What is a man....
Released in 1969
As with many of The Four Tops albums, this is a mixture of some excellent singles, some underrated album tracks and probably too many covers (particularly of Beatles numbers). Even in 1969, Motown were still pursuing the policy of trying to win a more "adult" market, hence the "easy listening" covers. Either way, there is no doubt as to the quality of the singing, the instrumentation and sound quality is outstanding too.
1. The Key
2. What Is A Man
3. My Past Just Crossed My Future
4. Don't Let Him Take Your Love From Me
5. Eleanor Rigby
6. Little Green Apples
7. Do What You Gotta Do
8. MacArthur Park
9. Don't Bring Back Memories
10. Wish I Didn't Love You So
11. Opportunity Knock (For Me)
12. The Fool On The Hill
On to the music - the three singles are the little-mentioned but impressively soulful The Key, the harmonious, brooding What Is A Man, with its superb Levi Stubbs vocal and the wonderful, emotional Do What You Gotta Do. My Past Just Crossed My Future, with its Beatles-influenced Eastern instrumentation is an impressive cut too. The classic Motown sound continues with another great track in Don't Let Him Take Your Love From Me. As with so many of The Four Tops sixties albums, it starts really well, and then the covers come along and it becomes a bit less convincing. Here they cover The Beatles' Eleanor Rigby, turning it into a pulsating, Otis Redding/Wilson Pickett-style soul ballad. To be fair, it has its good points, with a great bass line and confident vocal. Little Green Apples is slowed down to walking pace at the beginning, although the chorus picks it up a bit, but it lacks the trademark Motown sound that had so enhanced the first few tracks on the album.
The quality is restored with the afore-mentioned Do What You Gotta Do, however, which is magnificent Motown heartbreaker. I never tire of this song and its evocative vocal. Classic stuff. I have never particularly liked the song MacArthur Park, but this is one of the better covers of it, deep and soulful and the orchestration toned down a bit. Don't Bring Back Memories is a lively piece of "proper Motown". The same applies to Wish I Didn't Love You So. Opportunity Knocks (For Me) is a bona fide slice of Motown soul, made so by another powerful, muscular Stubbs vocal. The cover of The Beatles' The Fool On The Hill is not a success, I have to say, unfortunately. It is not a soul song and doesn't translate as one.
Overall, this was a pretty good album, despite the covers, there is still some good, "forgotten" Motown material on here.