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STILL THE TOPS...!,
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This review is from: 50th Anniversary The Singles Collection 1964-1972 (Audio CD)
With its lavish, book-like packaging and detailed annotations about every track -including the anorak's dream of recording session information - this is a truly appropriate tribute to one of Motown Records' key acts.
Spearheaded by the powerful lead vocals of Levi Stubbs, who was ably supported by the harmonic blend of his band mates Lawrence Payton, Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Abdul "Duke" Fakir, The Four Tops' partnership with the Motown writing and production team of Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland (H-D-H) coalesced to create some of the label's most enduring works. From the yearning and desolation of 'Baby I Need Your Loving' and 'Ask The Lonely' to the rhythmically adventurous pinnacles of 'Reach Out I'll Be There', 'Standing In The Shadows Of Love' and the pulsating '7 Rooms Of Gloom', it was perhaps no surprise that The Four Tops felt the loss of the H-D-H team more than other acts at Motown; as Duke explains in the sleevenotes, the group were "musically brokenhearted" following H-D-H's acrimonious departure from the label for which they had written so many timeless hits. It was after some less successful - though no less interesting singles - like 'What Is A Man' and 'Don't Bring Back Memories' (the latter for The Temptations' new guide Norman Whitfield) that The Four Tops found their feet again with producer Frank Wilson, for whom they recorded a scintillating version of 'It's All In The Game', whose revolving vocal arrangement allowed each Four Top to sing lead, and the exquisitely blissful mood piece 'Still Water (Love)' b/w 'Still Water (Peace)'.
As a testament to how much The Four Tops were admired here in the UK, much of disc 3 is given over to a wealth of British-only singles like their Top 20 cover of Jimmy Webb's 'Do What You Gotta Do' and their fruitful, if unusual, collaboration with The Moody Blues on the tracks 'Simple Game' (showcased here in both its UK and US mixes) and 'So Deep Within You'.
Having previously bought The Four Tops' ULTIMATE COLLECTION compilation, the remastering on this new set, conducted once again by Kevin Reeves, is this time uniformly excellent, with the tracks sounding rather less tinny than they were apt to on his work with the aforementioned set. One small criticism, though, is with the sequencing of both halves of 'MacArthur Park' at the end of disc 2. The notes do explain that 'Part 2' was originally the "plug side" for the purposes of radio airplay, but placing the second half of the song in front of the first on this CD makes the track sound, well, a bit odd really.
Well worth its relatively hefty price tag, this exhaustive round-up of The Four Tops' singles is a beautiful set which even the group's most encyclopaedic followers will be tempted to add to their collections.
It's a limited edition, folks, so get it while you can.