Wednesday, 23 May 2018

FOUR TOPS "LIVE & IN CONCERT" (1974)

There's not a street that you can walk
You've got to watch just who you're talkin' to
They're out to get 'ya
Can't turn your back on a smiling face
Next thing you know, there ain't no trace of you
And this I bet 'ya
Some people lose and some folks win
It's a matter of what they do

Are you man enough?
Big and bad enough
Are you gonna let 'em shoot you down
When the evil flies and your brother cries
Are you gonna stay around?
Someone needs a friend
Just around the bend
Don't you think you should be there?
Are you man enough
when the going's rough?
Is it in your heart to care?

There's no pretending it goes away
With every step that you take you pay your dues
And I ain't lyin'
You got to struggle to see the light
Somebody's lookin' to steal your right to choose
And they don't stop tryin'
It's like a jungle outside the door
And it's keepin' you so confused

Are you man enough?
Big and bad enough
Are you gonna let 'em shoot you down?
When the evil flies and your brother cries
Are you gonna stay around?

Gotta keep your eye on the passers-by
Better watch your step
Cause you never know when the knife will go
And they ain't missed yet
The strong survive, they stay alive
They're always cool
But they never teach you that in school

Are you man enough?
Big and bad enough
Are you gonna let 'em shoot you down?
When the evil flies and your brother cries
Are you gonna stay around?
Someone needs a friend
Just around the bend
Don't you think you should be there?
Are you man enough
when the going's rough?
Is it in your heart to care?

Are you man enough?
Big and bad enough?
Are you gonna let 'em shoot you down?


[from the lyrics of "Are You Man Enough"]



One of Motown's most consistent hitmakers and its longest lived lineup (over four decades), the Four Tops were the most stable vocal groups to emerge from the label in the '60s, charting with scores of upbeat love songs featuring Levi Stubbs' rough hewn lead vocals.

The Four Tops were a product of Detroit's North End: Levi Stubbs and Abdul "Duke" Fakir sang together in a group while attending Pershing High School. Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton were boyhood friends and attended Northern High together in Detroit too. At the insistence of their friends, they performed at a local birthday party and decided to remain together christening themselves The Four Aims.

Roquel "Billy" Davis, who was Lawrence Payton's cousin and sometimes sang with the group as the fifth Aim, sent a demo tape to Chess Records in Chicago. They were sent bus tickets and invited to audition.

It seems that Chess was more interested in Davis' writing skill than the group. However Davis' persistence ended up with them being signed to Chess Records. In 1956 they changed their name to Four Tops to avoid confusion with the The Ames Brothers, another well-estabilished vocal group.

Over the next seven years, the Tops endured unsuccessful tenures at Chess, Red Top, Riverside Records and Columbia Records. Without any hit records to their name, they toured frequently, developing a polished stage presence and an experienced supper club act. In 1963, Berry Gordy, Jr., who had worked with Roquel Davis as a songwriter in the late '50s, convinced the Tops to join the roster of his growing Motown record company.

Gordy had them record "Breaking Through" for his experimental Workshop Jazz subsidiary. Later that year they were finally directed toward contemporary soul. Under the wing of Motown's top production and recording team, Holland-Dozier-Holland, the Four Tops were launched with "Baby I Need Your Loving", which went to #11 in 1964.

Over the next eight years The Four Tops appeared on the charts almost thirty times, and Levi Stubbs became an international star and an influence on singers from the '60s to the present time.



After scoring their first #1 hit, the often-recorded and revived "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" in June 1965, the Four Tops began a long series of successful hit singles. Among the first wave of these hits were the Top 10 "It's the Same Old Song", "Something About You", "Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)", and "Loving You is Sweeter Than Ever".

Like many other Motown acts, the Four Tops became popular in major nightclubs around the world. In 1967 they had hits with "Bernadette", "7-Rooms of Gloom" and "You Keep Running Away". By now, the Tops were the most successful male Motown act in the U.K. (...in the United States, they were second to The Temptations...), and began experimenting with more mainstream pop hits.

They scored hits with their versions of Bobby Darin's "If I Were a Carpenter" and The Left Banke's "Walk Away Renée". These singles and the original "I'm In a Different World" were their last hits produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland, who left Motown in 1967.

