it’s kind of painful on the ear. It’s not just Motown, The Beach Boys first Number One album was “In Concert” as well, and The Beatles tried to record one too, with the tapes turning out so badly that they shelved the idea. The eventually were released, in 1977, as a historical document, not necessarily as something to listen to and enjoy. This is a nice record to have, but it’ll be a while until I drop a needle on this one again.
Cost: $2, $723 Remaining
The Miracles, The Power Of Music, Tamla T6-344, 1976
Motown was never one to abandon an artist that once sold records, even if they stopped selling records. The Marvelettes had been broken up for years, but “new” albums kept appearing into the early 70s to no acclaim. The Diana Ross-less Supremes fared much better, outselling their former lead singer to the point that Berry Gordy did his best to stop their career.
The reason was simple. Original group contracts billed all recording costs to the groups, so why not throw as much spaghetti to the wall as you can in the hopes of getting a hit. After all, they weren’t paying for it!
The Smokey Robinson-less Miracles might have been the most successful of the “star” less groups. In 1975, they, naturally enough, came up with a bizarre concept album that spawned the number one hit Love Machine. This album was the follow-up, and like any Motown record, very groovy and nice to have. And not just for the cover picture that seems to have the group wearing bell bottoms printed with a crowd of white hippies.
Besides the music, the liner notes on the back are unbelievable. Under the Simpson-esqe song title Love To Make Love, it reads “What can be more peaceful than a perfect physical union between a man and a woman, woman and woman, man and man, or group sex if thats your choice”. That would make people clutch their pearls today, let alone 40 years ago. In any event, it remains a truism for any record collector that you buy ANY affordable Motown record that you find.
Cost: $2, $835 Remaining