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  1. #1

    Marvelettes-Message to Michael

    First of all, I love the song "Message to Michael" whether it be Dionne Warwick or the Marvelettes. It popped up on my playlist yesterday and again today. Listening carefully to the lead singer, I wondered, "That sounds like Wanda, but is it Wanda?" From this forum, I learned that one of the other Marvelettes shared a very similar timbre/quality of her voice with Wanda. This particular vocal lead on this song differs ever so slightly from the voice I have previously associated with Wanda. While still very rich and syrupy sounding, it doesn't have quite the thickness of her other vocals.

    Also, I am aware the Andantes provided many of the background voices for the Marvelettes' recordings; however, this doesn't sound like the Andantes to me. Has anyone else surmised that the backgrounds might be the Marvelettes with a little help from some other female singers?

    I would love to hear your thoughts/opinions. If your answers are factual (from being the actual recording sessions yourself or you have learned it from a documented source), I would also love to know that. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Gladys is doing the lead on MESSAGE TO MICHAEL.

    When I first played THE MARVELETTES album, I thought some of the leads by Gladys were actually Katherine because they sounded so different from her usual vocals. She sounds a bit restrained, or maybe more mature than on the earlier recordings. I gather six years of recording will illustrate growth in a vocalist and it certainly did so in Gladys.

    Re the background vocals, I have no idea who it is. I thought someone said it was indeed the Marvelettes but I can't recall where I read/heard this.

  3. #3
    I like this version too. Gladys Horton is the lead vocalist. As far as the background vocals go, I agree that the sound is a little different. Maybe Brian Holland & Lamont Dozier actually used the girls or maybe had them harmonize with The Andantes on some level. We also forget that Pat Lewis worked at Motown as a background vocalist when she wasn't at Golden World. Maybe the group was in town and actually had enough time to record the background themselves. Who knows?.

  4. #4
    the entire Pink album is excellent. the best output of the marvelettes. Message is excellent as is Hunter. My fav is When You're Young And In Love. I know better is another standout

  5. #5
    Name:  Gladys Horton.jpg
Views: 561
Size:  89.5 KB

    Remembering the late Gladys Horton on her birthday.
    (May 30, 1945 - January 26, 2011)

  6. "The Pink Album" has been confusing people probably ever since it was released. Motown, the songwriters and producers involved iwith this album seemed to have taken special care to compile the mix of songs. If you pay particular attention, you'll noticed both Gladys and Wanda have six songs apiece (and in an especially, wickedly, clever move, Gladys and Wanda actually share one song between them.) It's as if Motown finally decided they needed to give this group some long deserved attention.

    What has confused fans for years is just which song Gladys was on, if any. I've been living with this LP for a good 35-plus years and I figured out the reason for the confusion; once Wanda took over the leads on the A-sides in '65 or so, the only times we heard Gladys was on the B-sides. Some of those B-sides were either earlier recordings or songs done around '65. Really, we missed hearing the maturation of Gladys as a singer. If you go through and listen to a lot of the Marvelettes' unreleased recordings, you'll hear how her singing style became more and more refined during the years Wanda was taking the lead on the hit singles. In 1967, though, nobody had heard those unreleased songs and it seemed as if suddenly there was a singer who sounded like Wanda, but not quite. We knew it wasn't Katherine (although, for whatever reason, on the album cover, her photo is larger than Wanda's and Gladys's!) It took me awhile and the discovery of an excellent Goldmine magazine article to learn that "mystery singer" was Gladys.

    By the time The Pink Album came out, Gladys had become an astonishingly nuanced singer. On her album cuts, especially "Message" and "I Know Better," she sounded more like a jazz singer than a R&B singer. "This Night Was Made For Love" may have been her masterpiece performance. On this album, Gladys was now interpreting the songs as much as always had, but with a much more adult skew. Even on the uptempo song, "He Was Really Sayin' Somethin'," her performance was much more nuanced and disciplined than she would have been had she done the song in '61, '62 or even '64.

    So, the Gladys you hear on "Message To Michael" was the Gladys who had blossomed so much, it's hard to believe she thought she wouldn't be able to handle the standards Motown had wanted the group to perform to upgrade their act. I would have loved hearing how Gladys would have performed some of the standards Mary Wells, The Supremes and Four Tops had been doing and that Martha Reeves was now doing. I believe Gladys (and Wanda) would have brought an incredible depth to whatever she was given.

