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  1. Would things have been different for the Four Tops if H-D-H had stayed at Motown

    I think this was discussed before, not sure; all these years we've read about how the departure of H-D-H from Motown really hurt the Four Tops and Supremes. The Four Tops have commented on how it hurt them chart-wise because H-D-H really knew them and wrote songs suited to them.

    BUT- I wonder if H-D-H had remained at Motown, would it really have stopped the chart slide of both the Tops and Supremes? Looking at the songs that went out shortly before H-D-H departed, it seems the slide was already beginning.

    "You Keep Running Away", "I'm In A Different Word", "Forever Came Today", "Keep Falling In And Out Of Love"; none of these really set the charts ablaze. Really though, after the absolutely stunning productions of "Reach Out", "Standing In The Shadows Of Love", "Bernadette" and even "Seven Rooms Of Gloom", where could you go? Likewise for songs like "Love Is Here And Now You're Gone" or "Reflections". Those productions were mammoth, broke new ground and new sounds. How do you top those?

    Just a personal feeling here, but I also noticed the studio sound had changed after these hits. I don't know if Motown had changed over to newer recording equipment, but if you listen to the unreleased H-D-H tunes like "Lonely Lover" and "One Last Look", that Motown sound is quite a bit different from the '67 sound. To me, a song like "Different World" doesn't have the light, crisp sound of tunes like "I'll Turn To Stone" or "What Else Is There To Do (But Sit And Think About You)". When I heard "Different World", I just found that I couldn't get into it all that much. It had a rather heavy sound to it.

    I'm not throwing "shade" as they say, but I've always thought that maybe, just maybe H-D-H had started to hit a sort of brick wall as far as where to go stylistically by this time. So, would things have been radically different for the Tops and Sups if H-D-H had stayed?

  2. #2
    I think HDH would have struggled because by 1968, a turbulent year in the US, soul music was heading in a more 'serious' direction. James Brown Curtis Mayfield, Sly Stone etc were moving toward a heavy message with regard to their black audience.
    Times and fashions were changing, and DRATS and Four Tops were still in gowns/wigs and tuxedos.
    Would HDH have been able to move with the change ad Norman Whitfield did?

  3. Quote Originally Posted by snakepit View Post
    I think HDH would have struggled because by 1968, a turbulent year in the US, soul music was heading in a more 'serious' direction. James Brown Curtis Mayfield, Sly Stone etc were moving toward a heavy message with regard to their black audience.
    Times and fashions were changing, and DRATS and Four Tops were still in gowns/wigs and tuxedos.
    Would HDH have been able to move with the change ad Norman Whitfield did?
    Great points and I think that it's pretty much right on target. The unreleased H-D-H tunes on the Four Tops that are on some of the latest box sets don't seem to really have a sense of direction. Only "Lonely Lover" sounds like it may have had a chance on the charts, but again, none of those tunes have a signature H-D-H sound any longer.

  4. #4
    They probably would have ended up with the songs that went to the Chairmen of the Board.

  5. #5
    For what it's worth I think that 'I'm in a Different World' and 'Forever Came Today' are both HDH masterpieces and should have been massive! It wasn't the songs that were wrong but that the times were changing!

  6. #6
    There was a thread on Motown Treasures recently which raised the issue of HDH doing a number of cover versions of their earlier tunes around late 67. This timeline corresponds with HDH' s financial difficulties with Motown. It could suggest that they were fulfilling their contractual duties, and not concentrating on new material , and may have been holding songs back which they took to Invictus.
    And/or it may have been them hitting a wall as you suggest.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by copley View Post
    For what it's worth I think that 'I'm in a Different World' and 'Forever Came Today' are both HDH masterpieces and should have been massive! It wasn't the songs that were wrong but that the times were changing!
    I agree 100%...chart positions mean nothing to me. If I like the track then that's all that matters.
    E.g. I love "Some things you never get used to " and "The Composer", their respective chart position means nothing.

  8. #8
    Good topic " waiting"..

    By coincidence I have been playing the Lost and Found Four Tops double CD recently, and I am determined to give disc 2 a good hearing. I've neglected it somewhat.
    I feel that Motown made a mistake when HDH left. They seemed to want producers to replicate the style of Levi straining ..but HDH had this down to a fine art.They could provide the right material.
    I think they would have done better using Levi in a more restrained mellow mood, such as "Yesterday's Dreams".

  9. Quote Originally Posted by snakepit View Post
    Good topic " waiting"..

    By coincidence I have been playing the Lost and Found Four Tops double CD recently, and I am determined to give disc 2 a good hearing. I've neglected it somewhat.
    I feel that Motown made a mistake when HDH left. They seemed to want producers to replicate the style of Levi straining ..but HDH had this down to a fine art.They could provide the right material.
    I think they would have done better using Levi in a more restrained mellow mood, such as "Yesterday's Dreams".
    YIKES! Very spooky that you should be saying all of this because only last week, I pulled out that very set, specifically disc 2, because I too was determined to really listen to it with an unbiased ear. I had been playing the Reach Out album and Yesterday's Dreams album and I think my big hang up is that I wanted more of the "Reach Out" sound on everything. I've learned, and I mean, LEARNED to enjoy and appreciate the "Yesterday's Dreams" album over the last few years. Ivy Jo really did some phenomenal things on that LP. I love "Do You Remember". That is just such a dirty, gutbucket, grinder of a hot groove. The drums and exotic percussion is incredible. "We've Got A Strong Love On Our Side" is one I could never get into for the longest time, but now it's one of my favorites.

