by Alison Houston
CUSHNEY Roberts has been singing the music of Motown professionally for over 20 years, but believes his first original release, Together We Stand, has a sound and a message for today.
Cushney is founder and lead singer of male quartet Spectrum which, together with female quartet Radiance, which Cushney also founded, performs Songs in the Key of Motown at The Arthouse, Wyong on Tuesday, June 12.
It's the sixth time the two bands, whose home is Las Vegas, where Spectrum is one of the few bands to have played every Casino on the strip, have shared the stage in Australian tours.
The bands have performed sell-out concerts around the world, both individually and together, but deliver a "custom-made" show for Australian audiences, including hits that made it big here but not in the US, such as Walk Away Renee.
And it's the first time Aussie crowds will hear the song written for Cushney by The Ink Spots' Lou Ragland, Together We Stand, the underlying theme of which, Cushney told Seniors News from Las Vegas, goes far beyond a simple love song.
"It's powerful from a lot of different perspectives, and the theme of connection and togetherness is definitely a good one and very relevant in today's world," he said.
"It's something people can sink their teeth into; it's got a good beat and you can dance to it like crazy as well."
Cushney said while it was a modern song, it fitted well with the classics the bands performed, and reflected Motown's history of music uniting people through a sound to which everyone can relate.
The classics, as far as Cushney is concerned, are the music he grew up with, including The Four Tops, The Platters, The Temptations and the Jackson Five, while the girls take on the likes of Diana Ross, and pay tribute to the music of The Supremes and Martha and The Vandellas.
Cushney said, just as the music was "conceived with the idea of reaching as many people as possible", the bands got a great reception around the world, particularly in Australia.
He hailed Berry Gordy, the creator of Motown Records and the Motown sound, as "a visionary", who was able to bring together "talented burgeoning artists, youth, energy, great writers and great ideas in perfect harmony - pardon the pun".
He said even if Motown wasn't someone's favourite music, few actively disliked it as they might dislike other genres, whether hip hop, heavy metal or opera.
"People come back after the show and say, 'I didn't realise how many Motown songs I knew' - it's snuck into their psyche even if it's not the music they would normally listen to, and it hits a mark," Cushney said.
And while the tunes may be 40 to almost 60 years old now, the bands never tired of the songs, often switching between lead singers to keep the presentation fresh.
Their biggest headache, he said, was choosing what songs not to include.
"I think people really enjoy the high energy that goes into the show," Cushney said.
"It's not an impersonation, but we stay true to what made the music great in the first place, and we pride ourselves on the presentation and costuming, which is really something, with several wardrobe changes."
And, he said, the bands loved to talk to fans after the show, with Meet and Greets after each gig.
Tickets are $54.50-$59.50. For show bookings, phone (02)43351485 and look for the Together We Stand featuring Cushney Roberts video on Youtube.