Some of the most passionate, soulful music of all time.
Daryl Easlea 2009-03-03
Released as the summer of love was nearing its end, the Four Tops' Reach Out is the Detroit vocal quartet's greatest studio album. It climbed to No. 4 in the UK charts and capitalized on a period of enormous UK popularity for the act, who by now had been performing professionally for over a decade.
Reach Out has a unity unlike other Motown albums to this point. It sold to a market now used to the LP as something more than simply filler in between singles thanks to records such as Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys and Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles. Brian Epstein, the Beatles' manager, championed the Four Tops and brought them over for a promotional tour of the UK.
Reach Out can be seen as the high-water mark of the first decade of Motown. The soon-to-leave the label production team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Edward Holland gave the album a coherence. Although they only wrote five of the 12 songs here, it will forever be associated as their work.
Showcasing leader Levi Stubbs' unmistakably yearning vocal, Reach Out, I'll Be There had reached No. 1 when released as a single the year before. In normal circumstances it should completely dominate the record. But look at the company it is in. The key tracks – 7 Rooms Of Gloom, Bernadette, Standings In The Shows Of Love – are soul symphonies running riot.
The choice of contemporary covers add to the project’s gravitas: the Left Banke's Walk Away Renee, Tim Hardin's If I Were A Carpenter, and riding on the wave of the current band of that moment, the Monkees, the Tops added weight to Last Train To Clarksville and I'm A Believer.
Within three months of the album's release, Motown hastily put together the Four Tops Greatest Hits, which was to become the biggest selling record of their career in the UK. Put that and Reach Out together and you have some of the most passionate, soulful music, exquisite playing and well-written melodies of all time.