Amazon’s MP3 store was giving this package of ostensible Motown #1 hits away for next to nothing, and while there wasn’t anything here I actually needed, I figured I had to download it to see what’s in it. And I can recommend it to those who don’t already have these tracks stuffed into their music players — but not to anyone else, really.
Everything here is in stereo, which is nice; however, nothing has been remixed, which means you get the same old worn-to-a-frazzle masters that Motown has been slapping haphazardly onto CDs for a generation, complete with weird ideas of separation, audible tape slap, and in the case of “Heat Wave,” a peculiar edit that differs substantially from the 45 you remember: an extended instrumental break and an early fade (right on top of “Don’t pass up this chance / This time it’s true romance”). The Sixties material, I think, should have been presented in mono. The Seventies stuff, starting around “What’s Going On,” is decidedly better but no revelation. And the last actual #1 here is “I’ll Make Love to You” by Boyz II Men, from 1994; the gratuitous addition of a 2004 Michael McDonald cover of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” which never made the Billboard Hot 100, remains a mystery to me, unless Berry Gordy was wanting to throw a few extra cents to Valerie Simpson and the late Nickolas Ashford. And the Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell version of “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” credited in the tags only to Gaye, is a better tribute to Nick and Val anyway.
Speaking of tag curiosities, five of these tracks are listed with genre R&B, the rest with Pop. Then again, with prices like this — I paid less than $2 — you have to figure that Motown didn’t go out of its way to spend any money on the presentation.