Concentrating on their singles career, this 25 track collection appeared on the Motown label in 1997 when it was licensed to Polygram, and covers the period from their first Motown single, Baby I Need Your Loving, up to 1972 when they first left the label (they were back between 1983 and 1986).
Nearly all the hit singles are present so it is easier to itemise what isn't: their cover of Tim Hardin's If I Were A Carpenter, a bigger hit here than in the US; Do What You Gotta Do, not a single in the US; Don't Let Him Take Your Love From Me, not a single in the UK and only a minor hit in the US; Just Seven Numbers, and In These Changing Times, both only minor hits, extracted from the Changing Times album; Walk With Me Talk With Me Darling, not a single in the US; and their two-part version of MacArthur Park, a non-album single that wasn't even released in the UK and which one probably has to buy Anthology to get hold of on CD.
It also includes 4 popular B-sides including their great original version of I Got A Feeling, better known in its cover by Barbara Randolph. Three of these were taken from albums but one, If You Don't Want My Love, was only ever the B-side of You Keep Running Way, perhaps making its debut on CD.
Most of the songs were produced by Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier, with whom they had a string of huge hits, but a handful were produced by Mickey Stevenson, Ivy Jo Hunter, Johnny Bristol and others.
It states in the liner notes that "The Ultimate Collections feature the original 45 rpm versions. Album sources are issued for reference purposes; the LP versions were very often different mixes, and sometimes different performances." What this means in practice is that all but 2 tracks - Still Water (Love) and (It's The Way) Nature Planned It - are mono versions which I suppose means that Motown hope to have us buy the parent albums as well to get the stereo mixes
A strong collection of Four Tops music
One of Motown's finest groups of the sixties, the Four Tops will be forever remembered for Reach out I'll be there, a timeless classic which opens this set. It was number one in Britain, America and many other countries.
This collection includes many other big hits, including Bernadette, I can't help myself, Standing in the shadows of love and Its the same old song, all huge hits in Britain and America.
Their first success came via Baby I need your loving, which gave them a top 20 American hit, but the song was covered by the Fourmost and it was their version that charted in Britain.
This is not a complete collection, as it omits If I were a carpenter and River deep mountain high, a song they recorded with the Supremes after Diana Ross left that group, but it really requires a double-CD to do full justice to this excellent group. Nevertheless, if you just want a single CD, all the tracks that really matter are here, superbly re-mastered.
on 14 March 2006
The Four Tops were formed in Detroit, Michigan in 1953 though they never really struck lucky until they signed to Berry Gordys pioneering all-black record label, Tamla Motown Records, home to many legendary soul acts including Diana Ross, The Supremes, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, The Isley Brothers, Stevie Wonder, Martha Reeves And The Vandellas, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Marvelettes and many, many more.
The Four Tops were just simply a KNOCKOUT! Lead singer Levi Stubbs rocketing vocal delivery was capable of such impressive, immense power and volume and were one of Motowns best male acts during the companys heyday in the swinging sixties.
The Four Tops, like Diana Ross and the Supremes, enjoyed an extensive and dynamic collaboration with the genius songwriting and production trio, Holland-Dozier-Holland. Holland-Dozier-Holland helped put Motown Records on the map by creating and defining that classic Motown sound of the 60's along with the legendary muscian team known as The Funk Brothers. The Four Tops enjoyed a river of classics through the duration of the 1960's with the most magical of these offerings recorded under the guidance of Holland-Dozier-Holland.
I Can't Help Myself, one of The Four Tops signature tunes, contained a hooky melody and lyrics that could appeal to both the spirited and the saccharine. Levi Stubbs inimitable and persuasive voice on this classic is just pure SOUL! I Can't Help Myself shot up the charts landing at No.1.
The follow up to I Can't Help Myself, the appropriately titled It's The Same Old Song admitedly lacked the initial immediacy of that track but still holds its own individual merits and became another classic to their credit.
