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Soul Express CD Review

The Originals: California Sunset CD
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THE ORIGINALS

California Sunset

Motown / Big Break Records (1975) reissue

Why’d You Lie / Don’t Turn The Lights Off / It Could Never Happen / Good Lovin’ Is Just A Dime Away / California Sunset / Sweet Rhapsody / Fifty Years / Let Me Live In Your Life / Financial Affair / Nothing Takes The Place Of Your Love / Good Lovin’ Is Just A Dime Away (Single Version)


This CD, being released, is one of my dreams come true. A number of quality labels here in the UK are dedicated to breathing new CD quality life to classics from the 60s, 70s and 80s, and no-one could have been more pleased than I to own this classic 1975 Motown album on CD. Big Break Records have an enviable catalogue, and few more albums of this ilk would certainly keep this scribe amused. Quality-wise it’s beautiful and sounds better than the selections that appeared on the Spectrum release of their “Essential Collection” from 2002. Being a sad type, though I was sad to see the incorrect label used on the CD – was not expecting that awful post 1976 label being used instead of the classy, though correct, black and silver Tamla Motown logo, and the small yet glaring inaccuracy on the CD booklet can also – I suppose – be forgiven when appreciating that, after all, this set is beautifully and roundedly remastered and issued from masters on CD.

This is my favourite Originals album, and I have loved it since it’s release. In fact it contains one of my all-time favourite Motown songs and credit goes to Freddie Gorman and the gents for what can only be considered an exquisite vocal performance, the musicians who pour their heart and soul into support and the pure, unrivalled GENIUS of Lamont Dozier. On that note I’ll start with said favourite track. “It Could Never Happen” is simple and pure REAL soul music. The story of a player (or, for anyone under 30, “Playa”) having found real love and being hurt in return is one of pure love, joy, pain and anguish... anyone who has loved honestly, truly and deeply and had it spurned will know and empathise deeply with this. Lamont Dozier’s songwriting skills are beyond wonderful on this and McKinley Jackson’s sympathetic and dynamic arrangement has the soaring strings of hope and the rumbling bass of heartache; a screamingly soulful story that can only come from real life experience. Simply amazing and sounding as wonderful as it can ever do on a remastered CD.

The opening song is another great, great song. The opening monologue is classic, classic Motown and befitting of this, the greatest of Motown’s canon. Each vocalist takes their turn on this accusatory belter, and when the late, great Freddie Gorman rips through with his unique vocals. Brilliant! These, and “Don’t Turn The lights Off” remind us of how great Motown could have been if Berry Gordy had not parted company with both Detroit and Holland-Dozier-Holland... THAT sound could have easily carried on for a number of years. Fans of Ben E. King will know that “Fifty Years”, “Let Me Live In Your Life” and “Sweet Rhapsody” were first found on here – although I prefer King’s 1978 reading of “Let Me Live In Your Life”. Now THAT’s an album screaming for a CD reissue!

The Originals’ original version is still a cracking gem and rhythmically, stylistically and melodically different and as such more upbeat and better suited to Freddie Gorman’s rip-roaring vocals. The set receives the bonus of the single version of “Good Lovin’ Is Just A Dime Away”, which is good for the point of completion. For me a truly essential reissue and worthy of a purchase over and above ANYTHING else on the market at the moment.

-Barry Towler

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