Motown: The Sound of Young America
Thames & Hudson
For the uninitiated – 2020 marks the sixtieth anniversary of Motown Records and everything surrounding it not only dominated the first half of the sixties, but left an imprint on popular culture, the reverberations of which can be felt to the present day.
I have yet to come across anyone remotely into pop culture that does not harbour a weak spot for the sixties pomp that was channelled and released to the public under the banner of Motown Records.
Needless to say that with Motown’s head of sales, i.e. Barney Ales, being one of the authors of this opulently illustrated tome, the stories you get come from straight from the horse’s mouth from a protagonist that was in the room when it happened and especially for Motown aficionados it should be quite a revelation as the record is set straight – a tenet that seems to have been one of the major motivations behind the book.
Having quite a few books on the topic on my shelves, with this one I found it quite refreshing that there is no need to laundered in order to create an engaging and riveting reading experience – the factoids themselves surrounding recording processes and releases are fascinating and document a unique time that put Detroit on the map and in the ears of anyone owning a transistor radio.
Apart from the documentation and stories, the photos alone are worth the purchase: Over one thousand colourful illustrations and footage detailing acts in various circumstances (including ample shots from behind-the-scenes), cover artwork, ads, live performances, et cetera, make Motown – The Sound of Young America a visually appealing book that in terms of sheer beauty and eye candy is hard to march. The fact that the layout is crisp and printed on quality paper only adds to the experience.
The ultimate resource and a superb ode to Motown – not only the most successful independent label to ever exist but one that defined an extraordinarily creative era that is unrivalled in terms of vibrance, iconography, innovation and blindness to race.