Tuesday, May 26
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Tag: Berry Gordy

Album Cover of the Week: Martha and the Vandellas, Heat Wave

Album Cover of the Week: Martha and the Vandellas, Heat Wave

Album Cover of the Week, Music
Christmas is over, and we're almost into that part of winter where you think it's never going to end and you're already tired of it being dark by 5pm. So let's turn up the heat with this slice of vintage R&B -- from 1963, it's Heat Wave from Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, first released on the Gordy Records division of Motown. This is the biggest image scan I could find, although it's not of the original album. That can be identified by the Gordy label that should be on the lower left. Design-wise, Heat Wave is pretty uncomplicated but it's very appealing all the same. The white dresses (and gloves!) of the ladies strike a brilliant contrast with the flames. Design and photography credit go to Bernard Yeszin, who worked a number of other Motown album covers in the early '60...
Album Cover of the Week: Stevie Wonder, Where I’m Coming From

Album Cover of the Week: Stevie Wonder, Where I’m Coming From

Album Cover of the Week, Music
I last showcased an album cover from the great Stevie Wonder when I wrote about Innervisions in 2009. Today I want to go back to the beginning. Not of Wonder's career, but of his string of all-time classic albums in the 1970s. For today we look at Where I'm Coming From, released on Motown's Tamla label on April 12, 1971. A few things strike me right away about this cover. First is the very bold use of "WONDER" with its many pictures of Stevie. This was the first album where Wonder really was able to assert full creative control over his music, and I think this cover speaks to that. The second thing is the title -- Where I'm Coming From. It's an unmistakable declaration that this album was intended not to generate profit for Berry Gordy but to let America and the world know what w...
Listening booth — Mary Wells, “Two Lovers”

Listening booth — Mary Wells, “Two Lovers”

Listening Booth, Music
Over at Popdose we're cooking up an exciting new project — a comprehensive overview of the famous Time-Life AM Gold series. Up first is the 1962 entry, which features a whopping 22 songs. One of the early standouts in our discussion seems to be "Two Lovers" by the late, great Mary Wells. It was written and produced by Smokey Robinson, who was well on his way to superstar status with Motown Records. A 17-year-old Wells signed with Berry Gordy's Motown in 1960 and had her biggest hit in 1964 with the immortal "My Guy." She scored one more Top 20 hit the same year and became the first Motown act to perform in the U.K. (opening for an obscure act called the Beatles). Label battles and health problems cut her career short, and she retired from the music business in 1974. She returned later i
Album Cover of the Week: Innervisions

Album Cover of the Week: Innervisions

Album Cover of the Week, Music
In a just world, last night's Grammy Awards telecast would have been dedicated largely to celebrating the 50th anniversary of Motown Records.  Instead, we got 'treated' to Stevie Wonder playing with the Jonas Brothers.  Ugh. So in an effort to remedy (in whatever small way I can) this musical travesty, I'm presenting not just one of Stevie's or Motown's greatest albums, but one of the greatest albums of any genre -- 1973's Innervisions. Innervisions was not released on the regular Motown label but rather on Tamla, the company Berry Gordy started in 1959 that morphed into Motown.  The album was a monster commercial and artistic triumph for Wonder, who picked up the first of his three Grammys for Album of the Year. As for the album art, the cover illustration is by Efram Wolff,
I have a dream – An American Dream

I have a dream – An American Dream

TV & Radio
Everyone has a list of movies that they are compelled to watch when they happen across them on TV - no matter how late it is, and no matter how much of it has already been shown. At or near the top of my own list is the immortal 1992 musical biopic, The Jacksons: An American Dream. I don't even care about the Jackson 5 all that much. I downloaded one of their greatest hits collections to my iPod, but that's about it. So I'm at a loss to explain why I love this movie (originally a two-parter broadcast on ABC) so much. Maybe it's the voyeur in me who loves getting a peek at the secret dysfunction of one of the most successful groups of the 1970s. Sure, Tito and Jermaine Jackson may have had scores of prepubescent girls fawning over them, but when Joseph (brilliantly portrayed b...