Well, what a surprise this was, coming out of nowhere and what a gem it is too. This album should have surfaced some 45 years ago. They were Motown’s first ladies of funk, arriving at Motown following a stint at A&M Records where they released a number of 45s. Motown had relocated to the West Coast and as the last dying embers of the 60s sound went out, in came a funkier, more urban sound, and for a while, it looked like these ladies were going to be Motown’s next big thing. Their sound wasn’t what Berry Gordy had been feeding us, I remember hearing “Mr Fix-It Man Man” for the first time and rushing to The Diskery to grab a copy; I was 18 and had already got the collecting bug with the B side, “You’ve Got To Make The Choice”, becoming a constant play, and of course both sides are on this album. one year later they hit us with the storming Sawyer/Ware composition “I’m Learning To Trust My Man” which really did get some attention in the UK – an urgent funky dancer that has very few peers and today still sounding just as good.
In an attempt to get some tunes off the ground, they were paired with some of the finest writers Motown had to offer in Hal Davis, Gloria Jones, Pamela Sawyer, the underestimated Paul Riser and the brilliant Willie Hutch. What’s clear is that Berry Gordy didn’t really know what to do with them and due to total mismanagement the expected breakthrough didn’t materialise. For some 30 years or so it’s been rumoured that an entire album had been cut and so, here it is finally, with some serious first time high’s and it’s good to catch up with old favourites too. The previously unreleased “Do What You Gotta Do” is scintillating and worth the price of the album alone, it’s one of the melodic ballads that Barbara Mason used to treat us too in her Buddah days, with a spoken monologue so right for that time. The Contours “Just A Little Misunderstanding” gets a makeover and it’s a cracker – there’s another great version too by the ballads on their Venture album. Another fine tune is the Curtis Mayfield inspired “Give Me Your Love” which has that Curtom influence and first came out in 1973 on 45 and 12″ in 2014. Still working wonders in the clubs today, a sound that is so out there at the minute. Their unreleased version of Bobby Womack’s ”Communication” is a stunner too, and a big favourite of mine is their only Motown released 45 “You’ve Got My Mind”, which seeped into my head as far back as the late 70s, and one I have only just found out was scheduled to get a MoWest release but that never happened and in September 1973 the Motown 45 arrived. I remember finding a box of 25 copies at The Diskery, obviously, they have since found good homes over the years, going to like-minded souls. I have a number of versions of “Sweet Inspiration” and their version is so classy which is not surprising really as it has Hal Davis at the helm.
As an album in its own right, it stands tall and proud, but it’s more than that, this is history and another piece of the jigsaw that is soulful black music. Thank you to all those involved in making this a reality. Got my copy from Leicester’s finest Fish at Simply Soul.