Thursday, 6 May 2010

Doo wop to soul for early Temps

Talking about the Temptations biopic in the previous post leads naturally to this twofer CD. As more of a doo wop than a soul fan this double album, bought for work reasons, was something of an education for me. I had always assumed that the joint forces of Motown and the British invasion crushed doo wop; here, however, especially on the Meet the Temptations album, it's clear that for Gordy's company the move from streetcorner harmony to a more readily identifiable and distinctive Motown sound was a process of gradual evolution and experimentation.

On a track like Farewell My Love, for exmaple, a prominent bass guitar is echoed by a bass voice, but it could so easily be a straight doo wop track - and indeed I have heard a lovely acapella rendering of this by the late lamented 14 Karat Soul. It must have been a favourite of Stan Krause as another group associated with him, the Royal Counts, also recorded it. 14 Karat Soul's studio version is rather antiseptic, and doesn't convey the excitement of their live performance, so here are the Royal Counts, in a recording which doesn't seem to use studio trickery:

[this seems to have been removed so here is a link to the youtube page: ]

Slow Down Heart is another beautiful, simple song where the harmonies are more important than the (perfectly adequate) instrumental backing. As classic Motown, therefore, it might fall short, because the voices are virtually the whole deal rather than part of a larger picture - the overall sound of the record - but for me to hear the beauty of those voices in harmony so prominently placed on the recording is more than enough compensation - and the excellent sound of these transfers, in stark contrast to some terrible digitalised Motown in early CD days, doesn't hurt either (although the youtube audio falls some way below the CD):

For doo wop afficionados, therefore, a Temps twofer like this may well be of more interest than an overfamiliar greatest hits collection. And in any case I'd suggest that pop is often more interesting when it's on the cusp of something, before a style has been fully resolved out of the warring elments - Elvis's Sun recordings being a case in point.

Oh, and the work reasons - there are some recordings here of less well known songs from the Berry Gordy songbook, so if you want to perform some Motown which has not been done to death, check out this and the songbook, which has the same cover as his autobiography (above).

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