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SgtPepper
06-27-2009, 01:56 PM
I've been thinking about Motown a lot the past few days for obvious reasons. I've also been thinking about Stax records a lot as well, because I recently purchased an Otis Redding Box Set, and it's fantastic.

I was thinking that the rivalry between Stax and Motown in many ways mirrored The Stones/Beatles rivalry.

Motown's productions were very polished, focused on melody and songcraft. The artists were groomed to be very appealing to the public.
Like The Beatles

Stax productions were more about the feel of a song, and built around a groove, in general Stax songs are bluesier and more earthy.
Like The Stones.

I prefer The Beatles to the Stones but like both.
Yet I like Stax more than Motown. I find that amusing.

Anybody else feel that way?
Favorite Stax and Motown artists?

JoeE
06-27-2009, 02:10 PM
Yeah, I'm actually going through a bit of a Motown/Stax phase right now. I got the Otis Redding Blue deluxe edition last weekend and it's amazing. I played it for my dad in the car and he was completely rocking out.

The other thing I've been listening to a lot is the Four Tops anthology, which was on sale at Borders for only 10 bucks like a month ago. The Holland-Dozier-Holland tracks are outstanding. I haven't even made it past the first disc yet, because the first one is so addictive.

Another comparison between Motown and Stax is that Stax was a bit more artist-focused. With Motown the artists often just felt like front men for the various producers - with Stax you get the feeling that the artists had a bit more say in how their records would turn out. It wasn't really until Stevie Wonder (who I saw on Wednesday, BTW) struck out on his own that you really had Motown give the artists an inch.

SgtPepper
06-27-2009, 02:16 PM
Yeah, I'm actually going through a bit of a Motown/Stax phase right now. I got the Otis Redding Blue deluxe edition last weekend and it's amazing. I played it for my dad in the car and he was completely rocking out.

The other thing I've been listening to a lot is the Four Tops anthology, which was on sale at Borders for only 10 bucks like a month ago. The Holland-Dozier-Holland tracks are outstanding. I haven't even made it past the first disc yet, because the first one is so addictive.

Another comparison between Motown and Stax is that Stax was a bit more artist-focused. With Motown the artists often just felt like front men for the various producers - with Stax you get the feeling that the artists had a bit more say in how their records would turn out. It wasn't really until Stevie Wonder (who I saw on Wednesday, BTW) struck out on his own that you really had Motown give the artists an inch.

I love the economical songwriting of Motown writers. I realized during my rock music class, during our soul music section, how much Motown meant to me. I don't remember hearing The Beatles on the oldies station on the school bus I took to kindergarten, but I remember hearing The Supremes and The Four Tops.

Levi Stubbs has a great voice. I was very sad to hear he passed back in November.

That's right, the assembly line! Yeah, have to agree with Stevie and add Marvin since the albums where they had artistic direction came out around the same time.

JoeE
06-27-2009, 02:31 PM
I actually think Motown's assembly line approach, as much quality music as it generated, undermined the music's critical respectability in the long run. For the longest time I just thought there weren't any great Motown albums, then I realized that that was kind of the point - Motown didn't really care about albums, it was all about the hits. You can't point to a single Motown album (again, until Stevie and Marvin struck out on their own) and say it's one of the greatest albums of all time the way you can with something like Sgt. Pepper or Highway 61. Bob Dylan and the Beatles kind of changed things to where the expectations were on the artists to do everything - to play their own instruments, to write their own songs, and to generally dictate the way they sounded rather than having a producer dictate it to them. That's what became the standard for critical respect, and that's pretty far off from the way Motown did things.

SgtPepper
06-27-2009, 02:34 PM
I actually think Motown's assembly line approach, as much quality music as it generated, undermined the music's critical respectability in the long run. For the longest time I just thought there weren't any great Motown albums, then I realized that that was kind of the point - Motown didn't really care about albums, it was all about the hits. You can't point to a single Motown album (again, until Stevie and Marvin struck out on their own) and say it's one of the greatest albums of all time the way you can with something like Sgt. Pepper or Highway 61. Bob Dylan and the Beatles kind of changed things to where the expectations were on the artists to do everything - to play their own instruments, to write their own songs, and to generally dictate the way they sounded rather than having a producer dictate it to them. That's what became the standard for critical respect, and that's pretty far off from the way Motown did things.

That's an excellent point. It kind of makes me sad, since Gordy didn't always take care of his artists after they stopped having success. What happened to James Jamerson makes me particularly sad.