• Cream of The Crate: Album # 158 - The Supremes: Where Did Our Love Go

      0 Not allowed! Not allowed!
      "The elation of hearing The Supremes second album is evident from the first handclaps of the opening title track." (BBC Music)
      it just says “Supremes”, straight away, heralding a whole new sound."
      (Motown Junkies)
      album was groundbreaking in that it was the first album that introduced the trademark “Motown Sound”"

      This is album review number one hundred and fifty eight in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and CD albums from my collection.

      The series is called Cream of The Crate and each review represents an album that I believe represents significant musical value, either because of its rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of a music or because there is something unique about the music, the group or the particular production. The first fifty reviews were based on vinyl albums from my collection, with the following fifty on CD albums from my collection. Links to all these reviews can be found at the bottom of the page.

      Once again it's time to dip into my Crate of Treasured Music memories and pull out a "Girl Group", but not just any girl group but possibly the best ever!

      The group is The Supremes and the album is titled - Where Did Our Love Go. The album was released on vinyl in 1964 on the Motown label and it has the identifying code of 621. The album has 12 tracks and being an original release, they are all in mono - which is very pleasing!

      The story of the Supremes is a story told so often and in so many articles, but there are probably still people who are unfamiliar with the background of girl group that quickly rose to be the headliners for Motown Records and indeed, not just the greatest girl group of the 1960's, of which there were many great ones, but possibly of all time.

      Most people tend to think of Diana Ross when The Supremes are mentioned. in fact Florence Ballard was the original lead singer and indeed, the real star of The Supremes before being forced out.

      Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard met while each was living in Detroit's Brewster housing project. They began singing together in their teens when Florence along with her friends Mary and Diana, invited another local girl - Betty McGowan, to join them and they started a four piece called The Primettes.

      The Primettes [Clockwise - Ross, Ballard, Wilson & Martin]

      Barbara Martin replaced McGowan, then - on Florence's suggestion they became The Supremes. Shortly after they became a trio with Martin leaving in 1962. Shepherded by Motown President Berry Gord
      y, they became a pop sensation, crossing all racial barriers and making it to the top.

      Their first hit record,
      Where Did Our Love Go?, went to Number One, and stayed there for 11 weeks. Hit after hit followed. Florence was initially The Supremes lead singer, but soon the ambitious Diana Ross started to steal the limelight from her, and a bitter rivalry ensued.

      Florence didn't know was that her rival had become Gordy's lover (Ross later gave birth to his daughter, Rhonda) - and she desperately wanted to take over from Florence as the leader of the group.

      With Berry Gordy on
      Ross's side, there could be only one winner. Gordy was intent on edging Flo out of the group she'd founded. Aware that she could out-sing and upstage Diana, he wanted Flo out of the group altogether and had a replacement for her waiting in the wings - Cindy Birdsong.

      Florence Ballard gave her last performance as a Supreme at the Flamingo Hotel, Las Vegas, in July 1967. In my opinion, the lineup of Ballard, Wilson and Ross was the best lineup of them all!

      However back to the beginning. After persistently showing up at Motown’s “Hitsville” headquarters after school,
      The Supremes were signed to the label in January 1961. The group was slow to find its footing, enduring several years of flop singles before finally clicking with “When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes” (#23) in late 1963. After that, it was off to the races for The Supremes, who amassed a dozen Number One hits between 1964-69. In addition to the aforementioned singles, The Supremes other chart-toppers were “I Hear a Symphony,” “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” “Love Is Here and Now You’re Gone,” “The Happening,” “Love Child” and “Someday We’ll Be Together.”

      Ross left The Supremes to follow a solo career in the 1970's and she was replaced by Jean Terrell.

      On this, their second album, we find that Gordy's desire to see
      Diana Ross out front was being pushed with her taking the lead vocals on the very first track. The other feature of the track is that the tracks are not in chronological order - a shame!

