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Come See About Them: Ace Collects Rare, Unreleased Music of Motown’s Contours

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Contours - MisunderstandingForty years ago, in February 1974, The Contours reappeared on the Tamla Motown label with the single “Baby Hit and Run,” the group’s first release in seven years. But it was far from a new recording; the backing track had been cut in 1965 for Ivy Jo Hunter.  At least three lead vocals were cut for The Contours: by Billy Gordon later that year, and then by Jerry Green and Dennis Edwards the following year.  The Edwards version was ultimately issued in 1974, with the Gordon version surfacing in 2002.  A recent 26-song CD from Ace’s Kent imprint, Just a Little Misunderstanding: Rare and Unissued Motown 1965-68, premieres the Green vocal as one of its 14 previously unreleased tracks from The Contours and Dennis Edwards.

Just a Little Misunderstanding serves as a companion volume to 2011’s Dance with the Contours, which kicked off Ace’s series of compilations drawn from the Classic Motown vaults.  That volume was built around the titular 1964 LP, originally unissued, and numerous other recordings circa 1963-1964.  This follow-up focuses on the latter period of the group’s too-short existence, and make no mistake – this is classic Motown, with the irresistible, distinctive beat of The Funk Brothers straight out of Hitsville, USA, with numerous familiar Motor City grooves such as “It’s Growing,” “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted,” “Ain’t That Peculiar,” “First I Look at the Purse,” “Come See About Me” and “I’ll Turn to Stone.”  (Motown never met a song it couldn’t try out on multiple artists!)

The original line-up of The Contours broke up in June 1964, with Berry Gordy deciding to keep Billy Gordon and guitarist Huey Davis on, and replacing the other group members with Council Gay, Jerry Green and Alvin English. English’s time in the group was short-lived, though, when Sylvester Potts rejoined The Contours just months into the new line-up’s existence. Just a Little Misunderstanding is not a complete collection for The Contours; the new group’s first single, “Can You Jerk Like Me,” is not here, but its follow-up “First I Look at the Purse” is, albeit in a different form than the released single.  The song, produced and co-written by Smokey Robinson, didn’t make the first cut with Motown’s famous Quality Control, and The Contours were dispatched to remake the song.  Ironically, per the comprehensive new liner notes by Keith Hughes, the second version impressed Quality Control even less, and the original was released in mid-1965.  Ace/Kent presents, for the first time, the re-recorded version of Smokey’s tune among its copious vault material.

The Contours endured numerous changes to come, all of which are documented on Just a Little Misunderstanding.  Billy Gordon – the most famous lead voice of The Contours, and the lead singer on “Do You Love Me,” immortalized in 1988’s Dirty Dancing – departed the group, sadly beginning a downward spiral that culminated in long stretches in prison.  Joe Stubbs, brother of The Four Tops’ Levi, was the first to replace Gordon, and seven of his tracks appear here.  Four are making their first appearance anywhere including Marvin Gaye and Clarence Paul’s “Need Your Lovin’ (Want You Back),” Ivy Jo Hunter’s “I Grow Deeper in Love Every Day,” and Holland-Dozier-Holland’s Supremes hit “Come See About Me.”  In Fall 1966, Stubbs migrated from The Contours to The Originals, with Motown assigning “Need Your Lovin’” and “Come See About Me” to The Originals; these are the original Contours recordings.

Don’t miss a thing!  Hit the jump for more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 7, 2014 at 10:33

Posted in News, Reissues, The Contours

Release Round-Up: Week of March 29

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Derek and The Dominos, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs: 40th Anniversary Edition (Polydor/UMe)

Unbeknownst to us at Second Disc HQ, a lot of weird stuff has been going on with this deluxe edition. It seems that, for whatever reason, the 2-CD edition of this set is retailing only at Best Buy until April 26, at which point it’ll be released more widely. No extra material seems to be present, just a lengthy lead time in terms of exclusivity. Weird, man. And of course there’s that super-deluxe box set, too. (Amazon: Deluxe Edition, Box Set)

