The Four Tops – 2nd album – Reach Out – Still Waters Run Deep – Nature Planned It

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In Memory of Levi Stubbs

The Four Tops – 1965 – Second Album

The Four Tops‘ second album and quite possibly the most hitbound of all their early Motown work! Thethe perennial favorites “I Can’t Help Myself” and “It’s The Same Old Song” as well as a totally winning batch of other tunes, all produced to perfection by the Holland/Dozier team! The sound is classic Motown all the way through still some nice rough edges on the group’s vocals and killer lead work from Levi Stubbs.

Tracks
A1 I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) 2.43
A2 Love Feels Like Fire 2.03
A3 Is There Anything That I Can Do 3.02
A4 Something About You 3.00
A5 It’s The Same Old Song 2.44
A6 Helpless 2.39
B1 Just As Long As You Need Me 3.07
B2 Darling, I Hum Our Song 2.18
B3 I Like Everything About You 2.16
B4 Since You’ve Been Gone 2.38
B5 Stay In My Lonely Arms 2.16
B6 I’m Grateful 2.42

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The Four Tops – 1967 – Reach Out

Tracks
A1 Reach Out I’ll Be There 3.01
A2 Walk Away Renee 2.45
A3 7 Rooms Of Gloom 2.35
A4 If I Were A Carpenter 2.50
A5 Last Train To Clarksville 2.41
A6 I’ll Turn To Stone 2.29
B1 I’m A Believer 2.38
B2 Standing In The Shadows Of Love 2.39
B3 Bernadette 3.03
B4 Cherish 3.13
B5 Wonderful Baby 2.35
B6 What Else Is There To Do (But Think About You) 2.31

Though it’s one of the best Four Tops records of the ’60s, Reach Out still feels weighted down by a few vain attempts at adult pop crossover. It certainly starts out right, with the glorious “Reach out, I’ll Be There,” the group’s second pop/R&B chart-topper. After a faithful cover of the Left Banke’s “Walk Away Renee,” though, listeners are forced to sit through trite versions of “If I Were a Carpenter,” “Last Train to Clarksville,” and “I’m a Believer” to get to real highlights like the dramatic, impassioned “Standing in the Shadows of Love” and “Bernadette.” There is room for a great lesser single (“I’ll Turn to Stone”), but the flip side finds the Four Tops taking on “Cherish,” which could’ve worked well but didn’t. Reach Out still did better than any other original LP by the group, almost breaking the Top Ten.

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The Four Tops – 1970 – Still Waters Run Deep

By the time the album were released, The Four Tops weren’t very high on Motown’s priority list. That’s really a shame because this album contained some of their strongest material. Frank Wilson was the appointed producer the production is top notch, using many of Motown’s highly talented musicians. Some of the recordings truly stand out. Although skimpy in the lyric department, “Still Water (Love)” is a true R&B classic. The Tops rendition of “Reflections” is better and tighter than the Supremes original version, in my opinion. “Love Is The Answer” brings back memories from when I was a child. (I owned a copy of the single.) It’s a fun song with some really swinging horns.

Tracks
A1 Still Water (Love) 3.10
A2 Reflections 3.26
A3 It’s All In The Game 2.46
A4 Everybody’s Talking 2.55
A5 Love Is The Answer 2.27
B1 I Wish I Were Your Mirror 3.11
B2 Elusive Butterfly 3.09
B3 Bring Me Together 3.00
B4 L.A. (My Town) 3.09
B5 Still Water (Peace) 2.44

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Four Tops ‎Nature Planned It front cover

The Four Tops – 1972 – Nature Planned It

Positive proof that Motown was capable of putting out a good Four Tops LP without the aid of Holland, Dozier and Holland. Levi Stubbs’ warm, emotive baritone takes Ashford and Simpson’s “I Am Your Man” to the river and back. “It’s the Way Nature Planned It” is one of the group’s top songs, with an engaging lead and Abdul Fakir, Lawrence Payton and Renaldo Benson’s smooth harmonies. The medley “Hey Man – We Got to Get You a Woman” garnered quite a few spins when released, the song has a happy optimistic feel that went over well. “I’ll Never Change” and “I Can’t Quit Your Love” are both sung by Stubbs near the top of his register, adding even more fuel to the already dynamic arrangement. The public liked this one as it rose to #50 on Billboard’s Top 200 Album Chart, a decent showing for an LP that didn’t have a Top Ten single. (Andrew Hamilton, AMG)