      Track Listing:
      Side one

      1. "Where Did Our Love Go"
      2. "Run, Run, Run"
      3. "Baby Love"
      4. "When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes"
      5. "Come See About Me"
      6. "Long Gone Lover" *

      Side two

      1. "I'm Giving You Your Freedom"
      2. "A Breathtaking Guy" *
      3. "He Means the World to Me" *
      4. "Standing at the Crossroads of Love"
      5. "Your Kiss of Fire" *
      6. "Ask Any Girl"

      All tracks except * were written by Holland, Dozier & Holland

      It makes sense to start with track number 1 - Where Did Our Love Go, as it was the very first number 1 hit in the summer of 1964, selling over 2 million copies. It was written and produced by Motown's main production team Holland–Dozier–Holland. There is a story that the track was in fact initially offered to another Motown girl group - The Marvelettes (reviewed in a previous COTC) but the girls in that group felt the track was just too slow a tempo for them.

      In fact The Supremes weren't happy being given the track, as the marvelettes had just had a hit with "Please Mr Postman", and they wanted a track with a similar uptempo beat and besides, they didn't think that Where Did Our Love Go had a strong enough "hook" to make it a big hit. At this time Mary Wilson had been singing lead and the backing track had been recorded in her key, but Gordy wanted Ross to sing lead, and what Gordy wanted, Gordy got! So Ross had to sing it in a lower register and was not happy with it, but had to accept that this was what they were going with.

      Ballard, Ross & Wilson - The Supremes

      The other Supremes, who had sung with more energy on previous recordings, were only told to continually say "baby" repetitively while also only singing the title. This was done after Lamont Dozier was forced to redo the arrangement of the background vocals. It's interesting that in several places in the album liner notes comments such as "delightfully unified" and "teamwork and harmony" (used twice) are mentioned. In retrospect we wonder if the producers were out to convince themselves rather than us. Their first hit but already there were bad feelings! What cannot be denied however, and indeed once Diana Ross heard the finished product, she and the rest of us are presented with what was a brilliant track.

      Where Did Our Love Go

      This hit in fact was the first of two more in that same year, when track 3 - Baby Love and track 5 - Come See About Me, bought out two more chart topping singles.

      I'm moving to track number 4 which is When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes. This was in fact the first charting track by The Supremes, and although it did not reach the coveted number 1 position in 1963, it did reach number 2 on the Cashbox R&B chart. Interestingly it just stopped short of getting into the Australian Top 10 pop charts.

      It's a classic sounding Motown track, with it's uptempo beat and handclaps and supporting The Supremes with additional vocals were another Motown big named group - The Four Tops and if the wasn't enough vocals, Holland, Dozier and Holland [HD&H] - who had written the track, also joined in. It is a very infectious track, a great dance track and I actually believe if it had been released after Where Did Our Love Go, it would have received even more acclaim than it did.

      It remains one of their most significant tracks because it heralded the very successful partnership between The Supremes and HD&H !

      When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes

      Track 5 - Come See About Me, is one of my favourite Supremes tracks. Why? Well once again written by HD&H, the instrumentation was provided by the
      The Funk Brothers and these guys are funky by name and by nature. This track could rightly be declared the "definitive" track in the early part of The Supremes career, and it certainly is that for me in regard to tracks on this album. Ross is far more comfortable in the lead singing position and oozes sensuality, while the other two Supremes call and response backing is a delight. As for the backing music - it makes velvet seem coarse! The middle eight brass just pushes us that little further into the honeypot of delight that The Supremes conjure up!

      The Supremes with Holland, Dozier & Holland

      Another small fact, it was knocked out of the number one position by the Beatles with I Feel Fine late in the year of 1964, but it resurged early in 1965 to in turn, displace that Beatles track from the number 1 position.

      I've been crying (ooh, ooh)
      'Cause I'm lonely (for you)
      Smiles have all turned (to tears)
      But tears won't wash away the fears

      That you're never ever gonna return
      To ease the fire that within me burns
      It keeps me crying baby for you
      Keeps me sighin' baby for you

      So won't you hurry
      Come on boy, see about me
      (Come see about me)
      See about you baby
      (Come see about me)

      I've given up my friends just for you
      My friends are gone and you have too
      No peace shall I find
      Until you come back and be mine

      No matter what you do or say
      I'm gonna love you anyway
      Keep on crying baby for you
      I'm gonna keep sighin' baby for you

      So come on hurry
      Come on and see about me
      (Come see about me)
      See about you baby
      (Come see about me)

      Sometime's up (ooh, ooh)
      Sometime's down (ooh, ooh)
      My life's so uncertain (ooh, ooh)
      With you not around (ooh, ooh)

