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Martha & The Vandellas

Soul group from Detroit organized by Martha Reeves. Worked at Motown as A&R secretary, sang backup. Vandellas did backup on several of Marvin Gaye's hits. Group disbanded in 1969. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

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Quite possibly Motown's most underrated group.

  • Oct 27, 2009
As the story goes Martha Reeves went to work at Motown as a secretary sometime around 1962 for the paltry sum of $35.00 per week.   As Martha recalls "As part of my job I had to audition other artists, schedule musicians, maintain studio logs and be 'girl-friday' to all the writers and producers.  If I clapped or sang background on sessions that was an additional $5.00 each."  Like so many other artists who came to work at Motown in the early days Martha Reeves just wanted to get her foot in the door.  You see in her spare time she was the lead singer of a local Detroit group known as the Del-Fi's.  Her ultimate goal was to get an audition and a recording contract for her group.  Soon the Del-Fi's were hired to sing background on several of Marvin Gaye's early records.  Berry Gordy quickly realized that these girls were something special.  The group changed its name to Martha and the Vandellas and within just a few months the group was riding high on the Billboard Hot 100 with their debut single "Come And Get These Memories".  It was the beginning of a fabulous run for this extremely talented and highly energetic group.

"Martha Reeves and the Vandellas: The Definitive Collection" offers 18 of the girls biggest hits and best recordings.  To me the pulsating sounds of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas were the personification of Motown's moniker "The Sound of Young America".  Enjoy once again all of their big hits including classics like "Heat Wave", "Dancing In The Street" and of course "Nowhere To Run" from the early spring of '65.  These are tunes that even lots of younger people would be familiar with.  But there are so many other fabulous songs in this collection.  Those who grewup in the 60's would certainly recall tunes like "Jimmy Mack", "Quicksand" and "I'm Ready For Love" all of which were Top Ten hits.  One of my favorite songs in this collection was a tune originally issued as the "B" side of a single.  Motown really blew it on this one because "Love (Makes Me Do Foolish Things)" is a terrific ballad that would have been a huge hit with the proper promotion.  Finally, might I recommend a tune that I had never heard before.  "Third Finger, Left Hand" appeared on one of their albums.  For me it was one of those rare tunes that I loved the very first time I heard it.  Now I can't get the darn song out of my head.

"Martha Reeves and the Vandellas: The Definitive Collection" comes with a neat 12 page booklet that offers a brief history of the group as well as some nice photos.  After hearing this collection a few times I have come to the surprising conclusion that this group was even more talented than The Supremes.  See if you agree.  And while I have your attention you might wonder like I did just what the heck a Vandella is.  I had not clue. According to dictionary.com the term "vandella" is defined as "one of several types of ghost-walking or dream-invading demons/vampires."   So now you know!  Very highly recommended!!
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Paul Tognetti ()
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I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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Along with the Supremes, Martha & the Vandellas defined the distaff side of the Motown sound in the 1960s; their biggest hits, including "Heat Wave," "Dancing in the Street," and "Nowhere to Run," remain among the most potent and enduring dance records of the era. The vocal group was led by Martha Reeves who, along with fellow Detroit natives Annette Sterling Beard, Gloria Williams, and Rosalind Ashford, founded the Del-Phis in 1960. After Reeves landed a secretarial position at the offices of Motown Records, the Del-Phis were tapped to record a one-off single for the label's Melody imprint, which they cut under the name the Vels.

The single fizzled, and Williams exited, reducing the group to a trio. After backing Marvin Gaye on the superb 1962 record "Stubborn Kind of Fellow," they were renamed Martha & the Vandellas, taking inspiration from Detroit's Van Dyke Street and Reeves' heroine Della Reese. When singer Mary Wells failed to show up for a recording date, musicians' union rules demanded that a vocalist be found to fulfill contractual obligations; as a result, Reeves was yanked from the secretarial pool and laid down what would become Martha & the Vandellas' first record, 1963's "I'll Have to Let Him Go."

The Top 30 success of the ballad "Come and Get These Memories" brought the group the attention of Motown's hit-making production team Holland-Dozier-Holland, who crafted their next smash, the galvanizing Top Five classic "Heat Wave," which perfected the mix ...

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