This entry is the result of Lucy's comments in the Motown 50 thread.
Where to begin? I think we'll start on Various Artists compilations that give you a rounded look at the Label and its Artists.
Tamla Motown Gold UPC 04400 163012 5
This three disc compilation of hits from the first ten years at Motown came out in 2001 with a tracklisting skewed very much toward the UK market where different tracks had been hits at different times to that of the US.
With excellent notes by Paul Nixon, a Northern Soul manic, this set takes on the journey from Barratt Strong's Money through Rare Earth's 1969 white rock version of Get Ready through the Miracles, Four Tops, Supremes, Temptations and whole lot more.
Many of the tracks on this set are stereo being taken from the albums rather than the mono 45's but as an introduction to Motown this sure is hard to beat and - hey! - offers decent sound too.
Motown Chartbusters. a set of 12 CD's replicating the classic UK Chartbusters albums with the UK hits on them as what was a hit in the UK wasn't necessarily even issued as a 45 by Motown USA.
I'd suggest starting at Volume 4 (1970) and working your way to Vol 12 (1981) as that will supplement the Tamla Motown Gold set nicely.
This adds solo Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder Jackson 5 and a galaxy of others including the Fours Seasons The Night to your collection.
These are all budget price so no worries about your bank balance although again most of these are stereo.
As good as these compilations are you soon want single artists compilations so I'm listing a few (!) although you may need to use Amazon Marketplace or Ebay to get them because they're out of print.
Four Tops Gold UPC 0602498327722.
Nice all stereo selection on 2 CD's of all their hits including collaboration with the Supremes.
1998's Ultimate Collection is mainly mono and is best replaced by the Four Tops 50th anniversary cd set for mono singles masters.
The Best Of The Temptations UPC 7 3145305242 0
Two CD set covering all the temptations hits from My Girl through Treat Her Like A Lady.
Very well mastered this set present the early hits (the whole of disc 1) in the original mono mixes that were issued for the 45's and which differed from the LP stereo re-mixes most of which were re-issued on 2on1 Cd's in 2000.
David Ruffin The Essential Collection UPC 6 0121597302 0
Oh but is is containing a great cross section of his recordings from My Whole World Ended from the moment he left the Temptations 1969 to 1976's Everything's Coming Up Love.
Eddie Kendricks The Essential Collection UPC 7 3145446262 4
A just under 80 minutes worth of yet another ex Temptation taking in the classic Keep On Truckin' to The Skelton In Your Closet which is from his so-called Philly albums that aren't on CD. They were actually recorded at Sigma studios!
Marvin Gaye The Best Of (Anthology series) Catalogue 315 530 0529 2
Although this two CD set from 1995 is out of print, it sounds marvellous and like the Temptations set also gives you Marvin's early singles in the original mono with excellent sound.
There are those who'd suggest all his albums many of which are available in great sounding 2 on 1 Cd sets from 2001. If you have to economize get Moods of Marvin Gaye/In The Groove and What's Going On.
Mary Wells Compact Command Performances (aka 22Greatest Hits) Motown UPC 0510-99058-2 9
Okay you'll have dig deep and buy used for this well out of print gem from 1986 but it gives you all the Mary Wells at Motown you need in terrific sound.
The Best Of Diana Ross and the Supremes UPC 7 3145305112 6
Another gem of the 1995 Anthology series, this has all the Supremes you need and the early singles featured are the original mono versions from Buttered Popcorn to Someday We'll Be Together via You Can't Hurry Love. Expertly mastered by Bill Inglot it's a must.
Supremes individual albums are a mixed bag but More Hits By (with Stop! In The name Of Love) and Where Did Our Love Go although currently out of print on CD are worth getting.
I haven't heard one CD compilation of her solo work I'm entirely happy with for sound quality and if you have a turntable I'd suggest the UK Greatest Hits and Greatest Hits 2 LP's.
If you must get a CD either All The Great Love Songs or the 1986 Anthology are the best of the bunch -Anthology being a double gets the nod for content and has most of the UK hits on it.
