Motown Records won't celebrate its 50th anniversary until 2009, but Universal Music Group is getting the party started early.

Motown Records won't celebrate its 50th anniversary until 2009, but Universal Music Group is getting the party started early.

Hip-O Select, UMG's Web-only collectors' imprint, kicked off the fiesta Jan. 14 with "The Complete Motown Singles, Volume 1: 1959-1961." That six-CD package, in an edition of 5,000 copies, contains the A and B sides of every 45 released by Berry Gordy Jr.'s legendary soul label family during the first three years of its existence.

A second four-CD set devoted to the Detroit company's 1962 output came out May 13 in an 8,000-copy edition. The project continues in the fall with a five-CD set devoted to the 45s of '63.

"So little of what is in these first three packages had made it to the CD era, or even to the LP era," Hip-O Select senior director Thane Tierney says. "It offers an unparalleled insight into probably the only label in history where, if you say the name of the label, it sets off a sound in your head."

When the project is completed in 2008 with a package covering the label's output for 1972 (the year the label moved from Detroit to Los Angeles), it will comprise 12 volumes totaling 64 or 65 CDs. To mark Motown's 50th, a complete set will be issued in 2009 -- hopefully in a scale replica of the old Hitsville USA building. "We're going to pull out all the stops," Tierney says.

Hip-O Select also is releasing smaller projects from the Motown vaults. Marvin Gaye's previously unissued live album "At the Copa" came out in April, the Four Tops' "Lost Without You" just hit the Web site and this summer will see a four-CD box of the rare "Motortown Revue" live albums.