In 1966 The Four Tops literally exploded onto the charts with the far more adventurous and highly ambitious Reach Out I'll Be There. Reach Out I'll Be There was haunting and atmospheric in its tone. Levi Stubbs puts in another phenomenal, breathtaking performance with his grittily earthy, soulful delivery seamlessly surfboarding along the tidal wave of musical arrangements that consists of flutes, oboes and tambourines. It also delivered The Four Tops their first real taste of big chart success in the U.K. In the U.S Reach Out I'll Be There became their second chart topper.
The Four Tops music was always dramatically orchestrated that lands somewhere between soul,r&b and pop. Their staggeringly impressive run of hits continued with the magnificent Standing In The Shadows Of Love where there diverse and unique blend of harmonies gel remarkably well together which adds to its dazzling, magical effect.
Bernadatte was yet another infectious classic with its masterpiece musical production and astounding delivery from Levi Stubbs but there is a far darker and more atmospheric mood on the chilly and haunting 7 Rooms Of Gloom. Stubbs' whips along the verses with utter conviction that's literally spine-tingling across the rollercoaster and stark musical arrangements.
Holland-Dozier-Holland swiftly left Motown Records in early 1968 after a bitter dispute over back royalty payments with Motown boss Berry Gordy (many of Motowns stars subsequently sued the company years later for claims of unpaid record royalties). The Motown sound was slowly dissolving after their departure and was virtually extinct by the early 70's following Motowns headquarters move from downtown Detroit to swinging L.A. As a result The Four Tops chart-action became erratic.
They did still manage to come up with some winners. Their divine, unique cover of The Left Bankes' Walk Away Renee, which is arguably far more effective than the origanal and mereley conveyed Levi Stubbs versatile vocal approach. Walk Away Renee commendably proved that Stubbs' unforgetable voice could be just as effective when working on ballads. Walk Away Renee may have been sombre in its tone though still had a touching quality.
Another excellent ballad from The Four Tops that emerged in the late 60's was another atmospheric number, Still Waters Run. This classic hit was a remarkably exhilirating masterpiece featuring an exuberant performance from Stubbs. Still Waters Run also captures Stubbs' at perharps his smoochiest.
It's All In The Game and If I Were A Carpenter both encapsulate that swinging Motown sound and both are of significant value to this collection. However by the early 70's their once unstoppable momentum was now sadly beginning to wear thin. The Four Tops fled from Motown Records in the early 70s and had a number of record deals that didn't amount to too much and gradually they faded from view (though enjoyed a few minor revivals in the 1980's).
To this day The Four Tops continue to sporadically perform on the customary golden oldies circuit but its their glorious, golden 1960's era for what they will always be remembered for. This compilation titled The Ultimate Collection guides you through these fabulous, ground-breaking classics and capture the group at their prime. The Four Tops - The Ultimate Collection is ESSENTIAL to any serious soul music collection!
on 11 May 2016
It is hard to go wrong with a Four Tops hits collection, and this is no exception. You get 24 fabulous tracks by one of the best vocal groups of all time, and all for less than a fiver. And as if that's not enough, buy it from Amazon and they'll throw in a free MP3 copy. How good is that? There are classics aplenty to enjoy here. Pick of the bunch...
REACH OUT, I'LL BE THERE - One of the best tracks ever from Motown. Levi Stubbs delivers his rousing lines with conviction (even though it is said that, initially, he wasn't impressed by the song)
ASK THE LONELY - Stunningly haunting, with emotive vocals and a touching lyric
WALK AWAY RENEE - Musical perfection. A seriously strong sung, and the ultimate interpretation of it
My only reservation about this album - and the reason why it falls short of five stars - is the absence of "BABY I NEED YOUR LOVING", possibly the Four Tops' finest moment. Put this aside, however, and you have an admirable CD, and a digital copy to boot.
on 22 September 2009
In the 60s and 70s i wasnt really in to Motown but having hit my 50s for some reason im really now into it all and i really love it! Four Tops and the Temptations are my favourite. If you have never been in to Motown then this Album is a good place to start..the Harmonies and the Productions of theses songs are so powerful you feel like its gotten in to your Soul!!They may only have one original member i believe in their current line-up but the Magic of their songs will live on for ever to many more generations to come...
on 15 August 2008
I decided to take a walk in the past and buy this collection - it's superb. It's sing-a-long as every track is well known, well remembered. None of it has dated, none of it. The voices are superb, blending so perfectly on every track. My only complaint, it isn't long enough but then the CD player will keep repeating it until I stop it, so that isn't too much of a problem...
