2012 two CD collection devoted to the works of Motown session keyboardist (and Funk Brother extraordinaire) Earl Van Dyke. Originally, some of the Hitsville studio musicians would be ''allowed'' to cut soulful Blues and Jazz tracks for the company's Workshop Jazz label, as long as they handled the regular gig, cutting hits on the Hitsville U.S.A. assembly line. By 1964, however, Workshop Jazz was dead. Motown made good on their promise, somewhat, giving Earl Van Dyke a rare opportunity in the spotlight by issuing in his name a single and a subsequent LP, That Motown Sound. Earl's artistic disappointment belies the gems contained within those vocal-less Motown hits and the additional bonus tracks from Motown's vaults that comprise Disc One of this set. Additional previously unheard nuggets can be found amongst the bonus tracks on Disc Two.
The Complete Motown Singles has been a dream project of Motown and soul fanatics for many years, ever since the first decade of Stax/Volt singles was compiled in an impressive nine-disc box set in 1991. The Complete Motown Singles might have seemed like a logical move to soul collectors and fanatics, but it remained in the realm of fantasy for many years because, as enticing as that set was, it was difficult to create.
Within a refined setting of easy listening pop ballads and lightly funky up-tempo selections produced by Al McKay, Henderson proves himself an assured vocalist with mastery of clarity and phrasing. The problem here is the material isn't challenging enough – it's often formulaic and derivative of other early-'80s releases. Even a contribution from Stevie Wonder, "Crush on You," wanders into oblivion. But the singer's debonair tone and elegant, polished diction makes the weaker sound stronger. A perfect example is the mid-tempo "I'd Rather Be Gone," which suffers from a sleepy melody and clichéd rhythm arrangement.