    Listening to Disc 2 of the Lost and Found set, I'm hearing a TON of things that really should have gone onto albums, maybe fewer covers of other artists' songs and more Motown originals. "Sweet Was The Love" is good, even the cover of Gary Puckett and the Union Gap's "Woman, Woman" is a pretty good sight stronger than some of the covers that went on the Four Tops later albums. The one that really surprises me is "Clip My Wings". How is it nobody saw the potential in that one, or even "Can't Hold Back"?

    And...you're right about on the issue of Motown wanting to have Levi record everything in that strained voice all the time. Levi was just as effective when he was singing material IN his key, that didn't require him to strain to get that effect. I get it. Everyone thought it brought out the drama of a song's lyrics and story, but it's a bit like hitting the same note over and over and over. H-D-H were great at knowing how to get that sort of performance.

    O.K. does anyone else think Ivy Jo's "Your Love Is Wonderful" was a missed opportunity?

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    I think this was discussed before, not sure; all these years we've read about how the departure of H-D-H from Motown really hurt the Four Tops and Supremes. The Four Tops have commented on how it hurt them chart-wise because H-D-H really knew them and wrote songs suited to them.

    BUT- I wonder if H-D-H had remained at Motown, would it really have stopped the chart slide of both the Tops and Supremes? Looking at the songs that went out shortly before H-D-H departed, it seems the slide was already beginning.

    "You Keep Running Away", "I'm In A Different Word", "Forever Came Today", "Keep Falling In And Out Of Love"; none of these really set the charts ablaze. Really though, after the absolutely stunning productions of "Reach Out", "Standing In The Shadows Of Love", "Bernadette" and even "Seven Rooms Of Gloom", where could you go? Likewise for songs like "Love Is Here And Now You're Gone" or "Reflections". Those productions were mammoth, broke new ground and new sounds. How do you top those?

    Just a personal feeling here, but I also noticed the studio sound had changed after these hits. I don't know if Motown had changed over to newer recording equipment, but if you listen to the unreleased H-D-H tunes like "Lonely Lover" and "One Last Look", that Motown sound is quite a bit different from the '67 sound. To me, a song like "Different World" doesn't have the light, crisp sound of tunes like "I'll Turn To Stone" or "What Else Is There To Do (But Sit And Think About You)". When I heard "Different World", I just found that I couldn't get into it all that much. It had a rather heavy sound to it.

    I'm not throwing "shade" as they say, but I've always thought that maybe, just maybe H-D-H had started to hit a sort of brick wall as far as where to go stylistically by this time. So, would things have been radically different for the Tops and Sups if H-D-H had stayed?
    Before I give my opinion I would like to say that this question is very interesting. This is not discussed enough and will really make a person ponder what the results would be like. Great discussion.

    As far as the studio sound is concerned Motown's technical wizard Mike McLean( I think that spelling is correct) made sure that the company would always be a leader and an innovator sonically. He always required that Berry Gordy give him the necessary funds to keep their audio equipment advanced. As a result the production staff could be more experimental and imaginative. And if you can believe it, most if not all of the stuff was built by hand. Too bad him and L.A. chief Guy Costa couldn't see eye to eye because MoWest probably would've taken the west coast sound to another level.

    To answer your question directly I don't think much would've changed. Brian Holland & Lamont Dozier had simply peaked as producers. Eddie Holland refused to write lyrics to much of what they were cutting towards the end of their Hitsville days too. Melodically they were not the same and that was the reason for the cover songs with The Tops. They didn't know where else to go, but put a little more effort in The Supremes as they were the bigger act. Their albums would've probably been stronger, but I see very little change in the chart activity.

    Another issue was Berry Gordy's resistance to change with the musical landscape. The Pop song was his bread and butter and despite what people were saying to him he relied on that(let's not forget he's a Sagittarius). Eddie Holland had been arguing that he needed to give the staff more creative freedom and autonomy. Couple that with the fact that they feel underpaid and underappreciated and "HDH leaves Motown".

    Invictus was a nightmare because they were past their prime as a unit,wasn't strict on quality,and spent more time running the label than creating for it. They also received distribution from major companies who saw most of the profits on a hit when there was one. Much of what hit wasn't different and what was didn't sell, case in point: "Give Me Just A Little More Time( Helpless revisited)" & "Hanging On To A Memory". I could say more, but I'm going too long.

  11. Quote Originally Posted by Quinn View Post
    Before I give my opinion I would like to say that this question is very interesting. This is not discussed enough and will really make a person ponder what the results would be like. Great discussion.

    As far as the studio sound is concerned Motown's technical wizard Mike McLean( I think that spelling is correct) made sure that the company would always be a leader and an innovator sonically. He always required that Berry Gordy give him the necessary funds to keep their audio equipment advanced. As a result the production staff could be more experimental and imaginative. And if you can believe it, most if not all of the stuff was built by hand. Too bad him and L.A. chief Guy Costa couldn't see eye to eye because MoWest probably would've taken the west coast sound to another level.

    To answer your question directly I don't think much would've changed. Brian Holland & Lamont Dozier had simply peaked as producers. Eddie Holland refused to write lyrics to much of what they were cutting towards the end of their Hitsville days too. Melodically they were not the same and that was the reason for the cover songs with The Tops. They didn't know where else to go, but put a little more effort in The Supremes as they were the bigger act. Their albums would've probably been stronger, but I see very little change in the chart activity.

