Album: Various Artists

Standing In The Shadows Of Motown. Motown
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The Independent Culture

Named after a book dedicated to the late Motown bassist James Jamerson, Standing In the Shadows of Motown is the soundtrack to a film belatedly honouring the house band behind the great Detroit label. Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson, and songwriters like Norman Whitfield and Holland/ Dozier/ Holland, rightly became rich and famous, but The Funk Brothers laboured on in penurious anonymity. For several, the recognition comes too late: the likes of drummer Benny Benjamin, guitarist Robert White and bandleader/ keyboardist Earl Van Dyke have also now passed on, but the remaining players recreate here the arrangements of a selection of Motown classics, with guests fronting for the original artists. They are a mixed bunch: Ben Harper is no David Ruffin or Marvin on "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" and "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", but Bootsy Collins brings an appealing levity to "Cool Jerk" and "Do You Love Me", and Meshell Ndegeocello applies a smoky, ruminative spirit to "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" and "Cloud Nine". But the show-stopper is the one which strips the vocals and the backing to "Bernadette", leaving just Jamerson's extraordinary bassline, one of the most elegant, serpentine performances you'll ever hear.

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