Pearl Jam, Vs. / Vitalogy: Expanded Editions (Epic/Legacy)

The Seattle rock legends expand their second and third albums with bonus tracks. A box set collects those three albums with an (almost-complete), widely-sought after live show. A bigger box adds an insane amount of stuff on vinyl, cassette (cassette? cassette!) and more. (Official site)

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Let Love In Murder Ballads The Boatman’s Call No More Shall We Part: Deluxe Editions (Mute)

Another batch of CD/DVD editions from the British singer/songwriter. B-sides, videos and surround mixes abound. (Official site)

The Contours, Dance with The Contours (Ace/Kent)

Do you love it? An unreleased album by one of Motown’s earliest chartbusters! (Ace)

Pete Yorn, Musicforthemorningafter: 10th Anniversary Edition (Columbia/Legacy)

A two-disc deluxe edition of Yorn’s seminal debut, featuring unreleased studio and live material. (Amazon)

Billy Squier, Essential Billy Squier (EMI/Capitol)

A new hits disc from Mr. Stroke himself. (Amazon)

Teddy Pendergrass, Live in ’82 (Shout! Factory)

It’s a love T.K.O.! The late, great soul singer is immortalized in concert on DVD – one of his last before an injury altered his career. (Shout! Factory)

Florence + The Machine, Between Two Lungs (Universal Republic)

An expanded import of the band’s impressive debut Lungs comes to American shores. (Official site)

Various Artists, Mad Men: A Musical Companion (1960-1965) (Hip-O/UMe)

Though the critically-acclaimed show has an uncertain future, fans can use this compilation, featuring classics of the period, to pass the time. (Amazon)

Various Artists, The Music Never Stopped: Music from the Motion Picture (Rhino)

Rhino temporarily comes out of hiding for this film soundtrack, featuring several unreleased Grateful Dead live tracks. (Amazon)

Do You Love Them? The Contours’ Lost Motown Classics Arrive on CD

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Early Motown act The Contours received a new lease on life back in 1988 when Dirty Dancing (and its More Dirty Dancing soundtrack) introduced a new generation to their 1962 hit single, “Do You Love Me (Now That I Can Dance).” The song made a return appearance on the Billboard chart more than 25 years after its original appearance, and the group even performed live as part of the Dirty Dancing Tour. Prior to that, the Contours hadn’t seen many glory days since 1967. That was when the group disbanded upon the conclusion of their Motown contract after years of taking a backseat to higher profile artists like The Temptations, The Four Tops and The Miracles. Still, The Contours left behind a rich musical legacy that has been anthologized over the years, largely due to the strength of “Do You Love Me.”

Ace Records’ Kent label has just announced a new release that’s sure to bring further prominence to the group: the March 28 first-time issue of their long-lost 1964 LP Dance with The Contours, once purportedly scheduled for Gordy 910. (Motown Minutiae Time: Some sources cite Can You Dance as the title of the aborted LP, but The Complete Motown Singles Volume 4 confirms the title as the one being used by Kent, Dance with The Contours. To further complicate matters, Motown authority and this release’s annotator Keith Hughes told the Soulful Detroit Forum, “I can add that although some Motown discographies have actually listed an album with this title, we’ve not managed to uncover a single piece of original paperwork suggesting such an LP was ever planned, so we’ve made the track listing up…”) Whether an LP was planned in 1964 or not, the new release compiles the two tracks released as singles from those 1964 sessions (“Can You Do It,” with its musical reference to “Do You Love Me,” and “Can You Jerk Like Me,” released just before The Miracles’ “Come On, Do the Jerk”) along with a staggering 24 previously unreleased tracks! Even more excitingly, Kent promises that this will be the “first of several CDs” issued “under legal license from, and with the full approval of, the owners of the Motown catalogue.” (Ace/Kent actually has released a prior Motown collection, the superb The Satintones Sing!) Hit the jump for more on this lost treasure, including pre-order information and the track listing!  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 24, 2011 at 09:19