    As far as the backgrounds, this is what I also love about The Pink Album. This album has been broken down, dissected and discussed many times over the years on this forum and still we wonder sometimes. The material was so well produced, there are songs where it is honestly difficult to discern if we are hearing The Marvelettes alone on backgrounds or if we're hearing a blend of the group and the Andantes. Even in the cases where it is more obvious, it seems producers were careful to make sure the Andantes crafted their vocals to sound as close to The Marvelettes as possible. "Message To Michael," like "Barefootin'" was done by H-D-H, and I do believe they used a very crafty blend of the Marvelettes and the Andantes. The blend is amazingly subtle and only in a few millisecond instances it seems I can detect a bit of the Andantes operatic sound in some spots. "He Was Really Sayin' Somethin'" is another where it's VERY difficult to tell if the Andantes are in the mix along with Wanda and Katherine.

    All this say a lot to me that somebody was really going the distance to make this the best possible Marvelettes album anyone would ever buy and to make sure the girls themselves could really shine.
    Last edited by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance; 05-31-2019 at 02:47 PM.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    "The Pink Album"
    All this say a lot to me that somebody was really going the distance to make this the best possible Marvelettes album anyone would ever buy and to make sure the girls themselves could really shine.
    Waiting, even before reading your excellent assessment/review, I was thinking the same thing earlier today about this album and the care that Motown put into making this an outstanding production both sound wise and song selection. Thanks for sharing.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by brother_love View Post
    Name:  Gladys Horton.jpg
Views: 561
Size:  89.5 KB

    Remembering the late Gladys Horton on her birthday.
    (May 30, 1945 - January 26, 2011)
    Thanks for the reminder. She was beautiful person in and out with a voice to match

  9. #9
    Yesterday was Gladys' birthday.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by jobucats View Post
    Waiting, even before reading your excellent assessment/review, I was thinking the same thing earlier today about this album and the care that Motown put into making this an outstanding production both sound wise and song selection. Thanks for sharing.
    Yes, @Waiting, what a beautiful critique.

    It is amazing how much alike Gladys and Wanda could sound. Their voices kind of "met in the middle." Wanda could go much higher, even falsetto, and Gladys' voice had a rougher quality in the lower range. But when they sang those leading lines in their natural registers, they really could be hard to tell apart.

    Here's how I've always broken down the pink album's leads:

    Barefootin - W
    Message to Michael - G
    Hunter - W
    When You're Young... - W
    I Know Better - G but sounding a lot like W
    I Can't Turn Around - W
    Sayin' Something - G
    Day You Take One - W (a standout performance!)
    When I Need You - W but sounding a lot like G
    Keep Off - G
    This Night Was Made for Love - G
    I Need Someone - G

    A great piece of wax and one which is clearly a classic example of "The Motown Sound," or as it was first called "The Detroit Sound."

    Hey there's a good topic for a thread. When did the tag line change from 'Detroit' to 'Motown' Sound, and why?

  11. Quote Originally Posted by jobucats View Post
    Waiting, even before reading your excellent assessment/review, I was thinking the same thing earlier today about this album and the care that Motown put into making this an outstanding production both sound wise and song selection. Thanks for sharing.
    Hi jobucats, we're riding the same wave, my friend!

  12. Quote Originally Posted by kenneth View Post
    Yes, @Waiting, what a beautiful critique.

    It is amazing how much alike Gladys and Wanda could sound. Their voices kind of "met in the middle." Wanda could go much higher, even falsetto, and Gladys' voice had a rougher quality in the lower range. But when they sang those leading lines in their natural registers, they really could be hard to tell apart.

    Here's how I've always broken down the pink album's leads:

    Barefootin - W
    Message to Michael - G
    Hunter - W
    When You're Young... - W
    I Know Better - G but sounding a lot like W
    I Can't Turn Around - W
    Sayin' Something - G
    Day You Take One - W (a standout performance!)
    When I Need You - W but sounding a lot like G
    Keep Off - G
    This Night Was Made for Love - G
    I Need Someone - G

    A great piece of wax and one which is clearly a classic example of "The Motown Sound," or as it was first called "The Detroit Sound."

