You have to feel for those artists that didn’t get the breaks at Motown. Most that didn’t were every bit as good as those that did. Their lack of success was the result of being some way down a pecking order dominated by acts such as the Temptations, Four Tops and Supremes. Even the second wave of higher profile acts had to battle to be heard above the big noise made by the hits of those groups. With hindsight, the Monitors hardly stood a chance.
Their lack of real success is no reflection of how excellent Richard Street, Warren Harris and Maurice and Sandra Fagin were as a group. Richard Street’s pleadingly soulful lead was good enough to win him a gig with the Temptations in 1971, where he replaced the group’s original lead singer Paul Williams. The material the Monitors recorded, some of which Street co-wrote, was frequently supplied by some of Motown’s biggest names, including Smokey Robinson and Mickey Stevenson. They were recorded under the same conditions as their bigger counterparts, and the end results were invariably as satisfying. That their discography can boast merely a couple of modest soul chart hits is a mystery that even Sherlock Holmes would be at pains to unravel.
Chart hits or not, the Monitors have always been revered by the Motown collector cognoscenti, and a CD devoted to their extremely fine recordings has long been overdue. As part of our series of officially approved compilations from the Motown vaults, Kent is delighted to present ‘Say You!’, an extensive overview of the group’s time at the company. Their one album, “Greetings! We’re The Monitors”, is featured in its entirety in stereo. Motown diehards will be delighted to know that the same tape used to manufacture the original UK vinyl LP has been used to master our CD.
The album, which includes stereo mixes of all their V.I.P. and Soul A-sides (and some Bs), is joined here by two exceptional non-LP flipsides and a staggering 12 previously unissued tracks spanning the group’s entire tenure with Motown. Ten of these have never been issued before in any shape or form, while the versions of ‘Crying In The Night’ and ‘Cry’ are considerably different to those available on other CDs. All of these unissued masters are featured in their original mixes, made in the 1960s at the time of their recording. Whatever it was that caused Motown to pass over these tracks for release in the 1960s, it wasn’t a lack of excellence.
“Say You!” is a superb addition to Kent’s small but growing list of vintage Motown collections, a list you can expect to be added to very soon.
By Tony Rounce