Tracks
A1 I Am Your Man 3.12
A2 (It’s the Way) Nature Planned It 3.38
A3 I’ll Never Change 2.42
A4 She’s an Understanding Woman 2.56
A5 I Can’t Quit Your Love 2.59
A6 Walk With Me Talk With Me Darling 2.39
B1 Medley : 4.57
i. Hey Man
ii. We Got To Get You a Woman
B2 You Got To Forget Him Darling 2.43
B3 If You Let Me 2.48
B4 Happy (Is a Bumpy Road) 2.54
B5 How Will I Forget You 2.45

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One of Motown’s most consistent hitmakers and its longest lived lineup (40 years), the Four Tops were the most stable and consistent vocal groups to emerge from Motown Records in the ’60s, charting with scores of upbeat love songs featuring Levi Stubbs’ rough hewn lead vocals.The Four Tops were products of Detroit’s North End. Levi Stubbs and Abdul “Duke” Fakir sang together in a group while attending Pershing High School. Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton were boyhood friends and attended Northern High together in Detroit who. It was while singing at a friends birthday party in 1954 they found they were good at it. They began practicing the next day and soon began calling themselves the Four Aims.

Roquel “Billy” Davis who was Larry Payton’s cousin, sometimes sang with the group as the fifth Aim and was later to be Berry Gordy’s songwriting partner sent a demo tape to Chess Records in Chicago. They were sent a bus ticket and invited to Chicago to audition. It seems that Chess was more interested in Davis’ writing skill than the group. However Davis’ persistence ended up with their being signed to Chess Records in 1956. They then changed their name to the Four Tops to avoid confusion with the Ames Brothers. They only recorded one single with Chess “Kiss Me Baby’ which flopped. They then went to Red Top and Riverside before they were signed by John Hammond to Columbia in 1960 where they recorded “Ain’t That Love.” This was the first of a string of supper club style flops that lasted for seven years on a number of labels. All the while, they were performing in top clubs. The Four Tops toured with the Billy Eckstine revue in the early ’60s.

By 1964, they had signed with old friend Berry Gordy’s Motown Records. Gordy had them record “Breaking Through” for his experimental Workshop Jazz subsidiary. Later that year they were finally directed toward contemporary soul. Under the wing of Motown’s top production and recording team, Holland-Dozier-Holland, the Four Tops were launched with “Baby I Need Your Loving,” which went to #11 in 1964. Over the next eight years The Four Tops appeared on the charts almost thirty times, and Levi Stubbs became an international star and became an influence on singers from the Sixties to the present time.

The Four Top’s 1965 hits included “Ask the Lonely” (#24), “Same Old Song” (#5), and “I Can’t Help Myself” (#1). “Reach Out and I’ll Be There” hit #1 in October, 1966, followed by “Standing in the Shadows of Love” (#6) in 1967.

Like other Motown acts, the Four Tops became popular in major nightclubs around the world. Like virtually all of Motown’s top acts, The Four Tops sought longevity and stability of a career built equally on live appearances and records. In 1967 they had hits with “Bernadette” (#4) and “Seven Rooms of Gloom” (#14); but when Holland-Dozier-Holland left in 1967, their charting hits declined. In fact two of their bigger charting hits of 1968 were covers: the Left Banke’s “Walk Away Renee” (#14) and Tim Hardin’s “If I Were a Carpenter” (#20). However, the Tops did record a number of adventurous and successful records with other Motown producers, including “River Deep, Mountain High,” with the Jean Terrell led Supremes (#14 pop, #7 R&B, 1970) and “Still Water” (#11 pop, #4 R&B, 1970. In addition Obie Benson cowrote Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.”

In 1972, the Four Tops moved to ABC/Dunhill records where they recorded a couple of million sellers “Keeper of the Castle (#10) and in 1973 “There Ain’t No Woman” (#4). It was only a brief pop chart resurgence, but the Tops continued to have Top 20 R&B hits.

In 1981 they moved to Casablanca Records and had a hit with “When She Was My Girl” (#11 pop, #1 R&B). Two years later they were back at Motown and after performing in a “battle of bands” with the Temptations on the Motown 25th anniversary television special, they began the first of several coheadlining tours with the Temptations, billed as T ‘n’ T. The first tour ran nearly three years, went around the world, and include sold out stint on Broadway.

In 1986 Stubbs provided the voice for the man-eating plant in the film Little Shop of Horrors. In 1985 the Tops had its last Motown hit “Sexy Ways” (#21 R&B). In 1988 they signed with Arista and recorded “Indestructible” (#35 pop, #66 R&B).