      From my arms you maybe out of reach
      But my heart says you're here to keep
      Keeps me crying baby for you
      Keep on, keep on crying baby for you

      So won't you hurry
      Come on boy, see about me
      (Come see about me)
      See about you baby
      (Come see about me)

      You know I'm so lonely
      (Come see about me)
      I love you only
      (Come see about me)

      See about your baby
      (Come see about me)
      Hurry, hurry
      (Come see about me)

      Come See About Me

      I should make mention of track number 2 - Run, Run, Run. It's not a great track, but what is interesting that in an early attempt to find a decent track for The Supremes, HD&H played around the the very successful Phil Spector approach, and the track has many hallmarks of a Spector and is loosely based upon The Crystals hit of Da Doo Ron Ron - there was one problem - they were unable to re-create the Spector "Wall of Sound", and the result is a rather empty track when compared to Spector's productions - but all the same the track certainly exemplifies the progress of the Supremes on their journey to the top.

      Turning the album over, and it's obvious side 1 is by far the better side with stronger compositions. I'd rather just by-pass track 1 - I'm Giving You Your Freedom. It's memorable for being so unmemorable! Track 2 - A Breath Taking Guy, is interesting because it wasn't written by HD&H, but by Smokey Robinson. It holds the dubious record of having the longest title on any Motown record, with the official title being - "
      A Breath Taking, First Sight Soul Shaking, One Night Love Making, Next Day Heartbreaking Guy". No wonder it was shortened to A Breath Taking Guy!

      In the Studio

      It isn't a fantastically strong track, but it is rare in that all three of The Supremes sing the lead. Mind you, it might just be the strongest track on side two of the album, which does suffer the malady that many albums released in the early part of the 1960's did suffer from - have a couple of strong tracks (although we must acknowledge that side one has arguably five strong tracks) and pack the rest of the album with "fillers".

      So, we can at least share this one half decent track on side 2 together, although I may get challenged by some music oriented folk who might chose to mount an argument that this track was, in some ways, ahead of its time. The instrumental backing, by The Funk Brothers, is tight, bright and provides a punch that the lyrics fail to do.

      A Breath Taking Guy

      So in conclusion let's look at why this is an album that should be, and is by many) considered as a seminal album for The Supremes. Well despite its abundance of mediocre tracks, it does represent at the same time some of the best tracks by The Supremes. It represents the music that took them from "no-hit semi-wonders" to the top of the Motown staircase of girl groups. It showcases some of the best work of HD&H and reminds us that behind the hype that later surrounded Diana Ross, there was a girl with a great voice. it reminds us that Mary Wells, despite being relegated to supporting Diana, had a great voice and released many fantastic tracks in her own right. Have you checked out her "Best of" album reviewed in a previous Cream of The Crate?

      It is really representative of a period that saw The Supremes establish themselves not just as the number 1 group in Motown, but indeed at the time, in the world of R&B/pop.

      In 2004 an extended CD of The Supremes with the same album name was released, and it has 27 tracks on it. There is also a recent Japanese pressing of the this original album on CD. This vinyl album can still be purchased from a few dollars upward, but the price will ALWAYS reflect the condition of the surface, and often the cover. Shop around carefully, but it can be had, and check out Discogs.

      VIDEOS - Dropping into Youtube reveals that there are not many live performances by the Supremes of tracks from this album. Here are three!

      Baby Love

      Where Did Our Love Go

      Come See About Me

      If you are interested in checking out the first fifty vinyl albums reviewed, just click here

      If you are interested in checking out the first fifty (50) CD's reviewed by me, just click here

      If you are interested in checking out reviews 101 to 150 (Vinyl & CD) as reviewed by me, just click here

      Past album Reviews - Numbers 151 onward:

      Number 151 - The Shaggs: Philosophy Of The World

      Number 152 - The Animals: The Animals

      Number 153 - Omar Khorshid: Live in Australia 1981


      Number 154 - Alan Parsons Project: Tales of Mystery and Imagination (Edgar Allan Poe)

      Number 155 - Billy Thorpe: Tangier

      Number 156 - Aretha Franklin: The Best Of

      Number 157 - Big Bill Broonzy: Big Bill Blues [His 23 Greatest Songs]