    Another issue was Berry Gordy's resistance to change with the musical landscape. The Pop song was his bread and butter and despite what people were saying to him he relied on that(let's not forget he's a Sagittarius). Eddie Holland had been arguing that he needed to give the staff more creative freedom and autonomy. Couple that with the fact that they feel underpaid and underappreciated and "HDH leaves Motown".

    Invictus was a nightmare because they were past their prime as a unit,wasn't strict on quality,and spent more time running the label than creating for it. They also received distribution from major companies who saw most of the profits on a hit when there was one. Much of what hit wasn't different and what was didn't sell, case in point: "Give Me Just A Little More Time( Helpless revisited)" & "Hanging On To A Memory". I could say more, but I'm going too long.
    NO NO! You're not going on too long at all. I was really getting into your insights. This is a subject I've thought about for years, especially whenever I get into one of those moods where I just want to play my Four Tops albums. Inevitably, when I put on the "Yesterday's Dreams" album, I always start comparing; I compare how it seems I have to really try hard to enjoy every song on that album, how it seems the covers, compared to the covers on the "Reach Out" album, seemed to be trying too hard in some way or other. Can't put my finger on it, but I just don't enjoy the covers on "Yesterday's Dreams" as much as the "Reach Out" covers.

    I think a lot of it has to do with how much Motown was changing. From the beginning til around '68, I think the music and sound was down to the Funk Brothers just playing great rhythm tracks. As Motown's recording equipment improved, it became more about very intricate and complex arrangements. It was less about the music being just solid, great music tracks and more about creating "RELEVANT" music.

    Then again, maybe it's just that it took me a bit of maturing to really appreciate that post-Reach Out, the albums and music were evolving beyond the core sound I enjoyed. Oddly, the other night, I played "Yesterdays' Dreams" and the "Four Tops Now" albums straight through and for the first time in my life, I found myself thoroughly enjoying everything on those LPs. (even "Daydream Believer" which I could never get all the way through).

    The posts I'm reading from you, Snakepit and Marv are hitting on what I suspected, and that is the Hollands and Dozier had peaked, which is no crime. I've always marveled that they came up with so much music for as many people as they did (but Smokey Robinson and The Miracles really blow my mind with the amount of music they did on just about everyone at Motown) so I suspect, the creative juices had to run dry at some point. Someone had remarked some time ago that the material they did at Invictus was very much like a return to their earlier Motown production sound.

    Nope, you weren't going on too long at all!

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    NO NO! You're not going on too long at all. I was really getting into your insights. This is a subject I've thought about for years, especially whenever I get into one of those moods where I just want to play my Four Tops albums. Inevitably, when I put on the "Yesterday's Dreams" album, I always start comparing; I compare how it seems I have to really try hard to enjoy every song on that album, how it seems the covers, compared to the covers on the "Reach Out" album, seemed to be trying too hard in some way or other. Can't put my finger on it, but I just don't enjoy the covers on "Yesterday's Dreams" as much as the "Reach Out" covers.

    I think a lot of it has to do with how much Motown was changing. From the beginning til around '68, I think the music and sound was down to the Funk Brothers just playing great rhythm tracks. As Motown's recording equipment improved, it became more about very intricate and complex arrangements. It was less about the music being just solid, great music tracks and more about creating "RELEVANT" music.

    Then again, maybe it's just that it took me a bit of maturing to really appreciate that post-Reach Out, the albums and music were evolving beyond the core sound I enjoyed. Oddly, the other night, I played "Yesterdays' Dreams" and the "Four Tops Now" albums straight through and for the first time in my life, I found myself thoroughly enjoying everything on those LPs. (even "Daydream Believer" which I could never get all the way through).

    The posts I'm reading from you, Snakepit and Marv are hitting on what I suspected, and that is the Hollands and Dozier had peaked, which is no crime. I've always marveled that they came up with so much music for as many people as they did (but Smokey Robinson and The Miracles really blow my mind with the amount of music they did on just about everyone at Motown) so I suspect, the creative juices had to run dry at some point. Someone had remarked some time ago that the material they did at Invictus was very much like a return to their earlier Motown production sound.

    Nope, you weren't going on too long at all!
    Thanks for your interest. Y'know it seems folks have a short attention span these days,which I call the "microwave" era. Everything has to happen so fast from picking up a new concept to getting serious with women. Feels good to know there are still patient people in the world.

    I haven't really heard the albums that came after "Reach Out",I'm not interested yet. In my opinion 1968 is the last year of Motown's golden period. Even though there were many more hits to come,the majority of the first family leaving really affected the company. The most powerful loss being that of Mickey Stevenson in 1966. Mickey was indispensable and Eddie Holland didn't have the people skills to keep his blueprint functioning. Norman and Smokey had to carry it from 1968 on with the latter starting to lose interest in the music and wanting to be more business oriented.

    The arrangements you speak about come from the arranging department rebelling against the roughshod way of the earlier days. The company had already outgrown West Grand Boulevard, so they wanted that "sophistication" in everything. With so many songwriters and producers around they had to be more time efficient. So as opposed to the typical chord sheet being turned over to the band, actual arrangements that were specific were presented to them.

    It doesn't surprise me one bit that HDH accomplished what they did with their well oiled machine. Two guys did the melodies and one put the stories on top,they could get a lot done with this way of working. They kept the doors open and the payroll going. Smokey accomplished a great deal with the help of The Miracles too. He didn't want them to rely on tour money only and let them contribute. Ronald White went hard as a producer for about a year, but though his songs were good they didn't have a commercial edge.

