In December 1961, Berry Gordy assigned Smokey Robinson to produce Mary Wells’ next single. It must have been a hunch; Smokey had no experience of producing artists other than his own group, the Miracles, and Mary’s third 45 had just flopped. But Smokey came through with ‘The One Who Really Loves You’, a record that not only revived Mary’s fortunes, reaching #2 on the R&B chart and #8 Pop, but started a new career for Smokey himself as writer and producer for other Motown artists.
This CD, comprising Mary’s second and third LPs, traces her recovery from chart failure to the position of Motown’s first superstar. Mary’s “The One Who Really Loves You” album, released in 1962, comprised tracks from singles and her versions of Motown songs previously cut by other artists from the company’s roster, including a couple created by dubbing her lead vocal over an existing one, a technique made possible by the Hitsville Studio’s transition from two-track to three-track recording midway through 1961.
‘Two Lovers’ topped the R&B singles charts early in 1963, establishing Mary as Motown’s pre-eminent star, with more Top 10 hits to her name than any of the company’s acts. Her next LP, “Two Lovers And Other Great Hits”, was issued around the same time. On this occasion, apart from the title track and its flip, ‘Operator’, all the Motown songs were new ones. Mary also branched out into the world of standards, the beginning of a plan to move Motown artists over into the showbiz mainstream that was eventually realised in the success of the Supremes.
Both albums feature the harmonies of the Love-Tones, Mary’s regular touring vocal back-up group, and the Andantes, Motown’s studio backing singers, and all but one of the tracks were recorded at the company’s Hitsville studio with the Joe Hunter Band (the prototype Funk Brothers).
As with Ace’s recent collections by the Satintones, Contours, Monitors, Spinners, Marv Johnson, Patrice Holloway, Shorty Long and Eddie Holland, this CD is an authorised release of classic Motown recordings. The LPs appear here in authentic mono for the first time on CD, using fresh digital transfers of the original Motown album master tapes.
By Keith Hughes