Ira Robbins
April 30, 1993 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Motown music collections

Like any assembly line, Motown Records was geared for consistency. Once each group located its songwriting/production formula, the memorable hit singles kept flowing, enough to overload previous multi-CD anthologies. But the label’s creative achievement went even further. These four collections of tracks and B-sides — cuts too obscure for the average Big Chill jukebox — offer real proof of reliability. Particularly Whatever Makes You Happy, by Robinson (whose sweet voice could make the phone book a pop classic) and Until You Love Someone, which delivers such rare Four Tops gems as ”Helpless.” Far from being filler, these non-hits are some kind of wonderful. Less successful are the entries from Gaye and the Temptations. Both albums start with strong and traditional ’60s material but go awry in the following decade. Gaye’s 1973 ”You Sure Love to Ball” is sex-machine crude; Hum Along wanders off into indulgences like 12-plus minutes of ”Stop the War Now” (only on the CD). But then they weren’t Motown’s most adventurous acts for nothing. Miracles: A Four Tops: A- Marvin Gaye: B+ Temptations: B-

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