The marketing bods at Motown appear to have been working overtime. This new series of CDs feature actors, musicians and artists choosing their favourite tracks from the legendary back catalogue. This inaugural compilation has been handpicked by self confessed soul aficionado Martin Freeman – aka Tim from The Office.
I’m not quite sure why that’s a hook for the discerning consumer but there seems to be a knowledgeable passion for the tracks on offer. However, the whole concept leaves you scratching your head as to who this is supposed to appeal to.
Initially, the track listing sets of a few potential alarm bells as about a third of these tracks will be familiar from just about any other soul compilation you might already have. The album kicks off party style with The Jackson 5‘s I Want You Back. Never Can Say Goodbye also crops up later with other Motown staples such as It’s a Shame and Tears Of A Clown.
Thankfully Freeman’s soul savvy kicks in to great effect in places as the album contains some tracks you wouldn’t normally expect. Instead of plundering the more obvious Marvin Gaye tracks he opts for the relative obscurity of the Trouble Man soundtrack and Please Stay instead of the predictable Let’s Get It On. There are also more leftfield tracks on offer from Diana Ross with The Supremes and Edwin Starr.
Attention seems to have been given to the track order and the compilation starts and ends on a high, flowing well in between. It’s clear that these songs have stood the test of time and that’s why they’re still worth listening to today- from the excellent, almost OTT vocals on The Originals‘ The Bells to the exciting candy-pop of Stevie Wonder‘s Sugar it’s clear that these songs really do have soul. My personal favourites include Frankie Valli‘s The Night (a fast faced past lounge-esqe hit) and the out and out funk of The Commodores‘ I Feel Sanctified.
Top marks for the music, but this CD scores badly in its value for money and marketing. If there’s a Detroit sized hole in your record collection you could do a lot worse. However, if this is the sort of thing you like then it’s likely you’ll have most of this already. Recent compilations such as Gilles Peterson‘s excellently sublime Digs America appear to have raised the compilation bar and I can’t help thinking that this sort of thing is best left to the DJs rather than TV stars.