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  1. Motown Unreleased- A Question for Y'all

    This week, I've been revisiting the Cellarful of Motown CDs and honestly, if I live to be 100, I'll never get over the staggering amount of unreleased material Motown had. Not just the amount, but that so much of it is so good and obviously was painstakingly recorded for consideration as a potential hit.
    My question is, was Motown the only recording company that had so much good material in the can? I'm sure every record company has an stash of unreleased material in its vaults, but Motown seems to have had enough to fill the Seven Seas!

  2. #2
    I have a feeling that Atlantic Records MIGHT have a stash of unreleased material at their disposal. I know from my days of collecting 45's that Atlantic has had nearly as many 45's released as Motown. However, they never achieved the success that Motown has. But I have no knowledge of where their vaulted material remains if it remains at all.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by woodward View Post
    I have a feeling that Atlantic Records MIGHT have a stash of unreleased material at their disposal. I know from my days of collecting 45's that Atlantic has had nearly as many 45's released as Motown. However, they never achieved the success that Motown has. But I have no knowledge of where their vaulted material remains if it remains at all.
    A lot of unreleased Atlantic material was destroyed in a 70s or 80s warehouse fire.

  4. #4
    An entire new and different record company could have been made just from Motown's unreleased material and been very successful.

  5. Quote Originally Posted by SatansBlues View Post
    An entire new and different record company could have been made just from Motown's unreleased material and been very successful.
    I hadn't thought of it in that way but you're "Doggone Right". I think nearly any record company would have loved to have even a fraction of Motown's "cast offs". Consider all the acts that Motown hardly even gave a release and you'd have a full roster: The Elgins, The Monitors, Blinky, Carolyn Crawford, Marv Johnson, The Fantastic Four and it goes on and on forever.

  6. #6
    To add to the query of the amount of unreleased material in the vaults at Motown, it makes me wonder: Did the studio(s) and the engineer booths ever have time to clear out to allow someone to come in and clean? I mean no disrespect with that statement; however, it seems the recording machines, for example, seldom had a time when the switch could be turned off to cool down everything. In around what year were recordings beginning to be made in studios other than in the famous Snakepit?

  7. #7
    I think Studio B ( formerly Golden World) was acquired late 1966.
    It was mainly used for overdubs' strings and vocals. Rhythm tracks were mainly done at Hitsville..it was said that the producers were superstitious . They wanted the 'magic' that produced previous hits to work again...and again!

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    This week, I've been revisiting the Cellarful of Motown CDs and honestly, if I live to be 100, I'll never get over the staggering amount of unreleased material Motown had. Not just the amount, but that so much of it is so good and obviously was painstakingly recorded for consideration as a potential hit.
    My question is, was Motown the only recording company that had so much good material in the can? I'm sure every record company has an stash of unreleased material in its vaults, but Motown seems to have had enough to fill the Seven Seas!
    Not at all. On the jazz side of things, with which I'm more familiar, Verve had mountains of alternate takes, Columbia Jazz recorded multiple takes (my personal favorite is the alternate material for Lady in Satin by Billie Holiday - the Centennial Edition is amazing), and the old Victor records for big bands/jazz had lots of extra material. What differs are the audience's interest in alternative material (its very high for Motown fans) and each current controlling company's willingness to release old alternative material. For instance, I very rarely see alternate material from the old Decca/MCA catalogue, but Universal is terrible at reissuing original material from those labels (why I don't know). Verve reissues often get nice alternate tracks thrown in and some recent Duke Ellington material through CBS has had a lot of nice alternates. There was a series of jazz re-issues of piles and piles of unreleased material on the Mosaic label. Those boxed CD sets now routinely fetch $200-500 on eBay, so there is a market for this stuff. It really depends on the audience and the parent company of the old labels.

  9. #9
    That is very true SatinsBlues. Motown, Stax and Atlantic owned the recording studio that they recorded in. Even my hometown faves, Philly International and affiliated labels did not have that luxury. So that may explain why a lot of labels did not have a lot of unreleased material.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Motown4Ever518 View Post
    That is very true SatinsBlues. Motown, Stax and Atlantic owned the recording studio that they recorded in. Even my hometown faves, Philly International and affiliated labels did not have that luxury. So that may explain why a lot of labels did not have a lot of unreleased material.
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    That explains it very well. And the reason why Chess, Atlantic, and The Major National Labels who owned their own studios, didn't have remotely as many unreleased recordings as Motown is that they only recorded during regular daylight hours, plus evenings. They didn't record 24 hours a day, every day for 9 years like Motown did(1964-1972), and with 2 studios, like Motown did from 1966-1972.

  11. #11
    I wonder if the artists that recorded the originally unreleased material for Motown are paid once it is released?

  12. #12
    Organization is another factor. Anyone who has worked on the Motown catalog knows that the tapes, session and song files are unbelievably well organized and preserved. Systems for producer codes, tape codes, etc. It's like they knew that people were going to need to find unreleased cuts 50 years later. Andy S. once told me that the Motown files were the best organized of any company he dealt with in the Universal holdings. That's saying something.

    A bit backward that people are complaining about the Universal fire when Atlantic is really the company who has virtually nothing in the vaults. As the constant new releases show, the Motown vault is still very much kicking and accessible.

    60 unreleased Motown tracks just came out from a *single year*!

  13. Quote Originally Posted by thanxal View Post
    Not at all. On the jazz side of things, with which I'm more familiar, Verve had mountains of alternate takes, Columbia Jazz recorded multiple takes (my personal favorite is the alternate material for Lady in Satin by Billie Holiday - the Centennial Edition is amazing), and the old Victor records for big bands/jazz had lots of extra material. What differs are the audience's interest in alternative material (its very high for Motown fans) and each current controlling company's willingness to release old alternative material. For instance, I very rarely see alternate material from the old Decca/MCA catalogue, but Universal is terrible at reissuing original material from those labels (why I don't know). Verve reissues often get nice alternate tracks thrown in and some recent Duke Ellington material through CBS has had a lot of nice alternates. There was a series of jazz re-issues of piles and piles of unreleased material on the Mosaic label. Those boxed CD sets now routinely fetch $200-500 on eBay, so there is a market for this stuff. It really depends on the audience and the parent company of the old labels.
    Thank you for your perspective on this and giving it context by relating it to the Jazz recording field. I love Dave Brubeck (my gateway to jazz) and am espcially fascinated by the Blue Note records label. Funny that I wouldn't have thought about there being many unreleased recordings in that arena, but after reading your comments I'm now thinking it would actually be odd if there weren't.

    You also got me to pull out one of my Billie Holiday cds. I had a period of interest in her career after watching a PBS program about her life and career. I bought a few cds but now it's time to really sit and spend time getting to know her.

    Thanks for a really thoughtful post.

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