    Hey there's a good topic for a thread. When did the tag line change from 'Detroit' to 'Motown' Sound, and why?
    Excellent breakdown! Have you noticed, though, on "Keep Off", Gladys is doing the verses and Wanda is doing the choruses? A throwback to that little trick they did on "Locking Up My Heart" and "As Long As I Know He's Mine."

    As for the change from "The Detroit Sound" to "The Motown Sound," I think it's easy to forget from our vantage point in time that there was a period where "Motown," still hadn't really become the household name it is now. Maybe I read it here or on Adam White's blog, but I believe Tony Martin was on the Tonight Show and he was talking about being signed to Motown. The reaction from Johnny Carson was along the lines of "what's a Motown?" This was sometime around '64 or '65.

    By 1965, there WAS an awareness of a "Detroit Sound," though. An article in the May 21, 1965 edition of "Time" magazine on Rock 'N' Roll music astutely referred to Motown as part of this growing trend in the new youth culture. The article acknowledged there was definitely a new sound coming from Detroit and referred to it specifically as "THE DETROIT SOUND." Also, when watching a lot of the TV dance shows from around '65 like "Where The Action Is" or "Shindig", when a Motown artist was on, sometimes you'd hear a reference to "THE DETROIT SOUND."

    My feeling is, as Motown really started taking off, someone who was really brilliant about marketing, like Barney Ales or Shelly Berger was shrewd enough to realize the genius in calling it specifically "THE MOTOWN SOUND" to further build that brand recognition.
    Last edited by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance; 06-03-2019 at 12:09 AM.

  13. #13
    The Marvelettes' "Pink Album" was not only the girls' best album ever, it was one of the best albums that Motown ever released. PERIOD! Its front-cover photography is also among my all-time favorite Motown album covers (despite Katherine's photo being larger than lead singers Wanda's and Gladys'). The girls looked so hip and classy yet down to earth. Really great stuff!
    Last edited by Philles/Motown Gary; 06-03-2019 at 03:22 AM.

  14. #14
    I agree about the utter fabulousness of the Pink Album. I got a copy of the the mono version in 1969, and wondered why Keep Off No Trespassing wasn't released as a single. Later, I learned how different the mono mix of that track was from the stereo. I much prefer the mono mix.

    There are some lovely images here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwsVC5pyE9Q mix

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    Hi jobucats, we're riding the same wave, my friend!
    Yep, it's usually difficult to find a 'riding the wave' buddy!

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by kenneth View Post
    Yes, @Waiting, what a beautiful critique.

    It is amazing how much alike Gladys and Wanda could sound. Their voices kind of "met in the middle." Wanda could go much higher, even falsetto, and Gladys' voice had a rougher quality in the lower range. But when they sang those leading lines in their natural registers, they really could be hard to tell apart.

    Here's how I've always broken down the pink album's leads:

    Barefootin - W
    Message to Michael - G
    Hunter - W
    When You're Young... - W
    I Know Better - G but sounding a lot like W
    I Can't Turn Around - W
    Sayin' Something - G
    Day You Take One - W (a standout performance!)
    When I Need You - W but sounding a lot like G
    Keep Off - G
    This Night Was Made for Love - G
    I Need Someone - G

    A great piece of wax and one which is clearly a classic example of "The Motown Sound," or as it was first called "The Detroit Sound."

    Hey there's a good topic for a thread. When did the tag line change from 'Detroit' to 'Motown' Sound, and why?
    Thank you, Kenneth, for this insight. Wanda and Gladys sure do have similar voices! A distinguishing trait of Wanda's voice (and it has been discussed here before) is that she tends to drop the pitch, ever so slightly, on the ending notes of phrases. It really works for her. It's very noticeable at the ends of phrases on "When You're Young and in Love." There's a musical subtle musical growl she does. Love it!
    Last edited by jobucats; 06-03-2019 at 10:22 AM.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    Excellent breakdown! Have you noticed, though, on "Keep Off", Gladys is doing the verses and Wanda is doing the choruses? A throwback to that little trick they did on "Locking Up My Heart" and "As Long As I Know He's Mine."
    I never noticed that Wanda did the chorus on "Keep Off." I'm going to listen to it again. Thanks for pointing that out.