    Invictus could've worked had they been more mindful of how things operated. Many have stated that their business practices were a mess and unavoidable. They were sued by nearly all of their successful acts and never cracked the whip like their former boss did. Producers could record whatever they wanted and the artists they signed were different,not really marketable. Good to listen to, but not make money from.

  13. Quote Originally Posted by Quinn View Post
    I haven't really heard the albums that came after "Reach Out",I'm not interested yet. In my opinion 1968 is the last year of Motown's golden period. Even though there were many more hits to come,the majority of the first family leaving really affected the company.
    The arrangements you speak about come from the arranging department rebelling against the roughshod way of the earlier days. The company had already outgrown West Grand Boulevard, so they wanted that "sophistication" in everything. With so many songwriters and producers around they had to be more time efficient. So as opposed to the typical chord sheet being turned over to the band, actual arrangements that were specific were presented to them.
    These are the things that interest me most. You really are getting to the root of what I could not really put into words. I think that when I was in my teens and getting to know about Motown, I got into nearly everything regardless of if it was early Motown, mid 60's or late 60's. As long as I knew it was from Motown, it was good with me. Then, slowly, I started finding that my scope was getting very narrow- '64 to '67 ended up being the period that really flipped my switch.

    I love the sophistication of some of the later Motown productions, but the more I played those albums, the less I enjoyed what seemed to be geared toward overblown and over-produced music. So now, in those few lines you wrote about the arranging department and the "roughshod" ways of the early days, that summed up what I found missing in the latter Motown music. There was no gutbucket spark, no fire. I keep harping on the "Reach Out" album as being the one that is more or less the last Four Tops album I could listen to from start-to-finish and easily enjoy. The others that came after, I've learned to "appreciate". Not exactly the same thing. It's those very specific arrangements that more or less kill my pleasure in listening to a lot of that stuff.

  14. #14
    They had plenty of original material that was absolutely fantastic. Motown just failed. Plus the tops should've been assigned to JAMES DEAN/WILLIAM WEATHERSPOON. Their songs had a 100% soulful sound. Example JIMMY RUFFIN'S LOVE GIVES, LOVE TAKES AWAY, I'VE PASSED THIS WAY BEFORE, LET'S SAY GOODBYE TOMORROW etc.

  15. #15
    the departure of H-D-H shouldn't have affected them do bad. Listen to the LOST AND FOUND CD. Fantastic songs like NO TIME, I'M SO AFRAID OF LOSING YOU, WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE, JUST ONE LAST LOOK. Plus Motown should've gotten behind IF YOU DON'T WANT MY LOVE, YOU KEEP RUNNING AWAY, YESTERDAY'S DREAMS, I'M IN A DIFFERENT WORLD.

  16. #16
    Plus too many pop covers on ON TOP and through the SOUL SPIN album. Should've covered soul covers like Tyrone Davis's TURN BACK THE HANDS OF TIME, Percy Sledge, Fontella Bass among others.

  17. Quote Originally Posted by Fourtopsbiggestfan View Post
    They had plenty of original material that was absolutely fantastic. Motown just failed. Plus the tops should've been assigned to JAMES DEAN/WILLIAM WEATHERSPOON. Their songs had a 100% soulful sound. Example JIMMY RUFFIN'S LOVE GIVES, LOVE TAKES AWAY, I'VE PASSED THIS WAY BEFORE, LET'S SAY GOODBYE TOMORROW etc.
    My mother told me once that there are so many people in the world that when you think you're the only person having a feeling or thought about something, no matter how alone you feel in that thought, there is someone else having the exact same thought or opinion. You just proved those words true, once again.

    I had ALWAYS thought James Dean and William Wetherspoon would have been as perfect a fit for the Four Tops as H-D-H had been. They really had the whole thing down pat as far as beating the hook into a person's subconscious until there was no way you'd forget what the song's chorus was. Would have been very interesting to hear what they would have done with the Tops.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    These are the things that interest me most. You really are getting to the root of what I could not really put into words. I think that when I was in my teens and getting to know about Motown, I got into nearly everything regardless of if it was early Motown, mid 60's or late 60's. As long as I knew it was from Motown, it was good with me. Then, slowly, I started finding that my scope was getting very narrow- '64 to '67 ended up being the period that really flipped my switch.

    I love the sophistication of some of the later Motown productions, but the more I played those albums, the less I enjoyed what seemed to be geared toward overblown and over-produced music. So now, in those few lines you wrote about the arranging department and the "roughshod" ways of the early days, that summed up what I found missing in the latter Motown music. There was no gutbucket spark, no fire. I keep harping on the "Reach Out" album as being the one that is more or less the last Four Tops album I could listen to from start-to-finish and easily enjoy. The others that came after, I've learned to "appreciate". Not exactly the same thing. It's those very specific arrangements that more or less kill my pleasure in listening to a lot of that stuff.
    Yes, 1964 is when the company finally found an identity in sound. Material recorded between 1959-1963 is good to take an interest in, but it was searching for it's soul. Many musicians had come and gone and when Earl Van Dyke became the architect the lineup was concrete. Many of the producers that started to get hits had been with the company since the beginning, so they'd honed their craft as well.

    Everything started with a simple chord sheet with the melody written on it. The producer would then sit in the control room while Earl,James,and Benny hashed out the fundamentals among each other while the rest of the gang assembled. The producer would then count the tune off and yay or nay from there. The only time charts were prepared was for the string arrangements done between the producer,arranger and Gordon Staples.

