Tuesday, 9 October 2018

The Four Tops - Reach Out (1967)


  

Released July 1967

This was the peak of The Four Tops' career, and by far their best-selling album. After the somewhat schizophrenic nature of their previous album, "On Top", which had one side of classic Motown and one of inessential, schmaltzy covers, this one redressed the balance, slightly, in favour of quality Motown material. The album is in stereo and has a pretty good sound quality. This would prove to be the group's last album with legendary songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland, who left Motown after this in a financial dispute. Quite what possessed Motown to commission drawings/paintings of some of their groups for several album covers such as this one is unclear. They were pretty awful.

The copper-bottomed classic, "Reach Out I'll Be There" kicks things off. No much more can be said about this true classic, with Levi Stubbs' vocal peerless throughout the song. The beautiful, soulful "Walk Away Renee" is another true classic, although it has always suffered somewhat from poor sound, in my opinion. "Seven Rooms Of Gloom" is up next as the hits just keep coming. It is actually quite a complex song, with what is, I am sure, a difficult vocal to deliver and a huge, pulsating bass line. Need a break from hits? Not yet, now we get the sublime Tim Hardin cover, "If I Were A Carpenter", with its melodic keyboard intro and, once again, wonderful vocal. It features another magnificent James Jamerson bass line. Great stuff.

For some reason, the producers of The Four Tops saw for for the group to cover Monkees hit singles during this period. On this album we get "Last Train To Clarksville" and "I'm A Believer", both of which are sung impressively, but inessential. "Believer" is played wonderfully, though, with a big, thumping bass. I would rather the originals, to be honest. In between these two, though, is another Motown classic "I'll Turn To Stone", which found popularity in the seventies on the UK Northern Soul scene. It is one of my favourite Four Tops tracks - an uplifting, lively, soulful and underrated song.

The classics don't end, though, the iconic "Reach Out part two" of "Standing In The Shadows Of Love" and the powerful, bassy "Bernadette" further enhance what is already a corker of an album. "Cherish" is a cover, but it is has a Motown feel in its backing. The last two tracks, "Wonderful Baby" and "What Else Is There To Do (But Think About You)" are perfectly ok, but lack something quite as mighty in them as compared to what has been before. Overall, though, this is The Four Tops' finest sixties album.

B-

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