Motown Nuggets, Vol. 2: 1966
Motown Nuggets is a multipart series highlighting lesser-known corners of the Motown warehouse: deep album cuts and flipside goodness from the early days of the long-player and the glory years of the single.
Our second installment of Motown Nuggets jumps right into 1966, a year in which Berry Gordy's talent pool assumed such domination over the pop charts that the impresario penned a new slogan to adorn his merchandise: "The Sound of Young America." And who could argue with that claim? The year 1966 witnessed nearly two dozen Motown singles crashing the Top 20, while literally dozens more bounced around the R&B charts. The big hits are the things of legend: "Reach Out, I'll Be There" by The Four Tops, "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" by The Temptations, "You Can't Hurry Love" by The Supremes. Stevie Wonder incorporated Bob Dylan into his expanding repertoire, while Marvin Gaye cut a series of duets with Kim Weston, including the timeless "It Takes Two."
But flip over "You Can't Hurry Love," and you'll find the delightfully snappy "Put Yourself in My Place." Dig around Stevie Wonder's Up-Tight, past the monster title smash, and you'll discover the killer Funk Brothers-led "Ain't That Asking for Trouble." And listen to the opening seconds of Junior Walker's instrumental jam "Shoot Your Shot," which didn't even crack the R&B Top 30, and you'll hear the sax scream that (via sample) would 25 years later drive House of Pain's "Jump Around."
And those are just the familiar names. How about Brenda Holloway's earnest plea for school attendance ("Play It Cool, Stay in School"), or The Monitors' doo-wop acknowledgment of the ever-present military draft ("Greetings [This Is Uncle Sam]"), or the shimmering dance blast of Chris Clark's "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)"? Plus, there are a few real obscurities for Motown scholars, such as The Originals slamming through a classic soul take on Lead Belly's folkie standard "Goodnight Irene" and a rare track from The Mynah Birds, a Canadian rock band featuring then-unknown Neil Young on guitar and the even more unknown future funk superstar Rick James (here billed as Ricky Matthews) on vocals. How's that for a deep album cut?