FOUR TOPS: Lost Without You, Motown Lost And Found (Label: Hip-O-Select, Motown)

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FOUR TOPS: Lost Without You, Motown Lost And Found

This lovely two CD, 41 track collection is the latest limited edition Hip-O-Select collection to win release to a wider audience via Universal’s Import Music service. It would be stating the obvious to say that the album is a must for Tops’ fans in particular and Motown collectors in general – but it is! However, some caution is advised. The set claims that almost all of the cuts have never previously been available. However, the album was originally released 2005 in the US, but since then tracks like ‘It’s A Lonely World Without You’ have seen the light of day on UK-assembled albums like the ‘Cellarful Of Motown’ sets. So don’t be surprised to find yourself thinking that you’ve heard quite a few of the songs before – despite their billing. That familiarity awareness will be heightened by the fact that several of the songs are old Motown war horses. As was the way with the Gordy machine, lots of different artists were asked to record the same songs, with the best efforts winning release. So here, apart from the aforementioned ‘It’s A Lonely World Without You (usually associated with the Temptations), you also get Tops’ takes on Billy Eckstine’s ‘Fantasy’, Chris Clark’s ‘Sweeter As The Days Go By’ and Marvin’s ‘ ‘Get My Hands On Some Loving’. That one, by the way, is one of set’s standouts – vintage Motown, as is the included alternate take on ‘Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever’ – more familiarity. Of the real rarities ‘Old Fashioned Man’ is a lovely ballad that Levi’s voice just keeps out of the middle of the road, while a cover of Gary Puckett’s pop hit ‘Woman Woman’ is quite superb. The Obie-led ‘What You Gonna Do’ is another winner while there are a couple of Levi solos. ‘Never Say No To Your Baby’ and ‘Have A Little Faith’ are both unfinished cuts; the Tops’ background vocals were never added and you get the flavour of what the mighty Stubbs might have sounded like out there on his own. But Levi was always a team player and though his magnificent voice (surely one of soul’s truest) dominates the collection Obie, Lawrence, and Duke are more than bit players. Indeed it’s Duke’s informative liner notes that truly bring the music to life. His reminiscences and asides add to the legend of the Four Tops and it’s so sad to know that we’ll never hear their like again! The collection is available via Universal’s Import Music Services – but it’s a limited edition so if you want it, act quickly.
(BB) 4/5