In 1989 the Four Tops appeared on Arethea Franklin’s Through the Storm, and in 1990 Steve Wonder inducted them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Listen up “Reach Out I’ll Be There”

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Conversation for album: The Four Tops – 2nd album – Reach Out – Still Waters Run Deep – Nature Planned It

52 Comments
  • ksn
    Posted at 15:51h, 21 October 2008 Reply

    hey – wanted to say thanks for a wonderful blog and some real gems here. i don’t comment as often as i should, but you’ve got a great thing going here.

    the work you put into it is obvious 🙂

    cheers from NYC,
    ksn

  • Groovy Emmanuel
    Posted at 15:56h, 21 October 2008 Reply

    This is the “just arrived in town, baby” sound that came out of the blue note period of gospel music and took by storm a whole generation of youngsters that were seeking some new adventures beyond the churchland… And Hitsville,USA was the place to be! Detroit baby, cold and hot at a glance! A perfect trailer for a massive score. No other matches these guys in defining what the heck this Motown sound was all about… Nuff said bothers, a moment of silence for Levi now, music is here to stay forever!

  • Marcha
    Posted at 18:36h, 21 October 2008 Reply

    damn i love the four tops, thanks for this. R.I.P. levi, hope you’re doing a nice party up in there with marvin gaye, sam cooke and others 🙂

  • k02
    Posted at 18:41h, 21 October 2008 Reply

    Another legendary post Nikos, Thank you. R.I.P Levi Stubbs

  • Messiah of Soul Power Music Group
    Posted at 18:42h, 21 October 2008 Reply

    Amazing post Nikos…..great way to honor a legend…..thank you brother. Peace

    Messiah

  • rich
    Posted at 18:54h, 21 October 2008 Reply

    nikos many thanx for the the last two four tops albums didnt have these yet.

  • bedouin
    Posted at 18:41h, 21 October 2008 Reply

    “Still Waters Run Deep” is a great LP. Glad to see someone finally recognizing it.

  • Lord Blak
    Posted at 21:46h, 21 October 2008 Reply

    Great Post as always Nikos…

    Thanks
    Blak

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 22:27h, 21 October 2008 Reply

    And on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on…

    THX…and keep them comin’

  • Darko
    Posted at 22:38h, 21 October 2008 Reply

    One of the greatest soul groups ever! up there with The Temptations!

  • manny
    Posted at 23:17h, 21 October 2008 Reply

    thanks for posting, this is great

  • Dreamer456
    Posted at 00:25h, 22 October 2008 Reply

    Awesome post, Nikos. Always appreciate it.

  • Gea
    Posted at 01:06h, 22 October 2008 Reply

    Fantastic work man! Thank you so much.

  • tgrundy
    Posted at 03:10h, 22 October 2008 Reply

    Nikos, Thank you for posting these and for the wonderful prose you’ve written here on the group and Levi. I’ve added a link to this post in the write up I did for the Levi Stubbs “in memorium” mix I posted over on my site yesterday.

  • Chad Young
    Posted at 06:41h, 22 October 2008 Reply

    Much Thanks!!!

  • T.A.
    Posted at 09:16h, 22 October 2008 Reply

    R.I.P. Levi. What a great group? Congrats for the amazing work.

  • pegasus
    Posted at 14:22h, 22 October 2008 Reply

    True legends of soul music. Enjoy them and their great music.

  • Martin
    Posted at 14:26h, 22 October 2008 Reply

    God’s love to the Levi family. When you heard Levi Stubb’s voice you knew…”The Four Tops”. Their songs ALWAYS brought back many great memories. He will be missed.

  • BlackGodSoul
    Posted at 14:35h, 22 October 2008 Reply

    God Bless the great voices who gave us so many good times, may they rest in peace. The songs will be here forever. There has to be one hell of a band in heaven, so we all have something to look forward too someday….
    Amen

  • JTF
    Posted at 18:29h, 22 October 2008 Reply

    I’m gonna miss Levi. Long live Duke!

  • Noa
    Posted at 18:52h, 22 October 2008 Reply

    What a voice…thanks Levi for all the hours of pure joy you gave us.

  • jason
    Posted at 21:27h, 22 October 2008 Reply

    Sugar Bunch Honey Pie…..LOLOLOL Classic Levi. Great stuff.

  • XMan
    Posted at 00:26h, 23 October 2008 Reply

    Motown classics! Fantastic group.

  • iRIS
    Posted at 00:33h, 23 October 2008 Reply

    God what a voice, what a talent. He will be missed.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 01:28h, 23 October 2008 Reply

    many thanks

  • invisiblenigma
    Posted at 03:07h, 23 October 2008 Reply

    Much Thanks Nikos for this Tribute to the Four Tops! What an amazing Group. R.I.P. Levi Stubbs. Your music will live Forever!