It's sunshine music. It's memories and good listening, it's sing-a-long and listenable, it's every cliché in the book and then some.
Sadly, three-quarters of the Four Tops are dead now, but when you listen to these timeless twenty-five tracks it`s hard to believe.
This music lives and breathes!
Never has a soul singer sung with a more sweat-soaked urban intensity than the late great Levi Stubbs. He`s the antithesis of Al Green or Percy Sledge (much as I love them too). From the first famous chords of the miraculous Reach Out I`ll be There which open this comprehensive single-disc compilation of their Motown years - all the big, and smaller, hits are here - you`re in for a feast of hectic, passionate Detroit soul.
None of the Motown groups - not even the Temptations, their main 'rivals' - sang with such urgent passion as Levi and the lads.
My favourites are Reach Out, the immortal early hit (and contender for Best Ever Soul Single) Baby I Need Your Loving, the glorious Loving You is Sweeter Than Ever (the song that originally got me into the Tops), and the trio of implausibly catchy hits Something About You, It`s the Same Old Song, and I Can`t Help Myself.
All are here, along with such gems as Without the One You Love, their magical and very different version of the Left Banke hit Walk Away Renee, You Keep Running Away, the frantic 7 Rooms of Gloom, the marvellous Shake Me, Wake me, and many others.
I can`t express adequately in words how much I love the Four Tops. My throat constricts when I think that heroic-voiced Levi and two of his musical compadres are long gone, but then I play this stunning collection, and I feel a hell of a lot better.
These 'Ultimate' collections from Motown are exemplary, and as usual there`s an excellent booklet included, with several photos, and notes about the history of the band.
on 14 April 2009
I had to buy this CD because my collection was missing certain tracks that are on this CD.....marvellous !
on 5 October 2012
Like all the main Motown acts The Four Tops produced a string of excellent singles. They often relied on the genius services of Holland-Dozier-Holland to write them a scorcher BUT they also had an awesome singer in Levi Stubbs.
You want heart-wrenching angst, soul-searing pathos or, perhaps, fist-pumping stoicism? You got it! A three-minute single turns into a tour-de-force 'kitchen sink drama'; Levi could sing the telephone directory and make it sound soulful!
Classics? Try 'Can't Help Myself', 'Reach Out I'll Be There', 'Ask The Lonely' and 'I'm In A Different World' for starters. It's a pity they haven't included the fantastic 'Do What You Gotta Do' (a big British hit from 1969) but you can always get that on one of the other Motown compilations.
Nearly every song here has music and lyrics that match Dylan and the Beatles at their 60s best. You can sing, dance, laugh and cry - what more can you want for ?! The re-mastering sounds fine to me, with plenty of bass. An UTTER classic.
Like the compilation from the same series by the Tops' stable-mates, the Supremes, this compilation is unfortunately in mono. However, there is a more serious issue. The Supremes Ultimate Collection faithfully mirrored the US charts, including - in almost perfect sequence - all their Top 40 hits up to Diana Ross' departure. This collection, however, is out of sequence, and omits four of the Tops' Motown top 40 hits, including their immortal take on If I were a Carpenter, in favour of less notable songs.
With these reservations, it is still a reasonable selection, showcasing the first three stages of the Tops' chart career: the early hits, funkier than the Supremes but more restrained than the Temptations; the middle period, beginning with Reach out I'll be there, which took Tamla to a new and higher level; and the fascinating era of the late 60s, where they became perhaps the "best covers band" ever, with such diverse songs as Walk away Renee, Simple Game and All in the Game (plus the sadly missing "Carpenter".
There are better collections of the Tops available, though you would need to do some careful research on whether they are in stereo, and (crucially) whether they are originals or the infamous "re-recorded to enhance your listening pleasure". This album does, at least, give you the genuine article, even if only in mono.
To end on a positive note, I had never heard Something About You before, as the single missed the UK charts; the backing is a classic example of a repetitive, hypnotic Motown riff.