Jimmy Ruffin Greatest Motown Hits UPC 7 3145300572 2
This mainly stereo set from 1989 was mastered at Abbey Road London, England of all places and is a enjoyable 20 track helping of Jimmy's many UK hits
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles Gold UPC
A budget re-issue of the 1995 Best of (anthology series), this one keeps most of the singles in the original mono and sounds great. The best introduction to the Miracles I can think of. The "Tears Of Clown" here is the US mono single- the UK stereo is on Motown Chartbusters and the Make It Happen CD
Smokey Robinson The Ultimate Collection UPC 7 314530775 2 2
A nice single disc of Smoke's solo output from 1973 through 1987, taking in Quiet Storm, Being With You, I Am I Am and Just To See Her. This does have single edits where appropriate, terrific liner notes and was one of better discs of this 1997/8 series.
Gladys Knight & The Pips Anthology UPC 7 314530872 3
There is a more recent (1995) version of this anthology (The Best Of Gladys Knight and the Pips) that has been re-issued at budget price as Gladys Knight and the Pips GOLD, but I prefer the track list of this version which dates back to 1986 from Letterbox Of Tears to Between Her Hello And My Goodbye via Friendship Train. All versions are stereo throughout - the mono's are on the Ultimate Collection in just about acceptable mastered sound.
The Commodores The Best Of Catalogue no 31453-0358-2
Although out of print this two CD set from 1995 (part of the Anthology series) isn't hard to find and contains many otherwise very hard to find album tracks by the group on CD (such as the songs the album "13").
Mastered by Bill Inglot it's worth the effort of tracking down as it sounds so much better than the 2001 US Anthology CD.
The Very Best of ( UPC 7 3145305472 1 ) an 20 track single CD also from 1995 remains available in Europe and also has top notch sound quality
Jackson Five Gold UPC 0602498801529
Just a lovely sounding Jackson Five two CD compilation with all the hits and best album tracks on it that is a much better buy than "The Ultimate Jackson Five" of 1998 although the 1995 Soulsation! 4 cd set is great too.
The Best Of Michael Jackson UPC 7 314530480 2
Another disc in the 1995 Anthology series that sounds terrific giving an amazing insight into his true ability at Motown from Got To Be There to Farewell My Summer Love.
Martha Reeve and the Vandellas Live Wire" The Singles 1962 -1972 Catalogue no 34763 6313 2
The 2 CD set issued in 1994 in the Anthology series is invaluable for offering us the original mono singles - the A and B sides - in chronological order mastered expertly by Bill Inglot. Everything you need is in there, Nowhere To Run, Jimmy Mack, Dancing In The Street and Honey Chile with top notch liner notes.
Kim Weston Greatest Hits & Rare Classics UPC 7 3145545132 0
Exactly what it says on the cover from Helpless right through to her collaborations with Marvin Gaye with a few rarities throw in.
Kim Weston The Motown Anthology UPC 6 0249831605 4
Expertly compiled to avoid any duplication with the versions on Greatest Hits this adds a whole chunk off otherwise missing from the catalogue recordings by Kim including some stereo re-mixes never previously issued on CD and many recently unearthed tracks from the legendary Motown vaults.
The Velvelettes The Best Of UPC 7 3145444672 3
The Americans got The Very Best in 1999 which was believe or not the first album ever issued by the group and that's what this UK CD is based on and some more in shape of unreleased recordings. This set contains Needle In A Haystack, He Was Really Saying Something, A Bird In The Hand and the UK 1972 hit These Things Keep Me From Loving You plus their versions of The Boy From Crosstown and Love Is Good which don't appear elsewhere. In my opinion this budget price disc is the better buy.
The Marvelettes Essential Collection UPC 73145548592 9
"Spring in the air, filled with love...". Aww that can only be the unforgettable When You're Young and In Love which is present on this disc together with Please Mr Postman as covered by the Beatles on Beatlemania and 'Second Album' and The Boy From Crosstown. There are about five previously unreleased tracks on this album including Because I Love Him (and it doesn't tell this) so even Motown fans who think they have everything need this one.
