“Heaven Must Have Sent You” – The Holland/ Dozier/ Holland Story — Motown/Hip-O 3-CD set

by | Aug 27, 2005 | Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews | 0 comments

“Heaven Must Have Sent You” –  The Holland/Dozier/Holland Story —
Motown /Hip-O  B0004845-02  (3 CD package & booklet) ****:

There can be little doubt that Motown artists have been packaged and
repackaged as much as anybody.  In this digital age where personal
compilations can be so easily made via computer or audio CD recorder,
something different must exist to prompt the buying of reissues. 
This particular three-disc package offers such a reason, but at the
same time can cause consternation among Motown aficionados.  The
first two discs are basically fine. Disc 3, however, can be the source
of either great interest or disappointment, depending on one’s stance
on “later period 1970s” output by the three men in question.

But let’s backtrack a little bit first.  Eddie Holland was himself
a successful singer with a charting tune in 1962 entitled
“Jamie”.  He had some other releases over the next few years
(notably “Leaving Here” and “Candy To Me”), but elected to convince the
emerging production team of Lamont Dozier and brother Brian Holland to
join them as lyricist.  This is when both H-D-H (and Motown)
really took off.  In 1963 the threesome created “Come And Get
These Memories” and “Heatwave” for Martha & The Vandellas. 
Both charted well and “Heatwave” just astounded radio listeners. 
In 1964 a seemingly minor decision truly launched the Detroit
Sound.  H-D-H had birthed the groundbreaking “Where Did Our Love
Go” for the Supremes. Only at the last moment was it agreed that the
lead vocal would be handled by Diana Ross instead of Mary Wilson. 
Talk about providence!  This monster began an incredible streak
for both the group and the production team with eight #1 records. 
Motown’s stable of artists were split amongst various production teams,
but H-D-H generally worked with the Supremes, Four Tops, Marvin Gaye
and Martha & The Vandellas.  During the label’s heyday, they
accounted for anywhere from 50-60% of the top hits.  This
three-disc set provides most of the material.

Fortunately, the title of the package gives a hint of it’s
strength.  The Elgins were a vastly underrated Motown act with
some fine songs.  Both “Darling Baby” and “Heaven Must Have Sent
You” are here.  The latter got heavy AM soul station play
seemingly forever before becoming a British hit years later.  In
addition to the Elgins, this package includes The Chairman Of The
Board’s “Give Me Just A Little More Time”, Freda Payne’s “Band Of Gold”
and Flaming Ember’s “Westbound #9”.  These three tracks were the
product of H-D-H creating their own  Invictus/Hot Wax label
following a fallout with Berry Gordy at Motown.  In my estimation,
this trio of excellent tunes represent the end of the classic H-D-H
period.  And this is where my consternation with this release
begins. 

The last 18 tracks offer largely solo releases by the Holland brothers,
Lamont Dozier, Michael Jackson(!), The Jacksons, the latter-day
Supremes and others (including covers by The Band, The Doobie Brothers
and Simply Red).   It’s questionable whether even the
appearance for a song each by Eddie Kendricks and The Originals can
lift this part of the package above mediocrity.  At the same time,
I realize that some listeners may actually prefer this “MOR/easy
listening” approach.  It features inoffensive strings-dominated
arrangements with insipid-sounding saxophone.  (Sorta like the
Rolling Stones’ ability to somehow make Sonny Rollins sound like a mere
session player on “Tatoo You”.)  At any rate, the last third of
the package will either thrill or disappoint – and my reaction is
obvious.  But hey, this is what makes people different from one
other!

So, what we have here is an interesting release, containing some
harder-to-find jewels and some “like it or not like it” material from
later productions.  It should be noted that the packaging job is
very nice and the 28 page booklet is superbly done.  The booklet
contains fascinating inside information about Motown, photos and really
neat chart placement information.  Also, the remastering is nice
to have.  While I would have preferred maybe a two disc set
including other prime period lesser-known H-D-H productions such as the
Isley Brothers’ “There’s No Love Left”, this release certainly has a
lot to be said for it.  It most definitely would not be a waste of
time to study the selections and consider a purchase. [Some of the
earlier tracks are pretty poor fidelity in spite of the remastering, so
don’t expect to hear audiophile versions of your favorites…Ed.]

— Birney Brown

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