THE SUPREMES AND FOUR TOPS: Magnificent (Label: Hip-O, Motown)

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In 1968 after a very successful TV show which paired the Supremes and the Temptations, the Motown execs had the bright idea of getting the two super groups into the studio for a series of albums. The success of that project encouraged the marketeers to try something similar in 1970 by putting the now Diana Ross-less Supremes together with the Four Tops and the two groups subsequently went on to release three albums as a team – 1970’s ‘The Magnificent 7’, ‘The Return Of The Magnificent 7’ and ‘Dynamite’ – both from 1971…and it’s that trio of LPs that forms the core of this double CD. Musically, the result of the pairing was patchy and commercially it yielded just the one significant hit – a poppy rework of Phil Spector’s bombast classic ‘River Deep Mountain High’. But any album that features the searing lead of Levi Stubbs must be a must, while even those with the clotheist of ears would agree that Jean Terrell was a whole lot more soulful than La Ross ever was (or will be!). More, as with most Hip-O releases the package boasts a whole load of previously unreleased tracks – 13 to be exact, and each and every one is as good as anything that made it onto the released albums. Like the released stuff it’s a mix of new material and covers of both familiar Motown material and pop/soul chestnuts like ‘It’s Your Thing’, ‘Joy To The World’ and ‘Gimme Some Loving’. They’re all OK … typical Motown circa 1970 – but when the song’s really special the result is sensational, as on Duke Browner’s ‘When I’m With You’ – which is right up there with the best Motown ballads. The same applies to the more familiar material of the released albums. The really good songs (‘Hello Stranger’, ‘If I Could Build My Whole Around You’, ‘Stoned Soul Picnic’, ‘Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing’ and ‘It’s Got To Be A Miracle This Thing Called Love’) are delights anew with Stubbs and Terrell on lead, but things like ‘It’s Impossible’, ‘Love The One You’re With’ and ‘If’ have filler written all over them even though Levi does manage to get a little something from their inherent lightness.
(BB) 3/5