  • Agne
    Posted at 09:21h, 23 October 2008 Reply

    RIP Levi, you were pure class.

  • rifkes
    Posted at 12:05h, 23 October 2008 Reply

    thanks for this post

  • rabs
    Posted at 19:25h, 23 October 2008 Reply

    Thanks a lot Nikos, they really were a great group and no better tribute to them than these albums.

  • Eliah
    Posted at 22:50h, 23 October 2008 Reply

    Long live the great Levi Stubbs. I feel so sad. A great lost to the world of music. That much soul in one man.

  • pegasi
    Posted at 01:57h, 24 October 2008 Reply

    Great tribute to the Four Tops and Levi Stubbs’ sublime voice. “Still Waters (Love), one of my favorites from The Tops, I still here on the radio from time to time. But the flip of that single “Still Waters (Peace)” I haven’t heard since back in the day. I’ll need to try to mix those two sides together. Thanks for the post.

    Do you have anything by Donnie Elbert? I heard a slow jam from him recently on some late night soul radio program that just blew my mind. I never caught the name of the song. Any albums from him?

    Al always, wonderful blog.

  • sssh!!
    Posted at 11:18h, 24 October 2008 Reply

    Fantastic Four Tops post. Great Work.

  • Mick
    Posted at 12:28h, 24 October 2008 Reply

    RIP Levi, you’re missed! TY for posting those definitely fav Tops albums!!

  • kizza
    Posted at 16:05h, 24 October 2008 Reply

    Another fantastic post Nikos!

  • Jaguar
    Posted at 00:28h, 25 October 2008 Reply

    Many thanks for all 6 of The Four Tops LPs.

    Levi will never be replaced.

    A sad loss for us all.

  • Jack Flash
    Posted at 16:18h, 25 October 2008 Reply

    Thanks Nikos, for this walk down memory lane…Great share…
    R.I.P. Levi

  • lemonflag
    Posted at 02:35h, 26 October 2008 Reply

    Thanks for four great albums.

  • raggedy
    Posted at 20:20h, 26 October 2008 Reply

    And — thanks again! I already have a lot of the Four Tops tracks, but it looks as if I have most of them by now. Just beautiful music.

  • Pietro
    Posted at 22:29h, 26 October 2008 Reply

    Beautiful!! Just Beautiful! Thanks for posting, friend!

  • jean
    Posted at 16:49h, 27 October 2008 Reply

    bring back memories…… wooooo thanks dude

  • phatrapper
    Posted at 13:46h, 03 November 2008 Reply

    Many thanks for this one!

  • Jay Daman
    Posted at 04:36h, 23 November 2008 Reply

    Thanks for the drops. Yo, there’s a pictorial for Levi over a the soulful Detroit forum. Check out the pictures. Don’t know who did it, but they’re bananas: http://faac.us/adf/messages/2/182966.html?1225836104

  • hecdolo
    Posted at 17:49h, 30 November 2008 Reply

    Thanks, another nice collection

  • peeper
    Posted at 19:50h, 12 December 2008 Reply

    Thanks so much for the memories! Levi had that VOICE!

  • jerome green
    Posted at 16:03h, 16 December 2008 Reply

    Hi Nikos,

    Thank you for all the beautiful Four Tops lps. I’m blessed to have heard Levi’s voice in my lifetime; he will never be forgotten.

    Peace, Jerome

  • analog6
    Posted at 09:23h, 21 December 2008 Reply

    R.I.P. Levi. And thanks Nikos for the time, effort and love you put into your blog.

  • Ayca
    Posted at 00:23h, 22 January 2009 Reply

    This is great, thank you very much.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 19:04h, 14 April 2009 Reply

    Thanks very much…… i have done the first two, excellent stuff

  • Maciko
    Posted at 10:55h, 07 May 2009 Reply

    Thanks for those Four Tops post, never heard those albums

  • Martin
    Posted at 16:59h, 29 May 2009 Reply

    In my opinion one of the best posts on “funkmysoul” 😀 Love it!

  • Mystic Melvin
    Posted at 18:36h, 25 January 2011 Reply

    Thanks for the Four Tops Second Album. It’s probably in my all time top 10 albums. It reminds me of DJing in clubs in the 60’s playing tracks off this as well the Motown 7″ around about that time,-The Spinners-The Isley Bros, & Kim Weston.

  • RCW
    Posted at 05:41h, 17 August 2017 Reply

    Thanks for albums… Can you share their album featuring I Believe In You And I?

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