Martha Reeves

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- Martha Reeves -- vocals, backing vocals


  supporting musicians (1974)

- Arthiur Adams -- guitar

- Kenny Asher -- keyboards, synthesizers

- Hoyt Axton -- guitar

- Jesse Butler -- piano

- Jimmie Calhoun -- bass

- Malcolm Cecil -- synthesizers

- Dennis Coffey -- guitar

- Henry Davis -- bass

- King Errisson -- percussion

- Danny Faragher -- organ, harmonica

- Travis Fullerton -- drums

- James Gadson -- drums

-- Jimmy Gilstrap -- backing vocals

- Lenny Lee Goldsmith -- organ

- D. Lloyd Gregory -- guitar

- Basie Green -- bass

- Tom Hensley -- piano

- Milt Holland -- vibes

- Nicky Hopkins -- keyboards

- James Jamerson -- bass

- Carole Kafi -- backing vocals

- Jim Keltner -- drums

- Bobby Keyes -- horns

- Clydie King -- backing vocals

- Treveor Lawrence -- horns

- Calrence MacDonald -- piano

- Steve Madaio -- horns

- Robert Margouleff -- synthesizers

- Larry Nash -- piano

- Dean Parks -- guitar

- Leon Patillo -- keyboards, backing vocals

- RIchard Perry -- percussion

- Vini Poncia -- acoustic guitar, backing vocals

- Billy Preston -- organ

- Melvin Ragin -- guitar

- Joe Sample -- keyboards

- William D. Smith -- organ

- Russ Turner -- guitar

- Derek Van Eaton -- acoustic guitar

- Lon Van Eaton -- guitar

- Klaus Voormann -- bass






- The Del-Phis

- The Fascinations

- Martha and the Vandellas

- The Vells




Genre: pop

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Martha Reeves

Company: MCA


Country/State: Eufaula, Alabama

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: cut lower right corner

Available: 2

Catalog ID:  2382

Price: $10.00


By the mid-1970s Martha and the Vandellas were no longer - front woman Martha Reeves having parted ways with Motown and signed a solo contract with MCA.


"Music from the Original Motion Picture Sound Track Willie Dynamite" (MCA catalog number 393)


MCA was clearly excited to have Reeves on its recording roster, and after teaming her with J.J. Johnson to churn out a quickie soundtrack for the blaxploitation film "Wiliie Dynamite", got to work teaming her with produced Richard Perry, reportedly shelling out an unheard of $250,000 for the resulting recording sessions.  Looking at the glossy Ed Caraeff cover photo and the fact she was teamed with producer Perry probably sent a lot of potential fans into fits of despair.  At least on the surface "Martha Reeves" appeared to be an effort to "up-market" Reeves to a more conventional, pop-oriented audience.  Hum, shades of Diana Ross ...  And here's where the album got interesting.  In spite of the gussied-up cover, producer Perry was smart enough to let Reeves do her own thing.  With the exception of a couple of throwaway big ballads ('You've Got Me For Company' and 'My Man (You Changed My Tune)'), this was a surprisingly soulful collection.  Backed by one of the biggest and most impressive cast of supporting musicians you've ever seen on an album (including an extensive collection of Motown players), Reeves managed to keep her focus throughout the album, repeatedly showcasing what a strong and impressive voice she was gifted with.  Sounding poised and self-confident, the album was literally stuffed with surprises.  Simply because Reeves wasn't known for writing material, probably the biggest surprise was the up-tempo, highly commercial original composition 'Facsimile'.  It should have been released as a single, rather than relegated to a 'B' side.   Equally good were some of the covers - a rousing take on Van Morrison's 'Wild Night'; Gamble and Huff's 'Power of Love', and Hoyt Axton's 'Sweet Misery'.  


This was actually better than the last couple of Martha and the Vandella albums Motown put out.


