The ‘Sound’ Of The R&B Hits.

Label: Ace Records.

Format: CD.

Release Date: ‘25th’ September 2020.

When The Beatles made their debut on the Ed Sullivan Show on February the ‘9th’ 1964, seventy-three million Americans watched on as the Fab Four performed All My Loving, Till There Was You, I Saw Her Standing There and their number one single I Want To Hold Your Hand. This was a major milestone in American music and was the start of the British Invasion.

Over the next few years, The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, The Animals and the Dave Clark Five were at the forefront of the British Invasion and their music would influence a generation of aspiring and up-and-coming American musicians.

Ironically, many of the British Invasion bands had been influenced by American music and especially Chicago blues, R&B and soul. This included The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Hollies, Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames as well as Dusty Springfield. Although they embraced and immersed themselves in American music  one label was particularly influential…Motown.

So much so, that The Beatles recorded their sophomore album With The Beatles in 1963 they covered three Motown songs. For many record buyers, The Beatles’ covers of Please Mister Postman, You Really Gotta Hold On Me and Money was their introduction to Motown and R&B which would soon grow in popularity.

On the ’25th’ of April 1964, Record Mirror magazine published its first ever Rhythm & Blues Poll and Mary Wells was the Top Female Singer while The Miracles were voted Best Male Group. The article that accompanied the poll concluded that: “R&B in Britain is much bigger than anyone suspects.” This was a prescient comment because by then, R&B was emerging from the underground and was about to grow in popularity and become part of the soundtrack to the mid-sixties in Britain.

Later in 1964, the Stateside label released a new compilation that helped introduce Tamla-Motown to a wider audience. The ‘Sound’ Of The R&B Hits featured fourteen tracks, and as the liner notes stated, showcase the: “sound that identifies a Tamla-Motown production.” For many British record buyers this was their introduction to Tamla-Motown.

This included many Beatles’ fans who had purchased a copy of With The Beatles in 1963 and read about the group’s: “immense admiration” for The Miracles. Now they were holding a copy of The ‘Sound’ Of The R&B Hits which featured five tracks by The Miracles. This included Ace Records cofounder Roger Armstrong. He Everybody’s Gotta Pay Some Dues, I’ll Try Something New, What’s So Good About Goodbye, Broken Hearted and Do You Love Me which closed the compilation. However, it wasn’t just The Miracles that Roger Armstrong and other Beatles’ fans recognised.

Closing side one of With The Beatles was Please My Postman which was originally recorded by The Marvelettes. It was their biggest hit single but it didn’t feature on The ‘Sound’ Of The R&B Hits. Instead, three album tracks did  and for many record buyers this was the first time they had ever heard Dream Baby and The One Who Really Loves You and showed another side to The Marvelettes.

Beatles fans also recognised the original version of Money which had been released as a single by Barrett Strong in 1959.

Some remembered reading that Mary Wells was the Top Female Singer in  Record Mirror’s 1964 Rhythm & Blues Poll. Three tracks from her album Bye Bye Baby featured on The ‘Sound’ Of The R&B Hits. The compilation opened with Shop Around and included Bye Bye Baby and I Don’t Want To Take A Chance.

They were joined by The Supremes’ fourth single Let Me Go The Right Way which was released in 1962 and the instantly recognisable sound of Martha and The Vandellas’ Mockingbird. It was one of the best known tracks on The ‘Sound’ Of The R&B Hits.

For many young British record buyers the music on The ‘Sound’ Of The R&B Hits was a gamechanger and was one of the most important albums they bought. It was their introduction to Tamla-Motown and resulted in their lifelong love of soul music. That was the case for Roger Armstrong who went on to cofound Ace Records who are about to release an expanded version of The ‘Sound’ Of The R&B Hits which features twenty-eight tracks.

The additional fourteen tracks on this expanded version of The ‘Sound’ Of The R&B Hits are from the same era and are meant to compliment the Stateside compiler’s concept of “the sound that identifies a Tamla-Motown production.” This includes many familiar faces including some that featured on the original compilation.

There’s also further tracks from the artists that feature on the original version of The ‘Sound’ Of The R&B Hits. This includes The Marvelettes’ biggest selling single Please Mr Postman which topped the US Billboard 100 and US R&B charts and was certified gold in the UA and silver in Britain. It’s joined by I Want A Guy which was the B-Side to their 1961 single Twistin’ Postman. This is an example of where the B-Side is far better than the single. The Marvelettes’ Twistin’ Postman wasn’t able to replicate the success of Chubby Checker’s The Twist and didn’t result in a new dance craze.

The Miracles contributed five tracks to the original compilation in 1964. Two more tracks have been added to the expanded version of The ‘Sound’ Of The R&B Hits. This includes You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me which reached number eight in the US Billboard 100 and topped the US R&B charts. Then there’s I’ve Been Good To You from the album I’ll Try Something New which failed to chart in 1962. It’s one of the hidden gems in their back-catalogue.

Mary Wells returns with two US R&B numbers ones. The first was You Beat Me To The Punch which also reached number nine in the US Billboard 100 in 1962. The following year, 1963, Two Lovers reached number seven in the US Billboard 100. They’re two of Mary Wells’ finest singles and are welcome additions to the compilation.

Barrett Strong’s Money (That’s What I Want) featured on the compilation when it was released in 1964. The B-Side of the single was an emotive and powerful reading of the ballad Oh I Apologize. It’s another hidden soulful gem that is a reminder to always check the B-Side of a single.

One name that was missing from The ‘Sound’ Of The R&B Hits when it was released in 1964 was Marvin Gaye. Three of his singles feature on the newly expanded version. This includes Hitch Hike from 1962 and the gospel-tinged Pride and Joy which reached number ten in  the US Billboard 100 and two in the US R&B charts. The followup was Can I Get A Witness which stalled at twenty-two in the US Billboard 100 but reached number three in the US R&B charts in 1963. In Britain, the song was a favourite of DJs and dancers in London and the North of England and has stood the test of time.

Other additions to the expanded version of the compilation include The Valadiers’ I Found A Girl which has a joyous feelgood sound. Very different is the bittersweet sounding I Found Myself A Brand New Baby by Mike and The Modifiers. Then there’s The Contours R&B single which was released in 1962 but failed to find the audience it deserved. It’s another welcome addition to the compilation.

Closing The ‘Sound’ Of The R&B Hits is Martha and The Vandellas’ 1963 single Heat Wave. This Motown classic that reached number four in the US Billboard 100 and topped the US R&B charts. It’s a case of saving the one of best until last.

When Stateside released The ‘Sound’ Of The R&B Hits in 1964, they had no idea how important and influential it would go on to be. That was despite none of the fourteen tracks on the original compilation being a hit single. They were  a mixture of the ones that got away, album tracks and B-Sides. Despite that, the compilation introduced many British record buyers to the Tamla-Motown sound and this was the start of their lifelong love affair with the label and soul music.

For many of those who bought The ‘Sound’ Of The R&B Hits in 1964 it’s a love affair that continues to this day. They’ll welcome the newly expanded version of The ‘Sound’ Of The R&B Hits which features twenty-eight tracks from old friends, familiar faces and some new names which should introduce a new generation of music fans to one of the most famous labels in the history of soul music.

The ‘Sound’ Of The R&B Hits.

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