Our Lives Are Shaped by What We Love: Motown's Mowest Story 1971–1973
(Light in the Attic)
recommendedrecommendedrecommendedrecommended1/2 (out of five)

Motown Records harbored more than a few non-household names on its expansive roster, and many of those lesser-known artists created some of the most interesting material from Berry Gordy's potent font of musical greatness. Our Lives Are Shaped by What We Love spotlights this situation with 16 gems from Motown's Mowest subsidiary. The compilation overflows with an optimistic, often mellow West Coast vibe that diverged from what folks in Detroit were experiencing during Mowest's lifespan.

The most famous figures on Our Lives Are Shaped by What We Love—the Commodores and Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons—acquit themselves well. The three Four Seasons cuts hit with the most surprise, especially if you only know the band for their '60s hits. Here they sound expansive, flirting with psychedelia on the gorgeous "You're a Song (That I Can't Sing)" and "Sun Country," the latter of which bears similarities to Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City" (as does G.C. Cameron's "Act Like a Shotgun," by the way). The Commodores' "Don't You Be Worried" is a head-held-high soul strut, a distant cousin to Sly's "Dance to the Music."

More revelations come from Odyssey and Syreeta. Odyssey's "Our Lives Are Shaped by What We Love" is mellow-gold lounge soul with a spine-tingling vibraphone solo, while "Broken Road" forges an Age of Aquarius soul jam with furious conga runs; spiritual, massed male/female vocals; and a fervid, felicitous flute solo. Syreeta's "I Love Every Little Thing About You" is by Mr. Wonder's late wife, and this subliminally seductive bubbler benefits from her superstar partner's songwriting and studio wizardry (assisted by Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil). Her voice is pure sugar-spun enchantment yet miraculously does not induce diabetes. "I Love Everything" stands as one of the most adorable, unassuming love songs ever. Magically, it bleeds into "Black Maybe," a postcoital, pillow-talkin' ballad of exquisite beauty.

Mowest lasted only a few years, but it burned brightly. Why it didn't achieve commercial success and largely eluded crate-diggers' cultish adoration remains a mystery. There isn't a weak cut on Our Lives Are Shaped by What We Love—its bountiful soulfulness and feel-good tunefulness ought to dramatically shape your own damn life for the better. recommended