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April 24, 2010

Guest blog review: Baltimore Symphony's Motown pops concert with Spectrum

My co-worker at the Sun -- and darn good friend -- Lori Sears caught the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's 'Motown Tribute' Friday night and filed this report:

The Motor City rolled into Baltimore last night. The musical group Spectrum -- a four-member quartet featuring Darryl Grant, Pierre Jovan, David Prescott and Cushney Roberts -- sang the greatest hits of Motown for the audience at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. (The group also played a show at the Music Center at Strathmore on Thursday. And they'll play the Meyerhoff again at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.)

But the sweetest part of the show came not from hearing the amazing songs of R&B's heyday (that was a sweet given) but rather from these professional singers enjoying the support and backup of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra with conductor Michael Berkowitz. The songs were made fuller and even more enjoyable with the full orchestra getting their groove on, relatively speaking, with the songs. And by the looks of it, the many fans who danced in their seats and sang along with every word were thrilled at the performances.

Spectrum worked the audience well, with

lots of joking and cute quips and even a few ventures into the audience. And the group, which was formed originally as a Four Tops cover band, showed their versatility in delivering songs that ran the gamut of Motown's stars. From James Brown's "This Is a Man's World" and the Spinners' "Rubberband Man," to the Drifters' "Up on the Roof" and Stevie Wonder's "Uptight (Everything's Alright)," as well as numerous Four Tops and Temptations hits, they covered all the big bases.

While I particularly enjoyed "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" (a 1969 hit for Diana Ross and the Supremes with the Temptations), I wouldn't have minded even more girl-group songs... or even some Jackson 5 tunes. Spectrum clearly could have handled it. And speaking of handling the high bits, singer David Prescott wowed me with his spot-on falsetto on the Stylistics' "You Make Me Feel Brand New." With so many fantastic songs to choose from, and with the BSO as its backing "band," Spectrum couldn't have gone wrong with any of their choices. And they didn't.


Posted by Tim Smith at 6:52 PM | | Comments (2)


James Brown and the Drifters were not part of Motown. Both performed before Motown's creation. The Drifters were an early success of Ahmet Ertegen at Atlantic Records in New York. James Brown was from South Carolina recording for Federal Records then King, no association with Motown. While the Spinners were formed in Detroit and recorded with Motown early on with one big hit, "It's a Shame," they are far more known as part of the Philadelphia sound on Atlantic records. "Rubberband Man" hit after they left Motown.

We need to point out this truth and packaging to the BSO but applaud them for saluting such great music.

Spectrum is a is a vocal group designed to offer a tribute to the sounds of early Motown up to present day Motown groups such as Boys To Men as well as
a tribute to R&B music. Check out their web-site

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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