    If you listen closely to James Jamerson's bass lines during the early days, you notice how adventurous they are. He never gave a track the same thing twice, he would change something every go round. The only time he stayed in line was when Joe Messina shadowed him on guitar. On the later recordings he repeats the same figures over and over because he's reading a chart as opposed to playing what he feels. The arrangers were in charge as opposed to Earl and the music became sterile and flat.

    Hitsville was used for recording mostly as the Donovan and Sanders buildings became HQ. B and C producers are being moved up the line due to so many defections. They are finding it hard to hang out because the downtown facilities have no creative vibe. Berry Gordy moved to L.A. and was prepping the company relocation there as well. So many things...

  19. #19
    All good stuff.

    Smokey did a few things on the Tops, which I quite like. ( It's Smokey after all).
    I'm not sure this would have provided hits, but I personally would have liked more, perhaps a Smokey album. Also, Ivy Hunter would have been a good choice to have a serious run at them.
    But, I still think that by 1968, they had an issue with image, as did virtually all soul singers from the golden age 64-67.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by snakepit View Post
    All good stuff.

    Smokey did a few things on the Tops, which I quite like. ( It's Smokey after all).
    I'm not sure this would have provided hits, but I personally would have liked more, perhaps a Smokey album. Also, Ivy Hunter would have been a good choice to have a serious run at them.
    But, I still think that by 1968, they had an issue with image, as did virtually all soul singers from the golden age 64-67.
    Smokey wrote some good songs for The Tops indeed. The one great thing I marvel at when I listen to those songs is how versatile he was. I love how he was able to darken his sound to fit the vocal complexities of the group."Is There Anything That I Can Do" and the first version of "Wonderful Baby" evoke the brightness that his songs usually consisted of. Everything else has a Gothic,almost bone chilling feel to it like a thriller film. Not sure it would've worked for a full album, but it provided a good contrast to what was on the rest of the album when a song or two made the lineup.

  21. Quote Originally Posted by Quinn View Post
    Smokey wrote some good songs for The Tops indeed. The one great thing I marvel at when I listen to those songs is how versatile he was. I love how he was able to darken his sound to fit the vocal complexities of the group."Is There Anything That I Can Do" and the first version of "Wonderful Baby" evoke the brightness that his songs usually consisted of. Everything else has a Gothic,almost bone chilling feel to it like a thriller film. Not sure it would've worked for a full album, but it provided a good contrast to what was on the rest of the album when a song or two made the lineup.
    Smokey always gave you something that was fresh and unique. "Bone Chilling" is just how I'd describe what he did on songs like "Nothing" and even more so, "Opportunity Knock (For Me)". The creativity that man had never ceases to amaze me. Using riffs that would have made Bela Lugosi proud, "Opportunity" is outfitted with one of the darkest motifs I've ever heard in a Smokey song. The Knock, Knock-Who's There routine and the horror movie melody that plays underneath it is beyond brilliant.

    I've wondered why Motown never gave Smokey a chance to do an entire album on anyone in the 60's. I honestly believe he could have done some marvelous things with The Tops and Supremes as well. Would an entire album of Smokey compositions have worked? It certainly wouldn't have been any worse than an entire album of Norman Whitfield songs that had been used over and over and over and over (and over into the 70's) on every dang artist he produced.

  22. Quote Originally Posted by Quinn View Post
    Yes, 1964 is when the company finally found an identity in sound. Material recorded between 1959-1963 is good to take an interest in, but it was searching for it's soul. Many musicians had come and gone and when Earl Van Dyke became the architect the lineup was concrete. Many of the producers that started to get hits had been with the company since the beginning, so they'd honed their craft as well.

    Everything started with a simple chord sheet with the melody written on it. The producer would then sit in the control room while Earl,James,and Benny hashed out the fundamentals among each other while the rest of the gang assembled. The producer would then count the tune off and yay or nay from there. The only time charts were prepared was for the string arrangements done between the producer,arranger and Gordon Staples.

    If you listen closely to James Jamerson's bass lines during the early days, you notice how adventurous they are. He never gave a track the same thing twice, he would change something every go round. The only time he stayed in line was when Joe Messina shadowed him on guitar. On the later recordings he repeats the same figures over and over because he's reading a chart as opposed to playing what he feels. The arrangers were in charge as opposed to Earl and the music became sterile and flat.

    Hitsville was used for recording mostly as the Donovan and Sanders buildings became HQ. B and C producers are being moved up the line due to so many defections. They are finding it hard to hang out because the downtown facilities have no creative vibe. Berry Gordy moved to L.A. and was prepping the company relocation there as well. So many things...
    This is what I especially appreciate about your posts. Full of insights and written with the nuts and bolts details of how these things were done. Your writing is very much like a journalist's documentation of events after putting in the fact-finding research.

    So now I have a clearer understanding of just why the music was much more brilliant and passionate during that '64 to '67 period. Sometimes you know something is this or that, but you just aren't sure how to effectively qualify just what made it this or that. I remember buying the Joe Harnell Motown album, "Moving On" and thinking the music was ok, but also fairly generic. In a few lines that you wrote, now it makes sense. This was the era of the arrangers writing every last note out. As you said,
    "the music became sterile and flat."

    That's why, I can't really listen to Chuck Jackson's albums, Bobby Taylor's or most of the other late 60's albums without skipping a great number of songs. All pretty music, but no fire or passion.


