Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Pair Of Levi's Finest

Four Tops are rightly recognised as one of popular music's greatest male vocal groups of all time. By the time they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1990, Four Tops had been performing and recording for almost 40 years, and had amassed an incredible 45 U.S. Top 100 hit singles (not to mention their enormous influence on later acts such as Hall & Oates and the Isley Brothers). Together with contemporaries The Miracles, The Supremes and The Temptations, Four Tops represented the signature sound of Motown during the 60s and 70s in particular.

But what set the group apart, in my humble view, were the powerhouse vocals of lead singer Levi Stubbs, rounded out by the sublime vocal harmonies of Renaldo "Obie" Benson, Lawrence Payton and Abdul "Duke" Fakir. Levi Stubbs voice could just about shake a buildings foundations at times, yet Four Tops overall sound scape could be smooth as melted butter at other times. At their commercial peak they released such instant classics as 'I Can't Help Myself', 'Reach Out I'll Be There' and 'Bernadette'. Whilst the Tops continued to churn out the hits in the first half of the 70s, their sound was somewhat overtaken by the emerging disco and punk movements. They kept a low profile before in 1987 Levi Stubbs provided the voice to the blood sucking plant Audrey II in the cult film remake 'Little Shop Of Horrors'. The film introduced the unique vocal talents of Stubbs to a new generation, and whether directly or indirectly it seemed to give Four Tops a new lease of life on their career.

1988 saw the legendary quartet release two hit songs. 'Loco In Acapulco' was lifted from the soundtrack to the film 'Buster' starring Phil Collins. The song surged to #7 on the U.K. charts, and was their biggest British hit in seven years. The track 'Indestructible' was a suitably spirit inspiring track used as the anthem to the 1988 Olympic Games by U.S. television network NBC. On the back of the huge exposure it received (aside from it being a great song), 'Indestructible' reached #11 on the U.S. Billboard charts. Four Tops continued to record and tour into the 90s and kept their original lineup until the passing of Lawrence Payton in 1997. Theo Peoples was recruited to fill the void after a time, but the Four Tops wound back their career in the ensuing years.

You can check out the video for 'Indestructible' here:

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