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Motown: The Big, Big Sound’s Little Secret

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The Big Big Sound Label A-side

In 1964, Motown scored its first UK No.1, ‘Baby Love’, by The Supremes. It lit the touchpaper for an international invasion that, by the end of the year, would see some of the label’s biggest stars head to the UK for live dates, and which, by spring 1965, would bring The Motortown Revue to Paris.

Motortown Revue In Paris CoverAs the label began to invade Europe, domestic Motown distributors sought to make record-buyers aware of the groundbreaking music that was coming out of 2648 West Grand Boulevard – aka “Hitsville USA” – in Detroit. In France, the Introduction Au Tamla Motown Sound compilation LP was released as a promo package, replete with a lavish book and glossy print photos of the stars that would soon become household names worldwide. This was accompanied by the commercial release of a France-only LP, The Big, Big Sound From Detroit, which was released through Columbia, the Pathé-Marconi imprint that distributed Motown in France. The stage was set for The Motortown Revue’s historical live performance at the Paris Olympia, on 13 April 1965 – a show which, for the first time ever, is due to be released in full, on 12 February 2016, as Recorded Live: Motortown Revue In Paris.

The Big Big Sound From Detroit ArtworkAt first glance, The Big, Big Sound is an unassuming 12-track compilation featuring hits by the likes of Mary Wells (‘My Guy’), Marvin Gaye (‘Can I Get A Witness’) and The Supremes (‘Where Did Our Love Go’). Look closer, however, and the sleevenotes on the back actually constitute a first for Motown. According to Gilles Pétard, co-author of the book Motown, Soul And Glamour, “The back cover to The Big, Big Sound From Detroit was the first time that Motown revealed the names of all the great musicians that played on the sessions, thanks to the efforts of Kurt Mohr, a Swiss discographer, who was able to get Motown to open their files.”

For Motown fans and collectors, this was a revelation: the first time that The Funk Brothers – now lauded as one of the finest session ensembles in history – had ever been individually named in print (though, confusingly, the compilers overlooked the details for Brenda Holloway’s ‘Sad Song’). What’s more, the recording dates of each song were also listed, making The Big, Big Sound Of Detroit an essential document for Motown archivists.

Big Big Sound Of Detroit - Detail

With special thanks to Gilles Pétard, who helped us source the above detail from the album’s rear sleeve, we are able to give a give a full account of the information that this historical release contained. See below for a recreated album playlist, plus a full listing of recording dates and attendant musicians for each song – and come back next week, on 21 December, for our exclusive interview with Gilles Pétard, who gives us the inside story of how Motown established itself in France in the mid-60s.

Recorded Live: Motortown Revue In Paris is released through PledgeMusic on 25 March 2016.

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The Big, Big Sound Of Detroit – “Renseignements Discographiques”:

The Supremes (‘Where Did Our Love Go’, recorded 8 April 1964)
Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard (vocals); Andrew Terry (baritone sax); Jack Ashford (vibraphone); Earl Van Dyke (piano); Eddie Willis (guitar); James Jamerson (bass); Richard Allen (drums)

Sammy Ward (‘You’ve Got To Change’, recorded 7 May 1964)
Sammy Ward (vocals); Earl Van Dyke (piano); Robert White, Eddie Ellis (guitars); James Jamerson (bass); Bill Benjamin (drums); Ivy Hunter (percussion)

The Darnells (‘Come On Home’, recorded 22 May 1963)
Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow, Louvain Demps (vocals); Paul Riser, Don White (trombones); Hank Cosby (tenor sax); Andrew Terry (baritone sax); Johnny Griffith (keyboard); Joe Hunter (piano); Robert White (guitar); Clarence Isabell (bass); Larry Wrice (drums)

Kim Weston (‘Love Me All The Way’, recorded 19 November 1962)
Kim Weston (vocals); Don White (trombone); Dave Hamilton (vibraphone); Norman Dillard (organ); Joe Hunter (piano); Robert White (guitar); Joe Williams (bass); Lamont Dozier (drums); five unnamed backing vocalists

Eddie Holland (‘Leaving Here’, recorded 26 November 1963)
Eddie Holland (vocals); Marcus Belgrave, Herb Williams (trumpets); George Bohanon, Paul Riser (trombones); Hank Cosby, John Williford (tenor saxophones); Earl Van Dyke (keyboard); Johnny Griffith (piano); Robert White, Eddie Willis (guitars); James Jamerson (bass); Richard Allen (drums); eight unnamed backing vocalists

Eddie Holland (‘Candy To Me’, recorded 6 July 1964)
Eddie Holland (vocals); George Bohanon, Paul Riser (trombones); Hank Cosby (tenor sax); Andrew Terry (baritone sax); Jack Ashford (vibraphone); Earl Van Dyke (organ); Johnny Griffith (piano); Joe Messina (guitar); James Jamerson (bass); Bill Benjamin (drums); three unnamed backing vocalists

Mary Wells (‘My Guy’, recorded 2 March 1964)
Mary Wells (vocals); Herb Williams, John Wilson (trumpets), George Bohanon, Paul Riser (trombones); Earl Van Dyke (organ); Johnny Griffith (piano); Dave Hamilton (vibraphone); Robert White, Eddie Willis (guitar); James Jamerson (bass); Bill Benjamin (drums); three unnamed backing vocalists

The Miracles (‘I Like It Like That’, recorded 30 April 1964)
Claudette Rogers, Bill “Smokey” Robinson, Warren Moore, Robert Rogers (vocals); Russell Conway, Herb Williams, John Wilson (trumpets); Earl Van Dyke (piano); Marvin Taplin, Robert White (guitars); James Jamerson (bass); Donald White (drums)

Marvin Gaye And Kim Weston (‘What Good Am I Without You’, recorded 10 May 1964)
Marvin Gaye, Kim Weston (vocals); Russell Conway, Herb Williams (trumpets); George Bohanon, Paul Riser (trombone); Hank Cosby (tenor sax); Andrew Terry (baritone sax); Earl Van Dyke (piano); Robert White (guitar); James Jamerson (bass); Bill Benjamin (drums); Ivy Hunter (percussion); three unnamed backing vocalists

The Marvelettes (‘You’re My Remedy’, recorded 25 March 1964)
Gladys Horton, Katherine Anderson, Georgeanna Tillman, Wanda Young, Juanita Cowart (vocals); Donald Towns, John Wilson (trumpet); George Bohanon, Paul Riser (trombone); Hank Cosby (tenor sax); Earl Van Dyke (keyboard); Johnny Griffith (piano); Robert White, Eddie Willis (guitars); James Jamerson (bass); Richard Allen (drums)

Marvin Gaye (‘Can I Get A Witness’, recorded 17 July 1963)
Marvin Gaye (lead vocals); Martha And The Vandellas (Martha Reeves, Annette Beard, Rosalyn Ashford) (backing vocals); Marcus Belgrave, Russell Conway (trumpets); Paul Riser, Patrick Lanier (trombones); Hank Cosby (tenor sax); Eugene Moore (baritone sax); George Fowler (organ); Johnny Griffith (piano); Eddie Willis (guitar); Clarence Isabell (bass); Bill Benjamin (drums)

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