  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    O.K. does anyone else think Ivy Jo's "Your Love Is Wonderful" was a missed opportunity?
    Yes, Waiting, I, too, agree that the Four Tops "Your Love Is Wonderful" was a missed opportunity. I love that record. It should have NEVER been relegated to B-side status. It's powerful melody, musical arrangement, and sparkling production make it a Motown recording worthy of A-side ranking. Strangely, it wasn't even included on a current Four Tops album at the time. I could never figure that one out.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    Smokey always gave you something that was fresh and unique. "Bone Chilling" is just how I'd describe what he did on songs like "Nothing" and even more so, "Opportunity Knock (For Me)". The creativity that man had never ceases to amaze me. Using riffs that would have made Bela Lugosi proud, "Opportunity" is outfitted with one of the darkest motifs I've ever heard in a Smokey song. The Knock, Knock-Who's There routine and the horror movie melody that plays underneath it is beyond brilliant.

    I've wondered why Motown never gave Smokey a chance to do an entire album on anyone in the 60's. I honestly believe he could have done some marvelous things with The Tops and Supremes as well. Would an entire album of Smokey compositions have worked? It certainly wouldn't have been any worse than an entire album of Norman Whitfield songs that had been used over and over and over and over (and over into the 70's) on every dang artist he produced.
    "Opportunity Knock" is a good song, but to me it is a direct reflection of the city sound. With it's breezy background vocals and melancholy chording it's more the work of Terry Johnson and Pete Moore. The intro sounds like Smokey's contribution to the song, but I think he more or less was support here. To me "I'll Pay Double" with it's eerie,Transylvania/Dracula,cold and dark night ambience is the example. Smokey never made a song that implicated in a straight forward way that it was a "Made In Detroit" record. He had a different concept when he interpreted the city's sound that hinted at it as opposed to eyeing it directly.

    I think the only artists he was able to produce in that fashion was Mary Wells and The Temptations because he was their chief songwriter and producer. It's not that he didn't have the chance, he was vice president and Berry's best friend so he could do damn near whatever. When Chuck Jackson came to the company he wouldn't let anybody touch him for nearly a year. Who had sway like that at Motown Records?, don't worry I'll wait......
    As fans of his genius we tend to forget he was an artist and had to tour and promote,so he wasn't always home to create and compete. Everyone else was studio bound and had the time to accomplish what they felt they could.

    As for Norman Whitfield's repetitive nature, I really can't find an issue with what he did. The sixties was the era of the single( history has unfortunately repeated itself) and folks weren't really buying albums unless it had all the hits on it. An album with one hit single wouldn't really do anything, but if it had a few hits and a few radio favorites that would warrant the purchase. In addition to that it was a slick way to get paid multiple times on familiar songs and bring more value to the publishing company. As the album era began to emerge it made more sense to create a wide range of songs because the public wanted to buy that at the time. Music fans wanted nine songs once a year as opposed to one song every few months. So Norman just dealt with the market accordingly like every other producer.

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by Fourtopsbiggestfan View Post
    They had plenty of original material that was absolutely fantastic. Motown just failed. Plus the tops should've been assigned to JAMES DEAN/WILLIAM WEATHERSPOON. Their songs had a 100% soulful sound. Example JIMMY RUFFIN'S LOVE GIVES, LOVE TAKES AWAY, I'VE PASSED THIS WAY BEFORE, LET'S SAY GOODBYE TOMORROW etc.
    As great as Dean and Spoon were I have to say they hadn't proved enough to have that luxury. There was a pecking order at Motown,everything you got you had to work for. They weren't as consistent as some of their cohorts. The biggest hit they had came by accident, a beautiful one, but still. They'd intended to give "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted" to The Spinners, but Jimmy Ruffin claimed it once he heard it. Both were second tier acts and QC sat on the song for awhile before releasing it. And deleted the spoken word segment at the intro of the tune. The Tops was a first tier group so first tier producers got the opportunities.

  26. #26
    Plus there was IVY JO HUNTER, PAM SAWYER, JOHNNY BRISTOL. Plenty of great writers who's material on the tops was either vaulted, released as a single and not promoted or album songs. Motown just made bad decisions. No reason why certain artists had to suffer because of H-D-H'S departure.

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Philles/Motown Gary View Post
    Yes, Waiting, I, too, agree that the Four Tops "Your Love Is Wonderful" was a missed opportunity. I love that record. It should have NEVER been relegated to B-side status. It's powerful melody, musical arrangement, and sparkling production make it a Motown recording worthy of A-side ranking. Strangely, it wasn't even included on a current Four Tops album at the time. I could never figure that one out.
    YLIW should have been included on the Yesterday's Dreams album together with the such songs as Lonely Lover, If You Don't Want My Love and other vaulted timeline-relevant songs instead of the (for me) awful MOR covers.

  28. #28
    As usual, I have a very unpopular opinion for this forum.

    I'm glad The Four Tops left Motown. They needed a change, some fresh ideas and a new musical direction. I think their collaboration with The Moody Blues encouraged that.

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by soulster View Post
    As usual, I have a very unpopular opinion for this forum.

    I'm glad The Four Tops left Motown. They needed a change, some fresh ideas and a new musical direction. I think their collaboration with The Moody Blues encouraged that.
    I agree with this view. As much as I love the classic mid-60s Motown sound, it could have not gone on for ever.

  30. #30
    I've enjoyed this Four Tops thread...like the old days when we discussed Motown music.

    I thought of putting together a Four Tops /Smokey CD...but there are not that many tracks really. (written and produced by Smokey). I can think of these ...are there others?