    Your analysis of the origins ("oranges" in our beloved president's way of speaking) of "The Motown Sound" is very insightful and interesting. And I'm sure Motown realized that "The Motown Sound" had a much bigger potential impact internationally than if they kept it as "The Detroit Sound," though being a native, I loved that it was called that early on.

  18. #18


    Might as well post the song lol

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by midnightman View Post


    Might as well post the song lol
    Thank you, midnightman. Whenever I try to post (by copying the link from YouTube), all that shows is the link name, not the actual graphic (thumbnail). "Spread your wings for New Orleans, Kentucky bluebird, fly away." What a lyric!

  20. #20
    The original was actually "Message to Martha," wasn't it, though I never heard that until a few years ago. It has a different feel when sung by a man. Still a moving and effective lyric.

  21. #21
    A fantastic tune,just as cool as dionne's,and the fade is a killer!!

  22. #22
    I like Jerry Butler`s version more than Dionne`s.

  23. #23
    Isn't it strange that no one could really sing a Bacharach & David song badly, yet you only remember Dionne and one or two others who were really the master interpreters of their songs. Yet it would take someone smarter than me to describe what about their songs make them so unique because they're so deceptively simple!

  24. #24
    I would like to go back to "The Pink album" and "Keep off" a breathless song with the lead vocals sharing between Glad and Wanda. Well some of you mentoined, that the producer try to make a masterpiece, mixed The Marvelettes with The Andantes, I think on "Hunter" its Wanda and The Andantes or togehter with The Marvelettes.

    Kenneth has the same feeling as I, I recognized that Wanda & Glad shared the lead on "Keep off" as it discussed here on the boards. And my question is should the listner hear the vocal change or was it a piece of the perfection of the album ? It should be a Wanda lead, then both of the women had 6 tracks...maybe someone can clarify....

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by kenneth View Post
    Isn't it strange that no one could really sing a Bacharach & David song badly, yet you only remember Dionne and one or two others who were really the master interpreters of their songs. Yet it would take someone smarter than me to describe what about their songs make them so unique because they're so deceptively simple!
    I actually preferred Dusty Springfield's versions of B&H's material. She added the drama.

  26. #26
    First time I've ever listened to any version of this song. Very nice.

  27. #27
    Hi!

    I love this song. You can't go wrong with this song. My favourite versions are Jerry Butler's original, Lou Johnson's 1964 cover by the name of "Kentucky Bluebird" and the ultimate interpretation (for me):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNi7oi3X7sY

    Best regards
    Heikki

  28. #28
    In the UK we had the hit version by Adam Faith.

  29. #29
    I first heard it by Lou Johnson "Kentucky Bluebird" . Although the Marvelettes version is my fave of this song, I think Dionne Warwick is the best vocal vehicle for Bacharach/David compositions.

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by heikki View Post
    Hi!

    I love this song. You can't go wrong with this song. My favourite versions are Jerry Butler's original, Lou Johnson's 1964 cover by the name of "Kentucky Bluebird" and the ultimate interpretation (for me):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNi7oi3X7sY

    Best regards
    Heikki
    Never heard of this singer but this is a great rendition!

  31. #31
    Thank you all for all the response in resurrecting this topic about the Marvelettes "Message to Michael" and the Pink album. Although things are discussed before, sometimes topics like this get past us or we forget some of the information was that shared by forum members.

    Being retired, I use a lot of my time in pursuing my passion of music composition, and oftentimes I compose a tune with a Motown artist in mind. I am not a lyricist; however, I do come up with what I consider some good music. For special events and my friends' birthdays, I often put together simple YouTube videos of photos merged with my original recordings. I've done several "Motown" oriented original compositions, and last October I did one which was inspired by the Marvelettes sound.

    I would like to share this (via YouTube links) with you. I want to make sure it's ok with the forum and with Ralph. Yes, in some ways, it's self promotion; however, artists appreciate some outlet in which to share their work. I am NOT soliciting business. I am just showing my appreciation for Motown and its artists.

    Ralph?
    Last edited by jobucats; 06-07-2019 at 07:11 PM.

  32. #32
    Yeah ralph,how bout it??

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