Without Holland-Dozier-Holland, the quality of the Four Tops' output began to decline, and hits became less frequent. The group worked with a wide array of Motown producers during the late 1960s, including Ivy Hunter, Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson, Norman Whitfield and Johnny Bristol, without significant chart success.

Their first major hit in a long time came in the form of 1970's "It's All In the Game", produced by Frank Wilson. Wilson and the Tops began working on a number of innovative tracks and albums together, echoing Whitfield's psychedelic soul work with The Temptations.


"Live & In Concert" original inner sleeve

In 1970, with its well thought out originals and expertly considered covers, their "Still Waters Run Deep" LP was of the earliest Soul concept albums. It also served as an inspiration for Marvin Gaye's 1971 classic album "What's Going On", whose title track was co-written by "Obie" Benson.

In addition to their own albums, the Tops were paired with The Supremes for a series of three albums: "The Magnificent Seven" was released in 1970, "The Return of the Magnificent Seven" and "Dynamite!" followed in 1971. While the albums themselves did not do well on the charts, "The Magnificent Seven" featured a Top 20 version of Ike & Tina Turner's "River Deep - Mountain High", produced by Ashford & Simpson.

In early 1972 the Four Tops recorded "Nature Planned It" with producer Frank Wilson, it was their last Motown album for more than twenty years. This release was the subject of a previous post on Stereo Candies, just have a look here if you're interested.

During that year, Motown started relocating to Los Angeles and all its artists had to move as well. Many of the older acts opted to stay in Detroit, including The Funk Brothers backing band and the Four Tops. The Tops departed Motown for ABC-Dunhill, where they were assigned to songwriters-producers Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter.

Moving to another label rejuvenated the group's career and when "Keeper of the Castle" was released as a single in October 1972 and it became their first Pop Top 10 hit since "Bernadette" in 1967, with "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)" also entering the Top 10 in a short time.


Four Tops as they appear on the back cover of "Live & In Concert"...

Following the success of the "Keeper of the Castle" LP (...enjoy it here...), in 1973 the Four Tops returned to the ABC Recording Studios under the supervision of Steve Barri with the same team of musicians, arrangers and producers, to work on their 19th full-lenght studio album entitled "Main Street People".

The album (...available here courtesy of yours truly...) was released by ABC-Dunhill in September 1973. Just like their previous effort, it was produced by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, who were also responsible for writing about half of the tracks.

"Are You Man Enough", the theme song to the movie "Shaft In Africa", turned out to be the first of three hit singles to emerge from "Main Street People"; it reached #2 on the American R&B chart and #15 on the American Billboard chart. The infectious "Sweet Understanding Love", which would be the group's last Top 40 Pop Hit for ABC, and the equally catchy follow-up "I Just Can't Get You Out of My Mind" both had a feel remarkably similar to some of the Tops' work for Motown.

In late 1973 / early 1974 the group was busy at the ABC Recording Studios again working on their third album for the label. "Meeting of the Minds" was finally released by ABC-Dunhill in a colourful and slightly psychedelic cover in April 1974; it was the Tops' third consecutive album produced by Steve Barri, Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter.

"Meeting of the Minds" (...available here...), was the last true Soul album recorded by the Four Tops before the advent of the Disco era. The album spawned two singles in the U.S.: "One Chain Don't Make No Prison" reached the R&B Top 10 in early May peaking at #3, while the midtempo "Midnight Flower" peaked at #5 in the Billboard R&B Chart during autumn. A third single, "The Well Is Dry", was released in the U.K. only, to coincide with a British tour.

Cashing on the late success of the "Midnight Flower" single, a live album was released in October 1974: the aptly titled "Live & In Concert is the subject of this post.


"Live & In Concerts" contains the following tracks:

01. Intro and Countdown (0:33)
02. Are You Man Enough (3:14)
03. Love Ain't Easy To Come By (3:23)
04. Medley: Love Music / Reach Out (I'll Be There) / Standing in the Shadows of Love (4:23)
05. Midnight Flower (3:39)
06. Baby I Need Your Loving (4:38)
07. Keeper of the Castle (2:53)
08. I Am Your Man (9:32)
09. Ain't No Woman (Like the One I Got) (3:07)
10. One Chain Don't Make No Prison (3:10)
11. I Can't Help Myself (3:11)

All tracks were remastered from the original vinyl in May 2018 and are available in FLAC lossless format, along with complete artwork reconstruction and printable PDF files.

