Unlike the raw, sweaty rock ‘n’ roll emanating from the Motor City, Motown Records produced slick and sophisticated pop and R&B. While other artists drowned under the waves of British invaders and folk-rock serenaders in the mid-60s, the Motown stable thrived with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of hits, and a house band comprising some of the tightest players in the country, known by one and all as the Funk Brothers, laid down the serious grooves behind every group.
The Temptations formed in 1961 when the two most popular vocal groups in Detroit merged into one all-star supergroup and then signed with the local Motown label. The quintet soon gained fame for their smooth and heartfelt vocals, as well as their polished stage show with peerless choreography. Despite numerous lineup changes–due to drugs, alcohol, health, ego, and, of course, musical differences–The Temptations proceeded to rack up a massive string of hits over the next decade, while helping to lead the evolution of R&B, from doo-wop to soul to funk.
So get ready. Get ready! ‘Cause here’s the least you need to know.
The Ultimate Collection / Anthology All their singles are timeless classics, absolutely vital to understanding the music of the 60s and 70s, from joy to sadness to anger to sweet, sweet love. The Temptations do it all. No perfect single-disc collection exists, unfortunately — each leaves out important tracks or makes questionable selections. Having said that, The Ultimate Collection comes closest. Anthology is a great double-disc set but for some reason tends to go in and out of print. If you can find a copy, it will be reason to rejoice.
With A Lot O’ Soul (1967) Like the title says. If you want soul, there’s an abundance to be had herein. This stands as the peak of their first phase, hitting on all cylinders, to put it in the parlance of their hometown.
Psychedelic Shack (1970) The Temptations get waaay out, embracing the times with protest songs, long-form explorations, and a melding of jazz, rock, pop, and progressive R&B. A sonic adventure constructed by producer Norman Whitfield. Far freakin’ out, man!
Let’s watch them strut their stuff and lay down their sound: