After an amazing run fronting the Vandellas at Motown, with 23 pop charting singles including such classics as “Heat Wave,” “Dancing In The Streets,” and “Jimmy Mack,” Ms. Reeves parted company with both the Vandellas and her former label, Motown. Signing to MCA after a lawsuit to extract her from her previous contract, her 1974 solo debut was highly anticipated. Producer Richard Perry was signed on to oversee the project; it was hoped that he could bring the magic he had formerly employed on behalf of Barbra Streisand and Carly Simon. The album, entitled simply Martha Reeves, was certainly a stylistic departure, as Reeves turned to such unexpected songwriters as Hoyt Axton, Van Morrison, and Jimmy Cliff for material. In retrospect, her covers of “Wild Night” and “Many Rivers To Cross” were perhaps a little ahead of the curve, in terms of her audience. Certainly Perry’s production style was markedly different than any of the masters who inhabited Motown’s Snakepit. In any event, the record wasn’t the commercial success either Ms. Reeves or the record company had hoped for or expected, and it turned out to be the only one she would record for MCA. That said, the album holds up remarkably, given forty years’ distance. She’s in terrific voice throughout, and Perry’s production is comparatively restrained. The opening of “Many Rivers To Cross,” for instance, is simply Ms. Reeves’ vocal over an organ with piano accompaniment. Just gorgeous.
A1 Wild Night 3:28
A2 You’ve Got Me for Company 2:33
A3 Facsimile 3:04
A4 Ain’t That Peculiar 3:25
A5 Dixie Highway 3:45
A6 Power of Love 3:13
B1 My Man (You Changed My Tune) 4:04
B2 Sweet Misery 3:52
B3 I’ve Got to Use My Imagination 3:59
B4 Storm in My Soul 4:09
B5 Many Rivers to Cross 3:42
This album is just superb…I’ve been listening to it over and over again and it has been a long time since I’ve bought a CD I can say that about. Martha Reeves was more than just a pop singer or vocalist…she was and is a real artist who never recieved all she was due in the music industry.I disagree with the linear notes when they state the sound on this album was distanced from the Martha Reeves of Motown genre…this is the same Martha, only much better and showing the full range of her talents. On Motown albums Miss Reeves gives the effect of giving her all to second-rate material; here at last she shines in a production that truly meets her talents.
The linear notes also say the album was not a success because music fans were not accustomed to hearing her in such a polished production; I say the album failed because of bad promotion and the fact that Martha had been off the top of the charts for about seven years by 1974. Music fans had moved on and were unwilling to give her a second chance. This is unfortunate; because true artists like Miss Reeves were consistently shedded by the music industry, it has now denigrated to the point where we have the likes of Brittany Spears and Jennifer Lopez posing as icons of American Music while really great music becomes something to be scavenged for. If like me you believe all the great music that ever will be made already has been made…even if you are not already a Martha Reeves fan…then this is for you.
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