Before burning this album on CD-R using the provided CUE file you must convert the original FLAC audio file to WAV format using an appropriate software. Please have a look here if you need some help.

As usual, please have a look at the comments for the download link.



"Live & In Concert" was released by ABC-Dunhill sometime around October 1974 with catalogue number DSD-50188. At the time of this writing, it is the only mid-'70s Four Tops album that has received a CD release.

I must admit that in the first place it almost escaped me that such re-issue omits the introduction by Jay Butler, the brief instrumental piece that follows and a great rendition of "Love Ain't Easy To Come By".

In addition to that, the tracklist has been reworked in a different order which doesn't flow as naturally as the original... But the real reason why I decided to remaster this album is because the audio on the CD sounds a little bit muffled, and the stereo image is narrower when compared to the original album...

The CD was released in 1995, and even if it appears to be sourced from the original masters I guess that they used too much de-noise on it, or maybe the analog-to-digital conversion had not been optimal for some reason, who knows... Today I am not surprised anymore by big record labels' lack of care and ridiculous process/quality control.

Here's the credits and personnel list of the album as they appear on the back cover:

Produced by Steve Barri, Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter
Arranged and conducted by Gil Askey

Sound engineer: Phil Kaye
Assistant engineers: Roger Nichols, Jim Lockert, Reggie Dozier

Musicians include:

Drums: Ed Greene
Bass: Wilton Felder
Guitars: Ben Benay, Dean Parks
Keyboards: Michael Omartian, Clifford Carter
Congas: King Errison
Vibes and percussion: Gene Estes

Horns: Jerome Richardson, Ernie Watts, Sahib Shihab, Marion Childers, Julius Brooks, Herman Riley, Charles Loper, George Bohanon, Maurice Spears, Eugene Young

Introduction by Jay Butler

Special thanks to the following people for their assistance: Marv Helfer, Ellen Mousari, Roy Minkus, Lloyd Stark, Arleen Schesel, Julie Barri

Photography: Ron Slenzak
Design: Tim Bryant

The original liner notes don't give away any information about when and where the album was recorded, but I guess that the tracks were selected among the best takes recorded at various concerts during the previous months...

The following short review of the album was included in the 12th October 1974 issue of Billboard:

«Super set from one of the most popular groups of the past decade, including a group of stunning live performances of some of their greatest hits, both from the older days and some of the more current ones. Backed by a superb big band, the members trade off lead vocals as skillfully as they do on record, and this is one live LP that is more than simply a greatest hits. It really does capture the excitement of a live show.»



Following the introduction by Jay Butler, a long-time Detroit broadcaster, and a short instrumental "Countdown" composed by Gil Askey, the Tops aptly begin their concert with "Are You Man Enough", a funky track with Shaft-style wah-wah guitars. Well, this should come as no surprise since it originally served as the theme song for the movie "Shaft In Africa"... The original studio version was released as a single in May 1973, and it's quite strange to read in the interview at the bottom of this post that Levi Stubbs didn't want to release such an amazing track...

As mentioned before, "Love Ain't Easy To Come By" was not included in the 1995 CD re-issue of this album and since it is one of the best cuts I can't help to wonder why... The original version, which also featured strings, was included just a few months earlier on "Meeting of the Minds", the latest Four Tops studio album at the time when "Live & In Concert" was released.

In 1974, the vastness of the Tops' repertoire would surely have deserved the release of a double live album, but we are going to have to make do with a single LP and this is the reason why we are served an old trick called 'medley'. "Love Music", taken from the more recent "Keeper of the Castle" album is effectively fused together with two of their most successful hits of the '60s, "Reach Out (I'll Be There)" and "Standing in the Shadows of Love", which are both rejuvenated with a faster tempo, funky elements and assorted percussion.

Coming closer to the end of Side A, the Tops introduce with sincere enthusiasm their «latest recording» and perform a stellar version of "Midnight Flower". Composed by McKinley Jackson and Reggie Dozier, this is probably the group's most well known track from this period and it was their newest single when "Live & In Concert" was released.

The task of closing the first part of the album is excellently accomplished by "Baby I Need Your Loving", which had been the Four Tops' debut single back in July 1964. This is one of those immortal songs that I could never get tired of.

