Various Artists – Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love: Motown’s Mowest Story 1971-73

January 01, 1970

(Light In The Attic)


Berry Gordy Jr. conquered Detroit and created “The Sound Of
Young America” with Motown Records in the sixties, but, as was typical of
Gordy’s megalomania, he wanted more. Late in the decade he relocated his
headquarters to Los Angeles, and in 1971, he created a subsidiary label, the
awkwardly named Mowest (a name definitely not mo’better than the Motor
City-specific Motown). Although the mandate was for hits, lots of hits – again,
typical Gordy – questionable business decisions, rather than artistic one, kept
that from happening. Light In The Attic’s Our
Lives Are Shaped By What We Love: Motown’s Mowest Story 1971-73
provides a
valuable service in rescuing selections of the Mowest catalog, and the
collection is a window into a fascinating nook of Motown’s history known best
to crate-diggers and soul connoisseurs. 


Gordy’s A-List talent was still on the Motown label, and he
built Mowest’s sound on West Coast funk, sunny California harmonies, and
pre-disco soul jazz. There are family tree-connections to Motown throughout the
album – Stevie Wonder-penned tunes for his by-then ex-wife Syreeta (“I Love
Every Little Thing About You” is a highlight); The Spinners’ lead singer G.C.
Cameron (on a hard funk cut, “Act Like A Shotgun”); a thumping Commodores track
(“Don’t You Be Worried”); songs written by Curtis Mayfield, Willie Hutch and Ashford
& Simpson. Surprisingly, perhaps, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons get
three cuts, mainly from their album Chameleon.
These aren’t Jersey Boys tracks,
although “You’re A Song (That I Can’t Sing)” and “The Night” have more than a
touch of the white bread pop of the Associations or the Free Design (but with a
better rhythm section). The informative booklet gives a history of artists, and
we’re treated to lesser-knowns such as Lodi, Suzee Ikeda and the mighty funky
Odyssey. Mowest’s lack of success was mainly due to bad timing, weak
promotional work and a rapidly shifting market. But it wasn’t due to bad music.


Every Little Thing About You,” “You’re A Song (That I Can’t Sing) STEVE KLINGE



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