Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Motown: The Classic Years [UTV, 2000]
Although most of these tracks are by artists who can and do support two-CD comps of their own, the documented existence of whole generations of young people for whom they are prehistoric overrides such scruples. Motown was Motown before it was Smokey, Supremes, Tempts, Marvin, Stevie, or marvelous Marvelettes, and it deserves to be heard that way. I fretted that its formula--on the first disc, only two tracks clock over 3:00 and two under 2:30--would sound corny or mechanical. Instead, all but a few of these 40 records range from superb to transcendent, and the only one I'd pan is a pet peeve, the Four Over-the-Tops' "Reach Out I'll Be There," which some judge a masterpiece. Lists for $25. If you know somebody who wouldn't be delighted to receive it, ditch the sourpuss. A+