Side B opens with "Keeper of the Castle", the title track from the first album released in November 1972 at the begininng of their ABC-Dunhill tenure. The song is a strong social commentary on a man's role in a relationship, and the original version was also successfully released as a single peaking at number 10 on the U.S. Pop Chart and number 7 on the R&B Charts. This live rendition is just a little bit less polished than the studio version and in my opinion this adds to its appeal.

A veeeeeeery long version of "I Am Your Man" follows. This mellow slow number is culled from "Nature Planned It", the last album the Four Tops released on Motown in 1972. Composed by Ashford & Simpson, the song has been also previously released on Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers' self-titled album in 1968. This live version is quite peculiar because in its ten minutes duration Stubbs adds an interesting soliloquy that describes the vicissitude of a man who... Well, I won't spoil it here, you should listen for yourself!

"Ain't No Woman (Like the One I Got)" rivals the original recording included on the "Keeper of the Castle" album, and it's one of the shiniest gems in this precious trove. I am not stuck in the past, but you can't even imagine how dearly I'd like that songs like this were still produced today...

"One Chain Don't Make No Prison" is performed in an abridged version which omits most of its distinctive guitar parts and, althought being well executed, it is somewhat disappointing, but not enough to ruin the global valutation of this album, which is fairly high as far as I am concerned.

The LP ends with "I Can't Help Myself", one of the Tops' most well-known hits. The song was written by Motown's main production team Holland–Dozier–Holland and was the group's first #1 single on the R&B charts in June 1965.


The following clips offer a preview of the remastered album, enjoy "Are You Man Enough", "Love Ain't Easy To Come By", "Midnight Flower", "Keeper of the Castle", "I Am Your Man", "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)" and "I Can't Help Myself"!
















The following interview was conducted by John E. Abbey with Levi Stubbs in Stockton-on-Tees, United Kingdom, sometime in November 1974 during a Four Tops European tour. Levi discusses some of the then recent Tops releases and their situation at ABC-Dunhill... The interview was published on issue #150 of Blues & Soul magazine in December 1974.


The Four Tops, circa 1974-75

The recent European tour by the Four Tops, their first in quite a while, gave us ample opportunity to discover what the fantastic four have been up to of late. It really isn't enough just to see their name climbing the American charts every three months with an almost monotonous regularity, because there has always been a unique sort of vitality within this group that has kept them at the top for far longer than they would have dared to hope for almost twenty-one years ago, when they began their life together as the Four Aims in their native Detroit.

However, for almost an exact half of their existence, they were unknown outside of their home town and by the time they signed with the home town family-style Motown company in 1964, they had become as we know them today, the Four Tops.

What is it that keeps four guys together through infinite bad times as well as good for that long? And how many people stop to consider how long twenty-one years is and during that time, there has been no change in the group's line-up?

How many people do you have working in your office/factory who have been with the company for that amount of time, for example?

«I guess it does have to be some kind of record,» the group's distinctive lead singer, Levi Stubbs, told me from the hotel suite that the group was staying in at romantic Stockton-on-Tees, where the foursome played to capacity crowds at the local but sumptious Fiesta Club for a full week. «It is a kind tribute to each of the four of us as people and, do you know, there has never been a time during that span that one of us has seriously considered packing it in or going solo. Sure, I've considered going solo but I know that in my heart I'll always be a Top and that my future lies with the other three.»

This prompted me to ask Levi what the thinking was behind the recent release of two singles by Lawrence Payton as a solo artist on Dunhill.

«Well, it's easy,» he half laughed, «Lawrence both produced and conceived those tracks on our last album, "Meeting of the Minds", and they really are in a completely different direction from the one that the group is heading in, so we really didn't mind the company releasing them under his name.»

What would have happened if either of the records had 'stuck' and given Larry a hit?

«Oh, he'd have stayed in the group but we would have had to add the song to our regular repertoire with Lawrence taking over the solo,» Levi put forward the suggestion. «There have been times when I have thought of doing a record on my own and the group discussed it and that was the decision that we worked out at the time.»

In all truth and honesty, the album of "Meeting of the Minds" has not been one of the Tops high spots in a star-studded decade and I was impressed to hear Levi being honest enough to concede the point.

«It's not our best, I'll agree,» he admitted, «but then we had to work with new producers and we felt obliged to give them a fair crack of the whip and allow them to get across what they felt they wanted. But there are some tracks on there that I do like, especially the one that has been released here in England, "The Well Is Dry". And, of course, I like "Midnight Flower" and then there's "Right On Brother". But we are very honest about what we do and what we record and we try to be sincere with people about our opinions.»

