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The Four Tops: The Ultimate Collection

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Album Review

The title would make you think that this was a hits compilation, but a line in small but legible print on the back cover notes, "Recorded Live At The MGM Grand, Las Vegas, 1997." Even that isn't quite true, however: this is an audio version of the Four Tops' show at the MGM Grand on August 8, 1996, captured by cameras for a video released later that marked the group's 40th anniversary. As it happened, recording a Four Tops performance at this point in their career was crucial; ten months later, on June 20, 1997, group member Lawrence Payton died of liver cancer, thus marking the first personnel change in the Four Tops' history. (Clueless annotator Tony Watts states in the album's liner notes that it was lead singer Levi Stubbs who passed away!) That said, this comes off as just one of the group's thousands of shows over the years. They sing their biggest hits, plus standards like "I've Got You Under My Skin." There is banter with the audience, particularly during "Baby I Need Your Lovin'," and it probably works better in the video than it does with only the audio to hear. The Four Tops are still in good voice, particularly Stubbs, who makes a lively frontman. A bunch of hits are grouped together in a medley toward the end, which makes more sense for a one-hour nightclub act than it does for a live album, and the show inexplicably ends with the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash." Unlike so many of their peers, the Four Tops were still going strong after 40 years with exactly the same personnel they had started with, and this album demonstrates they still sounded impressive toward the end of their run with the original four singers. But no one should buy this album supposing it contains the original recordings of their hits.


Formed: 1956 in Detroit, MI

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The Four Tops' story is one of longevity and togetherness: these Motown legends teamed up in high school and spent over four decades without a single personnel change. In between, they became one of the top-tier acts on a label with no shortage of talent, ranking with the Temptations and the Supremes as Motown's most consistent hitmakers. Where many other R&B vocal groups spotlighted a tenor-range lead singer, the Four Tops were fronted by deep-voiced Levi Stubbs, who never cut a solo record...
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