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As a Matter of Opinion I Think She’s Tops: Mary Wells Celebrated On New Releases from Hip-o Select, Soul Music Records

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Mary Wells Something NewMary Wells had a number of firsts under her belt. The first true Motown superstar, she became the first of the company’s artists to net a Grammy Award nomination. She also was the first superstar artist to leave Berry Gordy’s empire at the height of her fame. In 1965, Wells departed for a lucrative deal with 20th Century Fox Records, but her greatest successes were already behind her. Yet despite her death at just 49 years of age in 1992, Wells’ star still burns bright, largely thanks to her string of smash collaborations with the Motor City’s poet laureate, Smokey Robinson: “The One Who Really Loves You” (No. 8 Pop/No. 2 R&B), “You Beat Me to the Punch” (No. 9 Pop/No. 1 R&B), “Two Lovers” (No. 7 Pop/No. 1 R&B) and a little song called “My Guy” (No. 1 Pop/No. 1 R&B). Now, two very exciting new releases are reflecting on the earliest years of Mary Wells’ career, both at Motown and at 20th Century. Soul Music Records, an imprint of the Cherry Red Group, has just unveiled the 2-CD Complete 20th Century Fox Recordings, consisting of Wells’ two albums for the label plus copious bonus tracks. It has been joined by Hip-o Select’s 2-CD Something New: Motown Lost and Found, bringing a whopping 23 unreleased tracks circa 1961-1964 (out of 47 rare songs!) out of the vault and into your collection. First up: Something New!

Hip-o reveals that “like every other artist on the growing [Motown] roster, Wells recorded as often as possible, creating more than enough for her singles and albums releases.” The label goes on to promise that Something New: Motown Lost and Found includes “all of [Wells’] amazing ‘extra’ music: 47 rare tracks, 23 of them never before released.” This chronologically-arranged collection, of course, offers unheard productions from Wells’ closest Motown partner, Smokey Robinson, but also features tracks from Berry Gordy, Mickey Stevenson, the Holland/Dozier/Holland triumvirate and even Sylvester Potts of the Contours. If you’re not already salivating by this point, you just might be thrilled at the prospect of hearing a set of songs in which Wells is joined by the Four Tops (including a take on “I’ve Grown Accustomed to His Face” from My Fair Lady!) If that’s still not enticing enough, how about Mary Wells teamed with The Supremes? You’ll hear those songs, too! The Temptations are here, too. There are standards (“The Party’s Over,” “I Wanna Be Around”), Motown standards (“Money (That’s What I Want)”) and much, much more.

Something New also includes all of the songs released by Motown following Wells’ controversial departure from the label roster: seven performances from the 1966 album Vintage Stock, three duets with Marvin Gaye from his very first Motown box set, eleven songs from the compilation Looking Back, and three others first released on prior rarities sets. Yet even these tracks are presented here with a difference: all are heard in previously unreleased stereo mixes. It’s all topped off with a 32-page booklet featuring liner notes from Stu Hackel and rare photographs of the star. Something New is available now.

After the jump: Soul Music Records follows Mary Wells to 20th Century Fox!

Mary Wells - 20thMary Wells’ 1964 signing to 20th Century Fox sent shockwaves throughout the music business. The $250,000.00 advance was a nearly unheard-of sum, and Wells was enticed by Fox’s promise of gainful motion picture employment, as well. While at the label, she recorded two LPs, and both have been combined on The Complete 20th Century Fox Recordings. Debut Mary Wells was an always classy, sometimes saucy set of uptown soul, but only reached No. 145 on the Billboard chart and yielded some moderately-charting singles. “Never, Never Leave Me” (No. 54 Pop/No. 15 R&B) was written by Jenny Lambert and Mickey Gentile for Dionne Warwick, but Mary seized on the song, and its sophisticated style fit her like a glove. Her sole Top 40 pop hit single for Fox, “Use Your Head” (No. 34 Pop/No. 13 R&B), boasts a Riley Hampton arrangement and a co-writing credit for another Motown alum, Barrett Strong, along with Chuck Barksdale of the Dells. Rudy Clark is represented with “Why Don’t You Let Yourself Go” and “Everlovin’ Boy,” the latter of which melodically recalls “I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face,” also recorded by Aretha Franklin, Baby Washington and Dusty Springfield. The album’s closing take on Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn’s “Time After Time” was straight supper club soul . The Feldman/Gotteher/Goldstein team of hitmakers were behind “How Can I Forget Him.” Mary’s vocals, of course, strongly resemble the style she used on Smokey Robinson’s sensual, elegant productions, but the public didn’t cotton to Wells in these new settings.

The eponymous Mary Wells has been joined on the first CD of Soul Music’s reissue by six bonus tracks, including non-LP singles and tracks unissued at the time. (The program of CD 1 is identical to that of Ichiban Soul Classics’ 1996 CD reissue, though it’s been remastered for 2012.) Every selection on Disc 1 is in mono. The second disc presents 1965’s follow-up LP Love Songs to the Beatles in full. Its twelve songs were all penned by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and arranged by Joe Mazzu in a brassy, swinging style intended for the adult crowd. She’s delicious on gender-reversed songs like “He Loves You,” “And I Love Him,” and “I Saw Him Standing There.” Though The Beatles publicly proclaimed Wells their favorite singer, the mutual admiration society still didn’t pay off in a hit record. The new-to-CD Love Songs to the Beatles, though, shows how Lennon and McCartney’s songs were instantly ripe for reinvention from popular and jazz vocalists. Wells acquits herself well on both ballads (“And I Love Him,” “Yesterday”) and rockers (“Help!,” “I Should Have Known Better”) scored for orchestra. Kevin L. Goins supplies a strong essay in Soul Music’s nicely-illustrated booklet, and Alan Wilson has remastered each track on both discs for producer David Nathan.

