Wednesday, March 10, 2010
My first post is about one of my favourite groups over the last year or so; Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. Mary Rose Reeves was born in 1941 in Alabama but was raised in the motor city, Detroit. In 1957 when she was sixteen years old Reeves joined two fifteen year olds and one fourteen year old to form the group The Del-Phis. They performed at Talent shows, high school parties and private events for about four years. Along the way they got signed to Checkmate records (which was later bought by Motown) and changed their name to the Vels for a while. The name the Vandellas was apparently made up from the first part of Van Dyke Street in Detroit (near Martha's house) and the first name of Della Reese, Martha's favourite singer who was also from Detroit.
Martha also started a group called The Sabre-Ettes which is kind of a rad name cause it sounds kind of manly and feminine at the same time.
Martha and the Vandellas have a harder, more rocking R&B sound than other awesome groups like the Marvelettes and the Supremes which makes them even more awesome than awesome. There's something about the energy in the rhythm combined with the amazing lead vocals offset by the delayed backing melodies (adding to the rocking, swinging vibe that Motown is famous for) which really captures and expresses the feeling of the lyrics. This is especially the case with songs like Nowhere to run and Heatwave and Dancing in the Street. In Nowhere to run and Heatwave I feel like the rhythm just sweeps you up and pushs you around, just like when you think you're falling in love and your brain might be telling you it's crazy and you're stupid but life and some weird force inside of you is picking you up and sweeping you along like a leaf in a stream and all you can do is just rock along with it and see where you end up.
My favourite part of Heatwave is when it builds up to this fucking amazing crescendo towards the end of the song after this great verse;
"Sometimes I stare in space, tears all over my face.
I can't explain it, don't understand it, I ain't never felt like this before.
Now that funny feeling has me amazed.
I don't know what to do, my head's in a haze, it's like a heatwave!"
While Martha solos "yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah...Ohhhh" with a quasi mournful tone the Vandellas try to console her;
"That's alright girl, go ahead girl.
Well, it's alright girl, Ain't nothin' but love girl.
Don't pass up this chance, it sounds like true romance."
Dancing in the street has such a rocking swinging beat, it's totally out of control but it's not as good as Heatwave and Nowhere To Run I think, because it doesn't have the feeling of hopelessness and heartbreak to offset the elation and good vibes which makes it distastefully positive after too many listens plus probably the fact it was such a hit doesn't help.
Check out the band goofing off in an automotive factory in this one, total motor city;
This appearance on Soul Train in the seventies really shows how good Martha is with bitter-sweet love stories. The line-up of the Vandellas has changed by this point;
Another reason I like Martha and The Vandellas is because Martha was such a fucking total babe! And man, can she sing. Plus the short chick in The Vandellas has a cool kinda personality to her which you don't see much in big pop groups these days. I recently went to a Motown gig on Mission Estate winery in Napier and got to see Martha live. She's pretty old now and her voice has changed a fair bit but she still had rad style and it was cool to see. My sister and I tried to get back stage to get her autograph but they told us to go to the airport the next morning. I was totally going to but I would have had to make my sister's boyfriend drive from Hastings to Napier airport early in the morning and we drank a fair bit the night before so I was like, oh well at least I managed to sneak into the VIP seating and see the performance from the front.