Motown's other stalwart soldiers of soul are finally getting their definitive due.
Motown's other stalwart soldiers of soul are finally getting their definitive due. Best buddies Levi Stubbs, Lawrence Payton, Abdul "Duke" Fakir, and Renaldo "Obie" Benson logged an amazing 43 years together before Payton's 1997 death. Initially known as the Four Aims, the quartet cut its teeth on jazz and show tunes before finding solid R&B/pop footing with 1964's "Baby I Need Your Loving." From that point—armed with Stubbs' addictive, 100-proof baritone and Payton's penchant for arranging beautifully intricate harmonies—the foursome became crossover and international chart fixtures. Spanning 1956-1992, this four-CD, 85-song compilation chronicles the group's rich Motown history, as well as its Dunhill/ABC, Casablanca, and Arista tenures—including previously unreleased tracks. The hits are all here (including the Tops' first No. 1, "I Can't Help Myself"). But in the words of writer/producer Ivy Jo Hunter, "You never heard the Four Tops sing until you've heard the stuff they are not famous for." That includes such tracks as "Ballad to: The One I Love" and the group's theme song, "The Four of Us." And Whitney Houston's fine version of "I Believe in You and Me" still can't hold a candle to Stubbs' gut-tugging original.—GM