Mary Wells would have to wait for a subsequent move to Atlantic’s Atco division to return to the Top 10 R&B chart with “Dear Lover.” She went on to make well-regarded recordings for Jubilee, Reprise, Epic and Motor City, but the specter of her Motown fame always lingered. Thanks to songs like “My Guy,” however, Wells’ voice remains one of the most recognizable of the 1960s, and those not acquainted with the Fox recordings will no doubt cherish the opportunity to hear that voice on unfamiliar material. The Complete 20th Century Fox Recordings is available now at the link below, and Something New: Motown Lost and Found can also be ordered below!

Mary Wells, Something New: Motown Lost and Found (Hip-o Select, 2012)

CD 1

  1. (You Can) Depend on Me
  2. Why Do You Want to Let Me Go
  3. Money (That’s What I Want)
  4. Is It Me or Is It You
  5. I’ve Got a Story
  6. Guarantee (For a Lifetime)
  7. To Lose You
  8. Cinderella (It’s Twelve O’Clock)
  9. When Your Lover Comes Back
  10. I Want You ’Round – Mary Wells & Smokey Robinson
  11. My Heart Is Like a Clock featuring The Supremes
  12. Goodbye and Good Luck
  13. Forgive and Forget
  14. I’ll Be Available
  15. Can You Fix It (My Broken Heart)
  16. Have a Little Patience (And Wait) featuring The Supremes
  17. Free From Your Spell featuring The Supremes
  18. My World Of Dreams
  19. Your Loss, My Gain (You Lost The Sweetest Boy) featuring The Supremes and The Temptations
  20. Strange Love (Graystone Version)
  21. Prove It
  22. One Block From Heaven
  23. That’s Why I Love You (Like I Do)
  24. Drop In The Bucket
  25. Everybody Needs Love
  26. Honey Boy
  27. When I’m Gone

CD 2

  1. Back In My Arms – Mary Wells and Marvin Gaye
  2. All I Got – Mary Wells and Marvin Gaye
  3. You Can Dance – Mary Wells and Marvin Gaye
  4. I’m Yours, You’re Mine – Mary Wells and Marvin Gaye
  5. Oh Lover – Mary Wells and Marvin Gaye
  6. Let’s Talk It Over – Mary Wells and Marvin Gaye
  7. In Case You Need Love – Mary Wells and Marvin Gaye
  8. The Second Time Around
  9. This Is Something New
  10. I’ve Grown Accustomed To His Face featuring the Four Tops
  11. Again featuring the Four Tops
  12. Can’t Get Out of This Mood featuring the Four Tops
  13. The Party’s Over
  14. I Wanna Be Around
  15. I Remember You featuring the Four Tops
  16. Teach Me Tonight
  17. Secret Love
  18. All I Do Is Dream of You
  19. Always
  20. A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening

CD 1, Tracks 2-4, 8, 17, 19, 20, 23, and CD 2, Tracks 1, 5-15 & 17-19 previously unreleased

All other tracks heard in previously unreleased stereo mixes.

Mary Wells, The Complete 20th Century Fox Recordings (Soul Music Records SMCR 5070D, 2012)

CD 1

  1. Never, Never Leave Me
  2. He’s a Lover
  3. Stop Takin’ Me for Granted
  4. Use Your Head
  5. We’re Just Two of a Kind
  6. My Mind’s Made Up
  7. Why Don’t You Let Yourself Go
  8. Everlovin’ Boy
  9. Ain’t It the Truth
  10. He’s Good Enough for Me
  11. How Can I Forget Him
  12. Time After Time
  13. Jive Guy
  14. Me Without You
  15. I’m Learnin’
  16. I’m Sorry
  17. Say What You Gotta Say
  18. Memories are Creepin’ Up on Me

CD 2

  1. He Loves You
  2. All My Lovin’
  3. Please Please Me
  4. Do You Want to Know a Secret
  5. Can’t Buy Me Love
  6. I Should Have Known Better
  7. Help!
  8. Eight Days a Week
  9. And I Love Him
  10. Ticket to Ride
  11. Yesterday
  12. I Saw Him Standing There

Written by Joe Marchese

December 11, 2012 at 11:53

3 Responses

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  1. HI Joe,

    We enjoy your posts over here at Surfdog Records. I wanted to send you our video link to the Glen Campbell “American Treasure” box set you posted about recently.

    Thanks! Scott

    Scott Seine

    December 11, 2012 at 12:09

  2. It would be good to know which definitive Motown release fills out “the rest” of Mary’s Motown recordings – which issue has the best remastered sound, which (if any) has ALL of the rest.

    I’m surprised that Hip-O did not find one alternate, demo or live take of My Guy to put on the Motown 2 CD set. I’m sure there will be many disgruntled customers who expect to find it there and will be very upset that no version is there.


    December 11, 2012 at 16:16

  3. Mary Well’s 20th Century Fox recordings on her first TCF album are really wonderful uptown soul sides that would have been huge hits if they had been released on Motown, with their well oiled promotional machine.

    TCF just didn’t have the relationships at radio that the Motown team had built.

    I have an original “stereo” copy of the first TCF album “Mary Wells” and all cuts except “Time After Time” are in electronically reprocessed stereo, so all were mixed to mono for single release obviously. That’s why we have never heard them in true stereo, it was said they couldn’t be located, they most likely exist only in mono.


    December 17, 2012 at 10:09

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