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.
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
The Four Tops – 1967 – Reach Out
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.
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.
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
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)
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
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’sGordy 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(#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”