"Martha Reeves" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Wild Night   (Van Morrison) - 3:28   rating: **** stars

Giving credit where due, Reeves cover of Van Morrison's classic 'Wild Night' was simply stunning.   Okay, it might not make you forget the Morrison original, but it came darned close.   Maybe the best solo side she ever recorded.  MCA tapped it as the album's second single:

- 1974's 'Wild Night' b/w 'Stand By Me' (MCA catalog number MCA-40274)

2.) You've Got Me For Company   (Billy Preston - Bruce Fisher) - 2:33    rating: ** stars

'You've Got Me For Company' saw things start to come off the rails.  A big, heavily orchestrated ballad, the song tried to showcase Reeves powerful voice, but just didn't have much of a tune to frame her with.

3.) Facsimile   (Martha Reeves - Leon Patillo) - 3:04    rating: **** stars

Given Reeves was never known as a writer, the original 'Facsimile' was perhaps the album's biggest surprise.  Kicked along by Lenny Lee Goldsmith's stabbing organ fills and Jimmie Calhoun pounding bass, the track had a bouncy, engaging melody that stick in your head long after the album was filed away.  

4.) Ain't That Particular   (William Robinson - Marv Tarplin) - 3:25    rating: **** stars

You can take the woman out of Motown, but you can't take Motown out of the woman ...  Surrounded by some of the Funk Brothers (Dennis Coffey, James Gadson, James Jamerson, Wah Wah Raglin, etc.), Reeves literally took ownership of this Motown classic.  Had MCA been interested in a hit, they would have gone for this one as a single.

5.) Dixie Highway   (Carole King) - 3:45  rating: ** stars

Too her credit, Reeves sang the hell out of 'Dixie Highway'.  Unfotutnately it was a rather pedestrian slice of Gospel-influenced soul.  Since Reeves was born in Alabama, I guess you could forgive her this one.  

6.) Power of Love   (Kenny Gamble - Leon Huff - Simon) - 3:13    rating: **** stars

You can take the woman out of Motown, but you can't take Motown out of the woman ...  

Another tune that surrounded Reeves with Motown alumni and another tune that literally kicked butt.  if you wanted to hear Reeves cutting loose, this was a good place to start.   Easy to see why MCA tapped it as the lead-off single:

- 1974's 'Power of Love' b/w 'Stand by Me' (MCA catalog number MCA-40194)


(side 2)
1.) My Man (You Changed My Tune)   (Vini Poncia - Cynthia Webb) - 4:04   rating: *** stars

I'm guessing Reeves met Vini Poncia when she was working on Ringo Starr's "Ringo" album.  Why she'd elect to record this plodding ballad is a complete mystery.  Nicest thing here was Lon Van Eaton's brief slide guitar solo.   The song was tapped as the album's third and final single:

- 1974's 'My Man (You Changed My Tune)' b/w 'Facsimile' (MCA catalog number MCA-40329)

2.) Sweet Misery  (Hoyt Axton) - 3:52    rating: **** stars

If you've ever heard the Hoyt Axton 'Sweet Misery' original, you'll probably have a hard time recognizing this cover.  Not to slam Axton's original, but given his growling voice was an acquired taste, hearing Reeves powerhouse, funked up take was simply a blast.   Easy to see why this one's been sampled a bunch of times.  (By the way, Axton played guitar on the track.)

4.) I've Got To Use My Imagination   (Gerry Goffin - Barry Goldberg) - 3:59    rating: *** stars

As good as Reeves' cover was, Gladys Knight and the Pips own the definitive version.    

4.) Storm In My Soul  (Vini Poncia - John Vastano) - 4:09    rating: *** stars

Another Vini Poncia tune, but at least it was an up-tempo number.  Kind of a faux-Motown flavor on this one -- probably due to the fact she was backed by a bunch of the Funk Brothers.   

5.) Many Rivers To Cross   (Jimmy Cliff) - 3:42    rating: **** stars

With backing from the Avalon Carver Community Choir, her cover of Cliff's 'Many Rivers To Cross' was the album's standout ballad and one of the album standout performances.