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Music Review: Various Artists – Motown 50 Fanthology

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The first Motown anthology came out in 1962, just three years after the label was formed. Motown Special was a collection of 10 previously released songs that did quite well. It spawned an incredibly profitable reissue program for the company, a practice which continues to this day.

Motown 50 Fanthology is the label’s way of celebrating their Fiftieth year in business. During the months of June and July 2009, fans voted online to select the songs to be included. While that seems to be the most democratic method possible, Motown hedged their bets a bit by only nominating 100 or so tunes.

Sadly, nothing by Leslie Uggams, Scatman Crothers, or Dr. Strut were included for the voter‘s consideration.

While there is really no arguing with the results, this is Motown we are talking about after all, the methodology is interesting. The US version of Fanthology is a two-disc, 45 song collection. The number one track is “My Girl,” by The Temptations, followed by Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” at number two, then “Let’s Get It On,” at number three.

The superior UK version is a three-disc set, with all 50 of the top songs included, plus an additional 11 tracks featuring Motown artists covering others, including The Supremes with “Come Together,” and Smoky Robinson doing “Witchita Lineman.”

The differences between the chart positions are striking. On the three-disc set “My Girl” comes in at number 30, with Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” in the number one slot.

It seems that the company decided to separate the polls geographically, which makes sense. The most tracks on the US set went to Marvin Gaye, with seven. Surprisingly, Michael Jackson only came in with four, three with the Jackson Five, and his lone solo appearance “Got To Be There.”

Poll positions aside though, these are just some amazing songs. How can you go wrong with a reasonably priced set containing such greats as “Brick House,” “Super Freak,” and “Superstition?” And those are just some of the later-era funk tracks.

Even if Motown left Ozone and Diahann Carroll out of the running, they have compiled a nice selection of hits here. I have read some comments to the effect that by the very nature of the ranking, the CDs are front-loaded from best to worst.

Theoretically, this is true. But in reality, it is simply not the case. There are no duds that made the grade on either the two or three-disc release. From top to bottom, these are uniformly excellent songs.

If you have been looking for a good, solid Motown collection, Fanthology is a tough one to beat.

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