Brenda Holloway ‘Spellbound: Rare and Unreleased Motown Gems’ 2CD (SoulMusic) 4/5

One of the finest female vocalists ever to grace the label, Brenda Holloway really should have been a far bigger star. It was the subject of much press rumour and speculation that the singer was a serious rival to Diana Ross and others for Berry Gordy’s affection between 1963 and 1966. Holloway gave the Motown boss a clear cut ultimatum that left him in no doubt: ‘Either I sing or I’m your mistress, but it is one or the other’. Gordy signed her up and housed her at his parents.

While the major hits such as, ‘Every little bit hurts’, ‘When I’m gone’ and, ‘Just look what you’ve done’, are all available elsewhere, this de facto mini anthology does the non-negligible service of offering up numerous unreleased songs. In spite of being a prolific singer during this period with over a hundred songs finding their way onto a plethora of re-issues, the performances here are of a universally high standard and one wonders why some were never issued at the time ,especially songs of the calibre of, ‘I’m spellbound’, ‘What good am I without you’, and ‘Don’t compare me with her’. Indeed, almost the total output on the second CD has previously been left on the tape shelves seemingly for posterity. Brenda Holloway was not a native of Detroit, born and raised in Watts, Los Angeles, but her voice was pure Motown. Compiled by Motown music aficionado Paul Nixon and with lengthy sleeve notes from noted UK Motown fanatic and former Blues and Soul writer Sharon Davis, this is a compilation that will appeal to both completists and those coming to the music of Brenda Holloway for the very first time.

Tim Stenhouse