Since the Tops switched from Motown to ABC-Dunhill, they have been firstly very successful and then, of late, slightly less. Are they satisfied with their situation now at Dunhill?

«The thing that we all like so much is the freedom that is allowed to us»" Levi quickly stressed. «It has allowed us to get involved in production and song publishing and into other aspects of the business that have always bypassed us. It has given us the insight to get more involved in the business end of it all so that we are no longer just singers or performers. It's a kind of protection for the future, you might say. As we are today, we can go on for another five or six years but then we will have to think about our future and everything we are learning now will stand us in good stead.»

During their two years plus at Dunhill, they have won two Gold Discs - for their first release, "Keeper of the Castle", and for "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I Got)". And we understand that "Are You Man Enough" is about to turn Gold and give them a third plaque for their wall. And yet Levi freely admits that he never wanted "Are You Man Enough" to even be released.

«Well, I'll stress that this is only my personal opinion,» he underlined, «I felt we had far better in the can, but the company felt that because it was from the movie, "Shaft In Africa", and because the movie was about to be shown nationwide, it would have to be now or never so they went with it. Sure, it was a big hit but I'll always maintain that there was even better in the can waiting for release.»

Now, following the relatively poor showing of the "Meeting of the Minds" LP generally, the group is waiting for a while until they start work on their next album.

«I guess you could say we are having to look for a new concept before we start recording again,» Levi admitted. «It will probably be into the new year before we are ready but we'll be trying for our best and biggest album of all time when we do.»

And taking note of the promises that the Four Tops have kept in the past, I for one would bank my money on that being another promise that they keep.


The Four Tops, circa 1974-75


More information about "Live & In Concert" and the Four Tops is available here:

https://www.discogs.com/Four-Tops-Live-In-Concert/master/113015

https://rateyourmusic.com/release/album/four_tops/live_and_in_concert/

https://www.allmusic.com/album/live-in-concert-mw0000182400

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Tops

http://www.soulwalking.co.uk/Four%20Tops.html

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-four-tops-mn0000071812

https://www.rockhall.com/inductees/four-tops

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/artists/the-four-tops/biography

http://vocalgroup.org/inductees/the-four-tops/

http://www.warr.org/fourtops.html

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/levi-stubbs-mn0000256831

http://tsort.info/music/7tkq0a.htm

http://tsort.info/music/7anj49.htm

http://www.45cat.com/artist/four-tops/us

http://www.45cat.com/artist/four-tops/uk

http://www.whosampled.com/sampled/Four%20Tops/?sp=1


If you have any other useful information about this post or if you spot any dead links, please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!

13 comments:

  1. DOWNLOAD LINK

    https://mega.nz/#!JJV...

    If you download this file please consider leaving a comment, your feedback is important!

    Please let me know if the link is broken and I'll do my best to quickly fix it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, I really appreciate your dedication and eye for details. It must be an awful lot of work to do it like this. Thanks a lot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome! Yes, I try to be as exhaustive as possible about the records that I present on the blog. It takes a lot of work but I couldn't do otherwise, it's my nature. Cheers!

      Delete
  3. Hi Candyman, once again, a great rip from vinyl. How are you capturing these and cleaning them up? Anyway, thanks again for helping me gather these rare soul albums.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Nigel, thanks for your comment and sorry for this delayed reply.

      This is the list of equipment/software I use for my rips/remasters:

      - Technics SL1200-MK2 turntable
      - Nagaoka HS-180 headshell
      - Audio Technica AT-440MLA Moving Magnet cartridge
      - Pro-Ject Tube Box DS MM/MC tube phono preamplifier
      - RME Fireface UFX+ audio interface
      - Steinberg Wavelab
      - Sony Sound Forge Pro
      - Waves Restoration Bundle

      Delete
    2. Okay, that's some serious kit there.
      I'm just making do with ripping and cleaning up via Audacity on my iMac.

      Delete
  4. Wow! Your level of research is impressive, as are your rips! I'll be back. I found your site because of the text file you include with your downloads--I got it from a friend, and I'm glad I checked out your blog! Please keep up the fantastic work! - Stinky

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great work as always, i love the Four Tops

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great info of stuff u didn't know and pics too

    ReplyDelete

Be nice, keep it clean, stay on topic, no spam, thank you!!!

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