The Contours Essential Collection UPC 7 3145442592 6
Who? I hear you ask. Well these guys were responsible for the original of Do You Love Me as covered by The Dave Clark 5 and Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, Baby Hit And Run and that great observation number, First I Like At The Purse. Mine's gold plated by the way - only joking there folks!
Connoisseurs Corner The bit for the more adventurous.
Chris Clark The Motown Collection: UPC 6 0249819564 2
If I said white soul singers of the 60's you'd say Dusty Springfield but this one is great, was on Motown but largely forgotten outside of Northern Soul circles.
This comprises of both her long out of print albums "Sounds Soul" and "CC Rides Again" plus a whole second disc of unreleased material. Sounds Soul has her Northern Soul smash From Head to Toe and cover of Got To Get You Into Your Life.
Chuck Jackson The Motown Anthology UPC 6 0249832931 3
Chuck was one of those people who ought to have been bigger than he was and his recordings have been long out of print. This set rectifies it at a stroke by including his "Chuck Jackson Arrives!", "Goin' Back To Chuck Jackson" and "Tears Drops Keep Falling From My Heart" albums plus some rare and unreleased stuff.
Brenda Holloway The Motown Anthology UPC 6 0249807658 3
This comprises of two of her long out of print Lp's and a disc full of singles, rarities and unreleased tracks. The albums are "Every Little Bit Hurts" and "Hurtin' And Crying" that features You've Made Me So Very Happy and You Can Cry On My Shoulder. Some of the material on disc two comes from the UK only compilation of 1968 entitled The Artistry Of Brenda Holloway
Tamla-Motown Big Hits and Hard to Find ClassicsThis series of discs were originally issued in the early days of CD in the States but are out of print but in 2000 Motown UK re-introduced a similar series that captures some of the big hits plus some tracks that seldom make the mainstream compilations by artists who if they had albums out at all have been out of print for decades.
Vol 1 UPC 7 3145442782 1
This one has track by the Originals (Baby I'm For Real), Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers (Does Your Mama Know About Me), Rare Earth (Get Ready), The Elgins (Heaven Must of Sent You) and the Detroit Spinners.
Vol 2 UPC 7 3145442732 6
On here is Velvelettes, Tammi Terrell (Lone, Lonely Girl Am I), the Isley Bros, The Undisputed Truth (Smiling Faces Sometimes), Charlene (I've Never Been To Me), more Rare Earth, Shorty Long (Function At The Junction/Hear Comes The Judge) and Tom Clays magnificent What The World Needs Now Is Love/Abraham Martin and John, the sentiments of which we sure could use today.
Vol 3 UPC 7 3145442802 6
This one Has Tammi Terrell 's Come On And See Me, Some more Contours, Elgins, Edwin Starr, Brenda Holloway, Detroit Spinners and Kim Weston tracks. The star of this set is Eddie Holland in Leaving Here, Just Ain't Enough Love and Candy To Me.
Vol 4 UPC 7 3145447072 8
This one has a few tracks that weren't located in time for the initial batch of three but is no rushed add on as the tracklisting is stellar.
Terry Johnston - What'cha Gonna Do
Eddie Holland - Jamie
Paul Peterson - A little Bit For Sandy
Lollipops - Cheatin' Is Tellin' On You
The Monitors - Crying In The Night
Marv Johnston - I Miss You Baby (How I Miss You)
Rick Robin and Him - 'Cos You know Me
Barbara Randolph - I Got A Feeling
Terry Johnston - Suzie
The Lewis Sisters - You Need Me
Fantastic Four - Can't Stop Looking For My baby
Marvin Gaye - Sweeter As The Days Go By
Marvelettes - Now Is The Time For Love
The Elgins - It's Been A Long Long Time
Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers - It's Growing
Barbara McNair - Steal Away Tonight
San Remo Strings - Hungry For Love
Chuck Jackson - I Like everything About You
The Hit Pack - Never Say No To Your baby
Chris Clark - Day By Day Or Never