Before Motown artists Martha and the Vandellas made it big, they sang background vocals on several of Marvin Gaye’s hits. Martha Reeves worked as a Motown secretary. They experienced major success in the first half of the 1960s with Dancing in the Streets and their signature hit, Heat Wave.
Watchout!, released in 1966, is the fourth studio album and fifth album overall by the trio, and oddly the only one I own (present tense, in vinyl). The group at that point was Martha Reeves on lead vocals, Rosalind Ashford, and Betty Kelly, who replaced Annette Beard in 1963.
You can tell that the label had already decided I’m Ready for Love was going to be the hit, based on the different colored lettering on the record jacket. Jimmy Mack, though, was just about as big, and the one I remember more fondly. Both songs were written by the legendary Holland/Dozier/Holland songwriting team, who also created hits for the Supremes and Four Tops, who would leave Motown shortly thereafter.
Still, my favorite song on the album was the non-single No More Tearstained Makeup, written by the incomparable William (Smokey) Robinson. It’s the second verse that really nailed me:
Like a storm my tears have rained
since your shirt was lipstick-stained
and the stains that it contained were not my color.
No sponge has quite the power
to absorb the constant shower
of the tears pancake and powder could never cover.
But today as I look in the mirror
I see things a whole lot clearer.
Elvis Costello is also a fan of the song.