Take Your Mixes To The Next Level

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Rare Look At A Motown Session

It's Motown week here on the Big Picture and we're going to start with an extremely rare look into a session by the legendary Temptations backed by the legendary Funk Brothers and recorded at the legendary Motown Studios in Detroit (the "Snakepit" as they used to call it).

This video was shot back in 1967 for a CBS News piece called appropriately "The Motown Story." It featured the classic Temptations lineup including David Ruffin (the lead singer) and Eddie Ruffin, both of which would leave the band soon after this video was made. The song is called "Sorry Is A Sorry Word" and was produced by Motown writers Ivy Jo Hunter and Brian Holland (who stops the song mid-way through).

Some things to observe when watching:

1) As we'll see in upcoming posts, no one at Motown cared much about isolation between instruments since they were never going to replace anything anyway. Either the band got the track or it didn't, and no one ever came back to "fix" a part. Most of the songs cut in Detroit were cut on an 8 track recorder, so a lot of overdubs weren't much of an option anyway. They were only used for a bit of control over the final balance.

2) The usual Funk Brothers band consisted of a rhythm section of 2 drummers, tambourine, congas or bongos, bass, 3 guitars, and 2 keyboards which were all recorded at the same time in the same room! Horns and strings might also be cut at the same time as the rhythm section as well. Motown was only a house in the residential area of town and the studio was in the basement. Imagine doing that in your basement!

3) Only the arranger (the very talented William Witherspoon, who I believe was actually responsible for the early sound of Motown) used headphones. No one else needed them because they were all playing in the same room so they could hear themselves as if it were a rehearsal or gig.

Enjoy. Tomorrow, more Motown.




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