In 1963, the rapid emergence of Martha Reeves & the Vandellas travelled at 45 revolutions per minute, to the tune of three smash hit R&B singles, two of which also made the pop top ten. Soon they were motoring at 33rpm too, with their second album release of that year, Heat Wave, released on 30 September.
The group fronted by Reeves, the former secretary to Motown songwriter and executive Mickey Stevenson, paid their dues in local clubs and as uncredited voices around Hitsville, notably for Marvin Gaye. But after the release of the Holland-Dozier-Holland song ‘Come And Get These Memories,’ Martha’s typewriter was history.
The song raced to No. 6 on the soul chart, went top 30 pop and started the momentum that catapulted H-D-H’s irresistible ‘Heat Wave’ to the R&B No. 1 for a month. It also reached No. 4 in the pop market, after which Brian, Lamont and Eddie’s composition ‘Quicksand’ repeated the double top ten achievement.
Even as ‘Come And Get These Memories’ was on the charts, Motown had reacted to its success by releasing a set of the same name as the Vandellas’ debut album. It didn’t make the charts, but by the time Heat Wave was issued, such was their popularity that a portion of their audience, at least, was ready to try the group in the album format.
The chart-topping title track was included, of course, but the simultaneous single ‘Quicksand’ wasn’t, and the album was largely a showcase for the group’s interpretative powers on recent hits from outside Motown. Produced by Stevenson and H-D-H, with Reeves taking all the lead vocals backed by Rosalind Ashford and Annette Beard, its line-up was almost a one-stop chart review of 1963.
It included versions of Doris Troy’s ‘Just One Look,’ Inez Foxx’s ‘Mockingbird,’ the Angels’ ‘My Boyfriend’s Back,’ the Crystals’ ‘Then He Kissed Me,’ Kai Winding’s ‘More,’ Wayne Newton’s ‘Danke Schoen,’ Barbara Lewis’ ‘Hello Stranger’ and Trini Lopez’s ‘If I Had A Hammer’ — every one of them a soul or pop hit, most of them both, during 1963.
There was a gap of nearly 18 months before the Vandellas released another album, in 1965’s Dance Party. By then, Motown and its publishing arm Jobete were far more sassy about keeping the covers in-house — not to mention that the group had several more major hits under their belt, including the indelible ‘Dancing In The Street.’
Heat Wave can be bought here.