On his new album Reimagination, Motown songwriting great Lamont Dozier sings some the hits he co-write with Brian and Eddie Holland — including Martha Reeves & the Vandellas' “In My Lonely Room,” premiering exclusively below — like they've never been heard before. But, Dozier tells Billboard, they're as they were meant to be.
“These songs originally were created with a feel ballads,” Dozier explains. “But at the time, during the '60s, dancing was in and uptempo things, commercially speaking. So we took these ballads and counted f a faster tempo when we got in the studio, and those were the versions everybody knows. But I always felt that they could be dressed up and presented in a different form. I just figured that maybe some other time, a later date, I'd get to do them like we had originally intended.
“This is that time.”
Blending full song renditions and medleys, Reimagination's 13 tracks include torched-up favorites by the Supremes, the Four Tops, the Isley Brothers and more, with help from guests such as Todd Rundgren (on “In My Lonely Room”), Graham Nash, Lee Ann Womack, Gregory Porter, Cliff Richard, Marc Cohn and others. They don't have the pep the singles the world knows and loves, but Dozier feels they stand up in these quieter arrangements.
“The chords in a lot these, like 'In My Lonely Room,' just lent themselves to pretty ballads if you wanted to go that way one day,” explains Dozier, who was originally approached by producer Fred Mollin 15 years ago with this idea. “The songs are very intricate, chord-wise, with backgrounds and different arrangements. They lend themselves to being what this album turned out to be. These things were very poignant and could have these types arrangements for people to see the songs in a different light. Fred had the same feeling and we were on the same wavelength, so I gave him the football and the bat and he ran with it.”
The guest list was Mollin's idea, according to Dozier, with most picking the songs they wanted to be on. Some joined him in the studio, though others, such as Rundgren, recorded separately. “Todd and I went to dinner, had met before,” Dozier says. “I've always loved Todd. We appreciate each other's talents and work over the years. He picked that (song) out himself, and I loved his backing vocals. It brought tears to my eyes when I heard what he had done.”
It may not take another 15 years for Dozier to delve into this musical concept again, either. With Reimagination out June 1, he's holding out the possibility a sequel — and maybe even more.
“As we went through the stage we realized that, 'Hey, we can do this another couple times. We have enough here for three other sequels!'” says Dozier, who's finishing work on a memoir called Thanks For The Challenge. “We'll see how this one does but, yeah, we're thinking about doing other ones. There were, like, 50 No. 1s and 76 top 10s, a lot in the short time the Holland brothers and I were together. We can even make them more contemporary, what's happening today, arrangement-wise, to give a different approach to them — the same feeling but with a facelift, so to speak.”