Four Tops Eyeing Aretha Collab For New Album

The Four Tops can't help themselves -- they're busy making new music in addition to their active live performance schedule.

The Four Tops can't help themselves -- they're busy making new music in addition to their active live performance schedule.

The legendary Motown group has just released a single, "East Coast, West Coast," on the Jenny Jenny Records label owned by Little Richard's goddaughter Jenice Smith. The song was written and originally recorded by fellow Detroit R&B artist Paul Hill, best known for his work with George Clinton's P-Funk All Stars, and the Tops' Abdul "Duke" Fakir tells that the group plans to come with a couple of singles before releasing a new album, probably in 2008.

"It's planned old-time kind of release where we do one single, then two singles, then the album," explains Fakir, who's the lone original member left in the Tops' lineup. "We would like to get a lot of momentum on singles, 'cause people are buying singles digitally now, and we want to create something before we just put an album out there."

Fakir says the group is working on the album in-between road trips. It plans to record a song this fall with Aretha Franklin called "If We Can't Be Lovers, Let's Be Friends," which was co-written by the Tops' Lawrence "Roquel" Payton, Jr., and producer Michael Powell. "She's expressed that she'd like to do a song with us," Fakir says, "and this is a really great one for the two of us."

The rest of the album, according to Fakir, will mine the same kind of pop/R&B blend that brought the Tops fame at Motown. "We're aware of what our real demographics are," Fakir says. "We're an R&B classified group, but our audience really is 75 percent on the pop side, and always has been. We intend to probably stay that way."

Fakir says he's anxious to showcase the current Tops lineup -- Payton, former Temptations frontman Theo Peoples and Ronnie McNair -- on record, and he hopes that a Tops album in 2008 will generate enough excitement to bring out a couple of other Tops projects. The group recorded an entire album with Norman Whitfield that hasn't found a label deal yet, and it also did a limited release of a set of standards, "Goin' Home 'Round Midnight," last year.

"If we can gain momentum recording-wise and we start selling a few singles and a few albums," Fakir says, "then all these things that have been held back will be available for release. I'd like these new guys to feel what it's like to be world-renowned at the moment in the recording world. It's very exciting, and it'd be a joy for me to see them get to experience that."