Vinyl Rewind – Ooh Strange Vibrations

Well, as the sun is making a brief appearance here in blighty, I thought I might dig out some summery feeling albums (before we revert to stereotype weather).

Diana Ross and The Supremes always make think of summer. There’s something about Motown Sound that just screams sun, being outside – and of course, having a bit of a dance. Motown has always been a big part of my life, it’s something that takes me right back to my childhood – a Motown song would come on the radio, and my family didn’t need an excuse to get up and dance around (I think that’s where I get my dancing grooves from, it’s just unfortunate that I dance that way to everything – I include Oasis and Led Zeppelin in this).

Anyway, enough about my dancing skills.

I have to say I’m very guilty for only listening now to Motown hits on the many compilations that seem to be eternally produced. They really do have their place and I couldn’t recommend them highly enough as an introduction to the genre. However, at the moment I really want to delve deeper into the 60s Detroit sound, and let’s face it – vinyl is a great way to trip down that lane.

I have to say I was amazed at how many albums Diana Ross and The Supremes pumped out – modern artists really would blanche at the rate of releases. Just looking on eBay, the choice of Supremes’ albums is plain scary. I didn’t know where to start. I’ll freely admit, I’m like a child in a sweetshop when it comes to albums – it’s all about the cover. So I plumped for “Let the Sunshine in”. Released in 1969, you couldn’t but place this album firmly in the 60s from the cover. Released solely in the US (get me finding a copy in the UK!), it contains one of the Supremes most memorable hits: What Becomes of the Broken Hearted, and quite frankly an outstanding cover of Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In.

I’m quite fond of a song cover, it’s always interesting to see how people would do it differently. Ok, so The 5th Dimension really did get it right blending the two songs from Hair, and you can’t help but think it’s a time capsule of a song (go on, listen to it and you can almost smell the free love of ’69), yet The Supremes manage to make the song slinky, and downright sexy. The 5th Dimension only manage to make it trippy and that I really should be meeting the dawn. Diana Ross purrs her way through the song and her vocals just lend themselves to the song. In fact, listening to the album as a whole, it’s a sexy little album (something I can only rival in my affections with (ok, you may slap me now) Justin Timberlake’s Justified). This would be Diana Ross’ last album before leaving The Supremes, and I sense there’s a yearning for something I have yet to put my finger on. It certainly feels that there was more of a sexual awakening on the album. Perhaps I’ve missed that not listening to other albums. Or I just want to imagine their other songs are very innocent.

Another track that stands out for me is: No Matter What Sign You Are. Funnily enough, this song encapsulates for me the Motown Sound (surprising as it didn’t really make a dent in the Billboard 100). It’s an earworm, it gets stuck right in there. Yes, it has some of the 60s innocence, but it has an underlying groove of sexual awakening, not helped by the beat. You can sing it, you can dance to it, you’ll remember it. Luckily this song wasn’t consigned to the bin, and was sampled by the Beastie Boys on ‘Shake Your Rump’ – which just goes to show that you really can bump ‘n’ grind to this song…

So there you have it, I discovered that the Supremes did grow up, that there was more to them than Baby Love, Back in my Arms Again and Stop! In the Name of Love. Yet they didn’t lose the sound that made me fall in love with them in the first place.

As the name of the album suggests, it really does let the sunshine in.

P.S. As a complete aside, the UK restarted the Vinyl Chart today – it’ll now have its own Top 10. Good old blighty is buying 5x more records than it did three years ago. Not bad for something that has been keeping us listening and dancing for 126 years!

Stand Out Songs:

  • What Becomes of the Broken Hearted
  • No Matter What Sign You Are
  • The Composer
  • I’m Livin’ in Shame

The Knitty Gritty:

So this album is available on iTunes, Spotify, Deezer.. and Tidal.

Other albums to listen to:

The Age of Aquarius – The 5th Dimension

Wish it would Rain – The Temptations

Or any Motown compilation album..

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