First things first, this disc has nothing at all to do with the utterly superb BBC documentary series Dancing in the Street, which would easily be the best musical documentary series that I have ever seen (and believe me, I've seen quite a few!) If there's any justice in the world it will see a DVD release sometime soon, however that's not what I'm here to write about.
This review is of a celebration of the famed Motown record label (which was sort of the forerunner to all the Stock, Aitken and Waterman-style 'hit factories' that were to follow), in particular a reunion show from 1987 featuring their first signing, Mary (My Guy) Wells, Martha (Heat Wave) Reeves (of 'and the Vandellas' fame), plus David Ruffin and "his original sidekick" (if he were alive today I'd bet he'd be somewhat annoyed with THAT little quote) Eddie Kendricks and whichever incarnation of The Temptations was knocking around at the time of filming.
Mary Wells, the "first lady of the Detroit sound", is first in to bat, complete with a curly blonde do that is so utterly shocking it took me a few minutes to actually tune into the music. She goes the rapid-fire route through such hits as You Beat Me to the Punch, Two Lovers and, of course, My Guy. Sadly she does the one thing about live performances that makes me absolutely gag - replacing many of the lyrics with incitements for the audience to sing along. Sorry honey, but if I pay to see a show I want to hear YOU do the singing, not a roomful of (admittedly keen) fans screeching along in the key of H...
Next in is a spirited Martha Reeves, sans Vandellas but with such classics as Nowhere to Run, I'm Ready for Love and Heat Wave in tow. What she lacks in the vocal power of her heyday she certainly makes up for in gusto in this brief but entertaining set.
Now it's the boys' turn. David Ruffin (the falsetto one) and Eddie Kendricks bound on with an assortment of rather keen Temptations. At this point it must be said that David looks so skinny and haggard that Calista Flockhart would be considered obese if she stood next to him, which is truly frightening. Sadly his voice matches his look - the strength it once had having faded to a rather feeble warble, seemingly so quiet that it took the sound guys by surprise, as they struggled to get his levels within audible range at the beginning of the set. This is by far the longer part of the disc, ranging through huge hits such as Get Ready, Ain't Too Proud to Beg, The Way You Do the Things You Do and the answer to Mary's earlier ditty, My Girl to a selection of those songs that you're not sure of the titles, but you know every word once you hear them. Of course any Motown-trainspotters reading this now want to lynch me...
The grand finale is, of course, an all in on Dancin' in the Street, which once Martha gets her voice warmed up is quite a wonderful spectacle.
It appears that this was made for television, being full-frame and, well, a music video.
The video quality is perfectly fine for such a disc, with no obvious signs of any nasties such as dropouts, blockiness or flecking. Contrast and colour looked great on my set up, especially considering the nature of such vision with cuts between dazzling stage lighting and a more subtly lit audience.
One visual oddity is in the chapter selection - the first Ruffin/Kendricks screen squishes itself into widescreen for no apparent reason, at odds with every other section of the disc. Somewhere a DVD author tries to cover a scarlet face...
The audio has been nicely remastered, never an easy job with the vagaries of live recording. As hinted earlier there are a few sound hiccups, but these were all 'on the night' so it's fair to say that not much could be done to rectify them.
Whilst the disc carries the Dolby Surround logo, the surround channels remain essentially dormant. Save for what sounds more like a quiet echo of the front channels there isn’t much going on - certainly none of the dynamics you would fairly expect from something listing 'Dolby Digital Surround Stereo' as it's first special feature.
Whilst certainly a fan of the Motown sound, I ended up somewhat disappointed with this effort. However this is due more to the time from which it hails, as rarely it seems can performers rekindle past glories some 25 years or more after the fact.
I also found it all a little sad when taking into account that three of the four performers featured here have since passed away. I'm sure most people would agree that this particular show being their last recorded is not necessarily the most desirable swansong.
Admittedly this is a definite must for any Motown diehards, however more casual fans would probably be better advised to go out and invest in the CDs of the original recordings, most of which are still as exciting today as I daresay they were on release.