    Is there anything I can do
    Then
    Wonderful Baby x3
    Nothing
    I'll pay double
    So far
    Opportunity Knock
    What you gonna do with me baby
    Lost for words

  31. #31
    "I'm in a different world" at the moment....well a Four Tops "different world" thanks to this thread.
    Been playing disc 2 of L&F, and finding it enjoyable in the main. Still feel Levi was not used to his best singing ability. Some producers seemed to want him straining, almost shouting at times. He was a great ballad singer....they should have gone down that route. It is no coincidence to me that the best Tops tracks after HDH were things like "Yesterday's Dreams", "Do what you gotta do", "Still Water"....mellow stuff.
    But Motown chose some bad 45s for the group, and the wonderful "The Key" seems to be a 45 they did not promote at all.....or did they go with Whitfield's "Don't let him take your love from me" (More shouting) . BTW we didn't get the 45 in the UK.
    One producer that seemed to be getting it right was Raynard Miner (including "The Key").
    The tracks on L&F are quite good...but he didn't stay at Motown for long.
    The group were pushed around all the producers, or most of them, no consistency. Shame.
    Anyway , I'm going to put a CD together of the LP only tracks from LPs from "Yesterday's Dreams" onward (not covers) and the tracks on Fourever box set.
    An alternate L&F if you like.

  32. Quote Originally Posted by rovereab View Post
    YLIW should have been included on the Yesterday's Dreams album together with the such songs as Lonely Lover, If You Don't Want My Love and other vaulted timeline-relevant songs instead of the (for me) awful MOR covers.
    I think a lot of people would agree with you there, and include me. The Yesterday's Dreams album, for me, suffered because of those MOR covers. However, I get the rationale behind their inclusion based on comments I've read here and there from members of the Tops; those covers expanded the group's fan base and that's why so many were placed on the albums. I get it, but still, some of those covers on the later albums are pretty hard to listen to now.

    I too wish the vaulted H-D-H songs as well as YLIW and "I Can't Escape Your Memory" had found spots on the album. Dennis Lussier's "Sweet Was The Love" and "So Afraid Of Losing You" would have sounded great in the mix as well. I guess we're looking through a rear-view mirror at all of this; maybe in the context of the times those MOR covers did serve to sell more albums to people who wanted that type of thing. Still...

  33. Quote Originally Posted by soulster View Post
    As usual, I have a very unpopular opinion for this forum.

    I'm glad The Four Tops left Motown. They needed a change, some fresh ideas and a new musical direction. I think their collaboration with The Moody Blues encouraged that.
    I don't think you've got an unpopular opinion. I think it's the same in any situation in life; if you stay in the same place for too long, you grow stagnant and place yourself into a rut (I'm not including our jobs in this! I don't mind a rut that pays my bills!)

    The Spinners definitely benefitted from a change. Gladys Knight And The Pips, The Isley Brothers, The Jacksons all benefitted creatively when they left Motown. It's not necessarily a bad thing against the label, but I do believe Motown itself had gotten past its prime by the mid seventies in terms of setting trends. The Four Tops were wise to move and get that fresh new musical perspective. The music they recorded at ABC was like a breath of fresh air.

  34. Quote Originally Posted by snakepit View Post
    But Motown chose some bad 45s for the group, and the wonderful "The Key" seems to be a 45 they did not promote at all.....or did they go with Whitfield's "Don't let him take your love from me" (More shouting) . BTW we didn't get the 45 in the UK.
    One producer that seemed to be getting it right was Raynard Miner (including "The Key").
    The tracks on L&F are quite good...but he didn't stay at Motown for long.
    .
    I'm on that 2nd CD too, and I definitely am enjoying Raynard Miner's material. He did some fantastic things on nearly everyone he produced at Motown- but for whatever reason, not much of it got released. "The Key" is wonderful. When I heard that, I felt like it really captured that Motown Sound, but also moved it up a few paces and freshened things up.

    It seems Motown was putting the Four Tops a bit on the back burner for a spell. Perhaps with so much going on around this time, groups splitting up, new groups joining, the arrival of The Jackson 5, most of the attention went in those directions. Whatever the case, a lot of good music wasn't getting put onto albums when it needed to be. I will say though, the album, "Four Tops Now" is one I find surprisingly good, even with the cover songs.

  35. Quote Originally Posted by Quinn View Post
    "Opportunity Knock" is a good song, but to me it is a direct reflection of the city sound. With it's breezy background vocals and melancholy chording it's more the work of Terry Johnson and Pete Moore. The intro sounds like Smokey's contribution to the song, but I think he more or less was support here. To me "I'll Pay Double" with it's eerie,Transylvania/Dracula,cold and dark night ambience is the example. Smokey never made a song that implicated in a straight forward way that it was a "Made In Detroit" record. He had a different concept when he interpreted the city's sound that hinted at it as opposed to eyeing it directly.

    I think the only artists he was able to produce in that fashion was Mary Wells and The Temptations because he was their chief songwriter and producer. It's not that he didn't have the chance, he was vice president and Berry's best friend so he could do damn near whatever. When Chuck Jackson came to the company he wouldn't let anybody touch him for nearly a year. Who had sway like that at Motown Records?, don't worry I'll wait......
    As fans of his genius we tend to forget he was an artist and had to tour and promote,so he wasn't always home to create and compete. Everyone else was studio bound and had the time to accomplish what they felt they could.

