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Martha reeves & the Vandellas - Sugar n' Spice
 

Martha reeves & the Vandellas - Sugar n' Spice

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Title:  Sugar n' Spice
Company: Gordy
Catalog: GS-944
Year: 1969
Country/States: US
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: stereo pressing; small drill hole top right corner

Released after a personnel shake-up that saw former Velvettes Sandra Tilley replace original Vandella Rosalind Ashford, the glitzy Supremes-styled cover photo gave you the distinct impression that 1969's "Sugar n' Spice" was going to be one of those Motown-sells-out projects that so many other Motown groups had shoved down their throats. Luckily, for the most part Martha Reeves and company (now officially billed as Martha Reeves and the Vandellas), managed to avoid that hideous musical fate. Reeves and the Vandellas had always been willing to stand up for themselves and while they were willing to let Motown deck them out in expensive outfits, they weren't about to sell out their credibility on a lame assed set of MOR pop numbers. Admittedly there were a couple of totally lame pop pieces here ('What Now My Love' and Soul Appeal'), but those were far and few between. In fact, most of the album had a surprisingly soulful feel with several of the tracks actually sounding as if they'd been recorded a couple of years earlier. Doubt that statement then check out 'Shoe Leather Expressway' and 'I'm a Winner'.

- In the hands of a group like The Supremes, a track like 'Taking My Love (and Leaving Me)' would have been a total waste of time and vinyl. While the song was way too middle of the road pop, Reeves injected a nice edge to the proceedings. The song wasn't great, but she saved it from the aural dust heap. Gordy tapped it as the leadoff single. rating: *** stars
- Buried on the album, 'Shoe Leather Expressway' was one of those lost Motown classics. With one of those Motown melodies that instantly drilled its way into your head and a clever set of lyrics (love the transportation references), this one should have been a massive hit for the group. rating: ***** stars
- 'You're the Loser Now' was one of those songs that snuck up on you. The first couple of times I heard it I thought it was totally forgettable, but suddenly I found myself singing the call and response sections. Another hidden gem. rating: **** stars
- Boasting another classic Motown arrangement and a great set of 'gambling' lyrics, 'I'm a Winner' actually sounded like it might have been written and recorded a couple of years earlier. One of Reeves' best vocals and the call and response vocals were stunning. rating: *** stars
- The first disappointment, 'What Now My Love' found the group falling victim to Motown's longstanding desire to appeal to 9-to-5 middle class America. Well, your grandma would probably like this one. rating: ** stars
- 'Soul Appeal' sounded like Shirley Bassey trying to to a Motown song ... a good song turned into a bad idea ... rating: ** stars
- 'Loneliness Is a Lonely Feelin' ' started side two with another great Vandellas performance. Whereas a group like The Supremes would have turned this one into a self-pity romp, Reeves sounded truly pissed off ... Damn did she ever have a great voice. rating: **** stars
- Ah, ' I Love That Man' was a love song for an average Joe such as myself ... rating: *** stars
- The second Ashford-Simpson composition, 'It Ain't Like That' had one of the album's most commercial hooks. Another one that played on Reeves 'take-no-crap' persona and sounded as if it may have been recorded a couple of years earlier. Very radio-friendly. rating: *** stars
- The album's third lost gem, 'I Can't Get Along without You' had everything required to be a hit - fantastic melody and another killer hook. It made you wonder what Motown was thinking when they elected not to tap the album for a single. rating: **** stars
- Not to take anything away from Reeves, but the star of Ivy Joe Hunter's 'Heartless' was James Jameson's stunning bass line. Talk about a bass tutorial. I'd kill to have a fraction of the man's talent. rating: **** stars
- Folks tend to forget that Holland-Dozier-Holland turned out their share of turkeys and the awkwardly titled 'I Hope That You Have Better Luck Than I Did' would have been one of those, if not for Reeves and company's amazing performance. Not only did they take what was a mid-tempo slice of MOR pop, but they made it one of the album's outstanding performances. rating; **** stars

As mentioned earlier, the album was tapped for a single in the form of:



- 1969's 'Taking My Love (and Leaving Me)' b/w 'Heartless' (Gordy catalog number G 7094)

One of The Vandellas most impressive releases with the added bonus that you can still find affordable copies.

"Sugar n' Spice" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Taking My Love (and Leaving Me) (A. Stary - H. Gordy) - 2:47
2.) Shoe Leather Expressway (Sylvia Moy - Frank Wilson) - 2:27
3.) You're the Loser Now (Clay McMurray) - 3:15
4.) I'm a Winner (Nick Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 2:42
5.) What Now My Love (C. Sigman - G. Becuard) - 2:59
6.) Soul Appeal (R. Miner) -2:25

(side 2)
1.) Loneliness Is a Lonely Feelin' (D. Dean - D. Richards) - 2:38
2.) I Love That Man (Janie Bradford - R. Miner) - 2:38
3.) It Ain't Like That (Nick Ashford - Valerie Simpson) - 2:55
4.) I Can't Get Along without You (Brian Holland - Lamont Dozier - Eddie Holland - Barrett Strong) - 2:59
5.) Heartless (Ivy Joe Hunter) - 2:57
6.) I Hope That You Have Better Luck Than I Did (Brian Holland - Lamont Dozier - Eddie Holland) - 2:54
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