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    Spanish label handling extensive Motown vinyl reissue campaign
    • July 4, 2024

    Motown was truly a sound that called out around the world.

    So it’s perhaps appropriate that the most extensive vinyl reissue campaign of the legendary label’s catalog is coming from across the pond.

    In May, Barcelona-based Elemental Music began rolling out new vinyl editions of Motown titles, with new albums coming each month for a total of 30 through March 2025. The series includes some of the label’s biggest names — the Supremes, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, the Jackson 5, the Four Tops, Smokey Robinson and more — many in mono and some on colored vinyl.

    And for many, it will be their first vinyl edition since the albums were originally released more than 50 years ago.

    “As a rule of thumb, we always try to reissue the music that we love. That’s our priority,” explains Elemental’s Kevin Keeley. “With the Motown series, we wanted to take a deep dive into the label’s history and to reissue some more obscure titles. For a lot of the albums that we’ll be putting out, it will be their first reissue since their original release. It’s our way of showing some love to Motown’s legacy.”

    Keeley adds that surging vinyl sales, especially among young music buyers, has also fueled Elemental’s sense of mission.

    “When you’re reissuing vinyl, especially from a label as iconic as Motown, there’s a lot of considerations to make,” he says. “Ultimately, we want to respect Motown’s legacy. In doing so, it’s important that this series is accessible for all music/Motown fans and vinyl enthusiasts. We wanted to contextualize Motown for a contemporary audience.”

    Elemental’s relationship with Motown began in May 2022, when the label reissued Rare Earth’s 1969 album “Get Ready,” which Keeley calls “an interesting nugget of Motown history that was deserving of a reissue.” Elemental primarily specializes in jazz titles, but the company felt Motown complemented that aspect of its catalog.

    “It’s difficult to ignore the historical connection jazz and Motown have within popular music history,” Keeley notes. “Jazz and blues set the stage for Motown’s distinctive sound, and Motown, in turn, drew inspiration from jazz,” including members of the label’s famed session band, the Funk Brothers, who were recruited from the Detroit jazz clubs.

    The “Get Ready” re-release went well, which led to a desire to more — and, as Keeley noted, get into some of the deeper catalog titles that had not been touched yet. Elemental negotiated with the Universal Music Group to select the titles it would re-release, making use of remasters commissioned during the late ’80s that are considered gold standard by Motown aficionados. Elemental also set a certain standard for the packaging of the new editions.

    “We decided to leave each title as untouched/unmolested as possible,” Keeley says. “Each is presented in a reproduction of its original sleeve, including its original liner notes, on 140-gram vinyl — as close to how it would have been when you originally bought the album. All we’ve done is include a sticker outlining some more historical context and background to each album.”

    Elemental’s next three Motown titles are due out July 12, including a mono edition of Marvin Gaye and Mary Wells’ “Together” (1964), the Temptations’ “Cloud Nine” (1969) and a green vinyl version of the Supremes’ “I Hear a Symphony” (1966). The latter is among Keeley’s personal favorites, an album he feels “embodies what the Motown sound was, and still is — never replicated.”

    “Cloud Nine” by The Temptations is one of the Motown vinyls being reissued by Elemental Music. (Photo courtesy of Elemental Music)

    “I Hear a Symphony” by The Supremes is one of the Motown vinyls being reissued by Elemental Music. (Photo courtesy of Elemental Music)

    “Together” by Marvin Gaye and Mary Wells is one of the Motown vinyls being reissued by Elemental Music. (Photo courtesy of Elemental Music)

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    He’s also partial to Gaye’s 1968 set “In the Groove,” which featured his version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” and to former Temptations member Eddie Kendricks’ “People … Hold On” (1972). “There’s some great tracks on that album that predicted the disco genre,” Keeley notes, “and the drama of Kendricks’ life and departure from the Temptations is all part of Motown’s history.”

    Listening sessions at Elemental’s headquarters, meanwhile, have been nothing but pleasurable, he reports, and validated the label’s decision to create the series — as if that were even necessary.

    “When we started researching for this series and listening to the Motown catalog in the office, everyone knew at least one song or artist, everyone was tapping their foot and in the end, I think we realized just how universally loved Motown is,” Keeley says. “I don’t think ourselves here at Elemental, or anyone, really needs a personal connection to Detroit, the U.S.A, funk, soul, R&B or anything to do with Motown in order to enjoy it.

    “I think that’s why Motown has had such an enduring legacy. When you hear the tambourine, the reverb, James Jamerson’s bass and the infectious vibe that Motown brings, I don’t think it matters where you’re from or who you are. Motown is like the Beatles or Coca-Cola — iconic.”

    ​ Orange County Register 

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