The Ultimate Collection

by: Martha Reeves & The Vandellas

This volume of Motown's Ultimate Collection series was especially welcome, as there was no box set on Martha & the Vandellas for serious fans to go to (there was Live Wire!, a now-deleted two-CD compilation of single A- and B-sides, but that's not quite the same thing). This disc put the group's 25 most important tracks, all of the pop and R&B hits plus the most significant B-sides and an album track or two, together in one place. What's more, it did it in what was then state-of-the-art sound, something that few Motown CDs had ever been able to boast of. Thus, the musical content is a given and then some, and the power of Martha Reeves' lead singing and the surrounding harmonies comes through as never before. It's most gratifying on some of the harder dance numbers, such as "(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave" and "Dancing in the Street," to hear the gorgeously complex percussive mix of piano, bass, and drums (lots of drums) pounding away to their own rhythms within the overall beats of the songs -- the detail is there, without sacrificing any of the raw power of the songs and the mixes. Add to that decent annotation, discography, and musician information, and this is an essential part of any soul or '60s collection and, indeed, until Motown began reissuing Martha & the Vandellas albums in 2002 in England, the only way to get a significant chunk of their music with good sound. ~ Bruce Eder

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