Various Artists: Motown 50 – Yesterday, Today, Forever

How does a legendary label celebrate its 50th birthday? By inviting the public at large to vote on its 50 greatest hits, turning the results into a terrific 3-CD compilation…and then releasing it only in the UK. The upshot is that even though you’ll have to pay import prices for it – and even though anyone who’s interested in Motown probably already has copies of most, if not all, of these songs – Motown 50 is one of the more interesting and consistently interesting label retrospectives to come down the pike in quite some time. Much of this is owed to the strength of the catalog, of course, but still, Motown has never been a label known for playing fast and loose with its heritage, both of which make this the entry-level Hitsville compilation to own. If Motown 50 has a major drawback, it’s that it’s sequenced in order, meaning you start out listening to the classics (Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street”) and wind up with lesser entries like Lionel Richie’s “My Destiny”; it would have been better (and braver) to count down rather than up. But hey, that’s what the shuffle button is for – and when the label takes enough care to tack on 11 tracks of Motown artists covering (often left-field) hits, who can complain? When you can get the Elgins’ “Heaven Must Have Sent You” and Stevie Wonder covering “Light My Fire” in one compilation, all disagreements are minor. Now when is this getting an American release? (Motown 2008)

Motown 50 Official Site


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