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Music DVD Review: Don’t Forget the Motor City

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Don’t Forget the Motor City ain’t the crap you’ll find on one of those Time-Life “paid-advertisement” music collections. No sir, this is straight dope from the Motown vaults and is aimed more at shaking your gut than for emptying your wallet. This three DVD set digs deep into the Motown archives to bring fans a visual and audio treat that is worth every penny.

Don’t get me wrong, the Motown produced music that came out of Detroit, MI helped form one of the largest and still operating musical dynasties in history. When visionary Berry Gordy Jr. formed the label in 1959 he was not only creating a new form of music, namely soul, but starting a movement that would eventually help disintegrate the lines that often divided music by skin color.

Soul music was different from the pop music of the time mainly because of the rhythm section. The bass and drums found in pop music were light and airy and were often low in the overall mix, giving the vocal harmonies command of the songs.

Songs from Motown, in comparison, were owned buy the rhythm section, that was often thick in the mix, and most of the music was made by an in house group of musicians dubbed “The Funk Brothers.” Just think of a well known track like “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” or even the Jackson 5’s “Dancing Machine” and you’ll know that I’m not just talking jive. The process of using a house band helped give all Motown songs a familiar vibe that made them as friendly a Dr. Pepper at a malt shop.

The real beauty of Don’t Forget the Motor City is it stays away from the big hits of Motown that are available on many different compilations, and focuses on the lesser known gems. Much of the footage on this collection has never been seen and will happily be devoured by even the most knowledgeable Motown fans.

Watching videos of tracks by short lived stars like Earl Van Dyke, who pounds out “Six By Six,” set along side rare clips like The Motor City All Star’s “I Can’t Help Myself” give the viewer a hard to find, all in one overview of Motown’s diversity.

Bigger stars like The Marvelettes, who perform “Holding on with Both Hands,” are showcased as well but are also filmed performing songs that weren’t in fact their biggest hits. Another example is “The Miracles” belting out a raucous version of “Love machine.” That were easily eclipsed by the bands other songs like “I Second That Emotion” and “Tears of a Clown.”

Don’t Forget the Motor City includes a ton of other clips all in one place and makes it easy for Motown fans to augment their collection ti cover more of the Motown universe. Check out the full list of clips  on the MVDB website.

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