Mary has been called Motown's first superstar, even as she owed her popularity to Smokey Robinson, the alchemist who wrote and produced 'Two Lovers,' 'You Beat Me To The Punch,' 'The One Who Really Loves You' and 'My Guy' all her classic recordings showcased in The Mary Wells Collection.
"I liked writing for her voice," Robinson declared in his autobiography, Inside My Life. "Liked experimenting with her sound. In fact, I took my love for Harry Belafonte's calypso and gave an island flavour bongo bop to 'The One Who Really Loves You.' It hit big."
For her part, Mary told Goldmine's Wayne Jancik in 1987, "I didn't know how special it was at the time, but Smokey would just call. 'We've got a rehearsal,' he would say. 'I've got some tunes.' I'd go down to the studio and Smokey and I would get on the piano. He'd play. We'd get the right key. And we'd go over and over the song. I'd learn the basic melody. He'd let me get myself into it. It was so simple once you had the right people."
Smokey's tunes and that bongo bop was magic to early followers of Motown, not least the Beatles, whose subsequent endorsement of Mary (as well as Marvin Gaye and the Miracles) gave the company a boost of self-confidence. John, Paul, George and Ringo went further, inviting Mary to join the bill of their one and only UK tour of '64. To that point, no Motown artist had ever reached so many people in concert abroad.
To be sure, it had taken four years to get there. Born on May 13, 1943 in Detroit to a single mother, Mary suffered ill health as a child. Yet in church, she could sing her heart out and as a teenager, had the gumption to pitch one of her songs to a man she figured could help reach its intended target, Jackie Wilson. This was Berry Gordy, author of a number of Wilson's hits and the owner/operator of a new record company in the Motor City. Mary famously buttonholed him with the song ('Bye Baby Baby') at a Detroit nightclub; he told her to sing it on the spot. Deal!
'Bye Bye Baby' was one of the very first 45s issued on the Motown label, in September 1960, but it was curtain-up on a run of twelve - count them, twelve - consecutive Top Ten hits for Mary on Billboard's R&B countdown. What's more, three reached the Top Ten of the pop charts, and the tenth, 'My Guy,' blew all the way to No. 1. Her hits aside, the allure is evident on Something New: Motown Lost & Found, including a number of standards ('I've Grown Accustomed To His Face,' 'I Remember You') featuring the Four Tops on background vocals.
Nonetheless, at age 21, Mary was tempted to leave Berry Gordy's domain, in the year of her greatest success. At other record companies, she made worthy music, but lived at the edge of the pop charts, never again at their peak, until her premature death at age 49 on July 26, 1992.
The brilliance of her Motown legacy is undimmed at home and abroad. Those four musicians from Liverpool knew a good thing when they heard it.
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Although most famous for her iconic version of ‘My Guy’, at the birth of Motown Mary Wells was their biggest star. Found by Berry Gordy after he heard her version of the Jackie Wilson song ‘Bye Bye Baby’, Wells had one of the label’s first hits in 1961.
This compilation kicks off with this track and the following 19 tracks showing this shy but sexy female vocalist at her best.
Other highlights include ‘You Beat Me To The Punch’, ‘The One Who Really Loves You’ and ‘Once Upon A Time’ with Marvin Gaye.
Two of Marvin Gaye's duet LP's in one package. 'Together' features Mary Wells and 'Take Two' features Kim Weston. Both are digitally remastered.
As one of the first signees to the Motown label, a young Mary Wells helped define the early sound of the label that would change the tides of American music forever. Though she left the label at the peak of her popularity in late 1964, Wells wrote and recorded feverishly in her four short years at Hitsville U.S.A., leaving behind a vault of unreleased recordings along with her well-known chart-toppers. Enter Something New: Motown Lost & Found. This collection gathers together 47 tracks, about half of which are completely unreleased archival material and the other half are previously unreleased stereo mixes of songs that found release in various places over the years. The weighty collection shows that Mary's creative trajectory walked a remarkably similar path as that of the Motown label as a whole. The set begins with smooth and soulful post-doo wop numbers from 1961 recording sessions.
The girl group soul of "Why Do You Want to Let Me Go" fades into a series of collaborations with Smokey Robinson like the happy-go-lucky calypso tinge of "To Lose You" and the smoky heartbreak of "My Heart Is Like a Clock." As the months burned on and Motown began to explode into worldwide popularity, Wells grew into the Motown sound. Tracks like "Have a Little Patience (And Wait)" feature backing vocals by the Supremes and capture the mixture of caffeinated soul and youthful rock & roll that Motown owned the trademark to. The same 1963 sessions yielded coulda-been-hits like "Free from Your Spell" and the spirited "Your Loss, My Gain," which later became a hit for Wells as "You Lost the Sweetest Boy." The set is rounded out by seven duets with Marvin Gaye and a host of standard tunes from the era when Berry Gordy was pushing his artists toward more adult material. Gordy's attempt to win over the fanfare (and larger expendable incomes) of the sophisticated supper club set resulted in some of the more questionable Motown material, and Wells' loungy standards are lacking when compared to the teenage kicks of the other material here. Even four tunes backed by the Four Tops can't completely save the dip in energy and vibe for the second half of Something New. That said, this collection will be a must for Motown completists, and soul fans will appreciate the spirit of fun and camaraderie captured in the earlier soul tracks.
Words - Fred Thomas
Mary Wells' greatest success came with Motown Records, climaxing in her enduring 1964 hit "My Guy," and for most, the story ends there. Wells left Motown after "My Guy" and signed with 20th Century, which by all accounts was a disaster, and she left 20th Century in 1965 for Atlantic subsidiary Atco Records, where she remained until 1967. She released four singles for Atco -- the first of which, "Dear Lover," did fairly well -- and one LP before parting company with the label. But the fact remains that Wells, who was Motown's first big star, will forever be linked with the Detroit label.
This set, which features the best sides Wells did for Motown, including, of course, "My Guy," as well as other Top 40 hits like Wells' own "Bye Bye Baby" (Wells wrote it when she was only 17 and had her first hit with it in 1961) and the Smokey Robinson-penned (and produced) "You Beat Me to the Punch" and "The One Who Really Loves You," sets the stage pretty well. Blessed with a singing voice that could somehow be sweet and sincere even as it was sexy and sassy (and sometimes all of that at once), Wells, in a fair and equitable world, really should have been able to sustain her career at the top of the charts longer than she did. Life (and the music business) goes where it goes, though, and this anthology really does have her best stuff.
Words - Steve Leggett
Motown Anthems contains 96 of the biggest Motown anthems from some of the biggest names in music including Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Four Tops & The Jackson 5. This really is the complete Motown collection in one definitive album.
Marvin Gaye could have sung somebody’s Power Point presentation and it would still have sounded like a love song torn from the depths of his soul, so collections like this one, which feature several of his greatest singles, can’t really miss. It’s Marvin Gaye -- and there are classics here like “Let’s Get It On,” “You’re a Wonderful One,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and it’s equally impressive sibling “That’s the Way Love Is,” and the magnificent and elegant “What’s Going On.” What makes this two-disc set feel a little more cohesive and complete than most on the market is the presence of not just his early- and middle-career Motown releases, but his later work as well; for instance, Gaye’s brilliant Top Ten swan song, “Sexual Healing” from 1982 and his twilight stay at Columbia Records, is also included here. There are some things one could argue for inclusion -- “Ain’t That Peculiar” and “Trouble Man” are just two sides that come immediately to mind -- but the miracle that was Marvin Gaye with a love song comes through loud and clear. Hey, it’s Marvin Gaye. This is the way love goes.
Words - Rovi.