REVIEW BY: David Bowling
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/10/2008
Motown soul is synonymous with such artists as Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye and even Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. The Four Tops, however, are often an afterthought, which is unfortunate as the group has accumulated over twenty Top Forty hits and left an indelible mark in the field of soul music.
The Four Tops, founded in
Reach Out, issued in 1967, would find the group at the height of their popularity. In an era when an album would be issued around one hit single (or two if the artist was lucky), this disc produced six top twenty songs.
The great songwriting and producing team of Holland-Dozier-Holland left the Motown label shortly after the release of this album because of money issues, but their parting gift to the Four Tops was a quartet of hit songs. The number one song “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” plus “Standing In The Shadows Of Love,” “Bernadette” and “7 Rooms Of Gloom” all made their debuts in the ensuing months.
The final two hits from Reach Out were unusual for a Motown artist in that they were cover songs from other genres of music; the country folk song “If I Were A Carpenter” and the old Left Banke hit “Walk Away Renee” were re-worked into rousing soul editions by the Four Tops, a feat only tremendously talented and flexible groups were able to accomplish.
Despite the brilliance of the aforementioned six songs, there are nevertheless some misses on this album; The Four Tops continued the Motown tradition of covering too many hit songs of the day, and the results here and elsewhere are usually not good, such as their versions of the The Monkees hits “Last Train To Clarkesville” and “I’m A Believer” and the Association’s “Cherish,” which are almost embarrassing and have lazy production.
Reach Out and the follow-up Greatest Hits album found the Four Tops at the zenith of their career. Though the group continued to have success though the 1970s and had no line-up changes until the 1997 death of Lawrence Payton, they never released an album equal in quality and quantity to this.
Reach Out remains an excellent example of 60s soul music by a group that never quite received enough acclaim. Forty years later, it remains an essential album in the history of soul music.