The Temptations’ second album has a couple of really iconic songs and an overall quality of material that I feel like is relatively uncommon in Motown records. (That opinion isn’t the most informed, but I have listened to the odd Motown.) But there are some problems with the record, too.
As the title implies, all the songs are at least co-written by Smokey Robinson (who also produced). But some of the songs were written explicitly for the group and some weren’t. And, as a child oldies listener, I can tell you somewhat definitely that their versions are not always better. I think particularly of “You Beat Me to the Punch” – from memory I think the Mary Wells version is a lot better, though I must admit I haven’t consciously listened to her version in decades. And did we really need another version of “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me”? Is this version really preferable to the Miracles’ version or the Beatles’? (Not to my ears.)
This usage of old Smokey Robinson tunes suggests that maybe there wasn’t enough material to go around. Nowhere is that more clear than with the opening track, the Temptations classic “The Way You Do the Things You Do” which is also the lead track of…wait for it…their debut album, released a year earlier. Music labels had just zero respect for their customers back then. For fuck’s sake.
Everything is well done. The singers are compelling and we can understand why “My Girl” in particular has stood the test of time. But though the quality of the material is better than some contemporary records, some of the songs are unnecessary. And, add to that the fact that I find Motown as a rule to be overproduced, and I can’t say I am a big fan of this. I much prefer where The Temptations went in the 1970s, even if I’ve omitted Psychedelic Shack from this episode of the podcast.