Liner Note Author: Stu Hackel.
Recording information: Chicago, IL (08/13/1963); Graystone Ballroom (08/13/1963); Chicago, IL (12/30/1963); Graystone Ballroom (12/30/1963); Chicago, IL (1961-??-??&1962-??-??&1963-); Graystone Ballroom (1961-??-??&1962-??-??&1963-).
As one of the first signees to the Motown label, a young Mary Wells helped define the early sound of the label that would change the tides of American music forever. Though she left the label at the peak of her popularity in late 1964, Wells wrote and recorded feverishly in her four short years at Hitsville U.S.A., leaving behind a vault of unreleased recordings along with her well-known chart-toppers. Enter Something New: Motown Lost & Found. This collection gathers together 47 tracks, about half of which are completely unreleased archival material and the other half are previously unreleased stereo mixes of songs that found release in various places over the years. The weighty collection shows that Mary's creative trajectory walked a remarkably similar path as that of the Motown label as a whole. The set begins with smooth and soulful post-doo wop numbers from 1961 recording sessions. The girl group soul of "Why Do You Want to Let Me Go" fades into a series of collaborations with Smokey Robinson like the happy-go-lucky calypso tinge of "To Lose You" and the smoky heartbreak of "My Heart Is Like a Clock." As the months burned on and Motown began to explode into worldwide popularity, Wells grew into the Motown sound. Tracks like "Have a Little Patience (And Wait)" feature backing vocals by the Supremes and capture the mixture of caffeinated soul and youthful rock & roll that Motown owned the trademark to. The same 1963 sessions yielded coulda-been-hits like "Free from Your Spell" and the spirited "Your Loss, My Gain," which later became a hit for Wells as "You Lost the Sweetest Boy." The set is rounded out by seven duets with Marvin Gaye and a host of standard tunes from the era when Berry Gordy was pushing his artists toward more adult material. Gordy's attempt to win over the fanfare (and larger expendable incomes) of the sophisticated supper club set resulted in some of the more questionable Motown material, and Wells' loungy standards are lacking when compared to the teenage kicks of the other material here. Even four tunes backed by the Four Tops can't completely save the dip in energy and vibe for the second half of Something New. That said, this collection will be a must for Motown completists, and soul fans will appreciate the spirit of fun and camaraderie captured in the earlier soul tracks. ~ Fred Thomas