    As for Norman Whitfield's repetitive nature, I really can't find an issue with what he did. The sixties was the era of the single( history has unfortunately repeated itself) and folks weren't really buying albums unless it had all the hits on it. An album with one hit single wouldn't really do anything, but if it had a few hits and a few radio favorites that would warrant the purchase. In addition to that it was a slick way to get paid multiple times on familiar songs and bring more value to the publishing company. As the album era began to emerge it made more sense to create a wide range of songs because the public wanted to buy that at the time. Music fans wanted nine songs once a year as opposed to one song every few months. So Norman just dealt with the market accordingly like every other producer.
    I read these comments and re-read them. I love your way of describing Smokey's work on songs like "I'll Pay Double". That one does have a distinctly eerie, hypnotic and spooky vibe. I'm still trying to figure out how the band kept up with those complicated time changes. You also gave me pause for thought about his unique interpretation of The Motown Sound or the sound of the city. Everything Smokey did was fairly oblique; only rarely did he write something as direct as "Get Ready" or "More, More, More Of Your Love", and even that one runs on a wicked reinterpretation of the Cha-Cha-Cha beat.

    I can understand your comments about Norman larding his albums with so many of the same songs on album after album. Looking at so many LPs from that time, I see that nearly every record label stocked their popular artists songs with popular and well-known hits from other artists. I keep having to be reminded that we are looking at things from the perspective on now and not in the context of the times the music came out. Which is why albums of the Four Tops had so many MOR covers, because that was the M.O. of the times for pop groups.

    My but I'm so glad for all of the responses on this thread. Much food for thought from everyone and your posts are incredibly detailed and insightful. I love them because there is so much to chew on when I read them.

    And you thought you were going on too long.
    Last edited by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance; 08-21-2018 at 03:51 AM.

  36. #36
    i definitely need to explore Disc 2 of their L&F set. i've played it a few times but really not familiar with most of the tracks on it.

    i think this is a fascinating topic. all groups must evolve and change and, as someone stated already, 68 was a crazy year in America. music was rapidly becoming much more aggressive and less "cute" than in the early and mid 60s. And given the material that HDH did at Invictus, i don't think it was really all the revolutionary. while it's perfectly fine, it doesn't really reinvent or shake things up like their mid 60s work. So i think if HDH had stayed at motown, they would have started to lose their iron-clad grips on the Tops and Sups. I do love the Frank Wilson work with both of those groups. it seems as if the tops were the male counterpoint to the New Supremes as they moved into singing about peace, god, higher ideal about mankind.

  37. Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    i definitely need to explore Disc 2 of their L&F set. i've played it a few times but really not familiar with most of the tracks on it.

    i think this is a fascinating topic. all groups must evolve and change and, as someone stated already, 68 was a crazy year in America. music was rapidly becoming much more aggressive and less "cute" than in the early and mid 60s. And given the material that HDH did at Invictus, i don't think it was really all the revolutionary. while it's perfectly fine, it doesn't really reinvent or shake things up like their mid 60s work. So i think if HDH had stayed at motown, they would have started to lose their iron-clad grips on the Tops and Sups. I do love the Frank Wilson work with both of those groups. it seems as if the tops were the male counterpoint to the New Supremes as they moved into singing about peace, god, higher ideal about mankind.
    I agree with you that H-D-H may have ended up losing their grip on those groups, or at least, the material may have retreated from trying to break new ground. The H-D-H vaulted material on the Lost And Found Set struck me as good music, but I think it definitely was moving away from the astonishing, epic sounds of the Golden Trio of "Reach Out", "Shadows" and "Bernadette". Really, how could you top those?

    It's the same topic a buddy and I have about a lot of Progressive Rock bands. One in particular we discuss is the band Yes. They had a period where they were really hitting on all cylinders and then the times changed as the 70's became the 80's. A band gets put into a no-win position at some point: either you change with the times (or try) and get shot down for changing your sound. OR you stick to trying to do the same thing and get shot down for NOT changing your sound. Yes got shot down for doing something as 80s-Chic as "Owner Of A Lonely Heart", but what were their options by this time.

    Coincidentally, this same friend is a huge fan of the Four Tops and much of the Motown artists and the same arguments that apply to these Prog Rock bands can actually be carried over to Motown's writers and artists. Had the Tops and Supremes gone as far as they could have with H-D-H? Very hard to say, but both groups were thankfully rejuvenated when they worked with Frank Wilson and they didn't suffer and complaints from the public about changing their sound. Thank goodness.

  38. Great topic thanks for post this.

  39. Quote Originally Posted by Jasonaldean View Post
    Great topic thanks for post this.
    I'm really appreciative and blown away by all the great responses. I've just been in this mood for all things Four Tops and everyone is bring things to the table that have me seeing things in ways I never would have considered.

  40. #40
    I'm a bit surprised there hasn't been any effort to release their albums in Expanded Sets. or even in box sets like the Marvelettes.

    Same with the Temps

  41. #41
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    I'm a bit surprised there hasn't been any effort to release their albums in Expanded Sets. or even in box sets like the Marvelettes.

    Same with the Temps
    I'm with you on this point. I would have thought that the Four Tops' Second Album and Reach Out are at least as worthy of expanded releases as the Supremes' albums. I say this as being really pleased with the Supremes' albums.

  42. #42
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    I'm a bit surprised there hasn't been any effort to release their albums in Expanded Sets. or even in box sets like the Marvelettes.

    Same with the Temps
    It sounds like a great idea and I want to say that maybe Universal weighed the possibility at one point. When I consider what we've gotten in terms of unissued material and what's been languishing,it wouldn't be a worthy investment. "Expanded" has a different meaning to different record companies. We're talking Universal here,so when you hear them talk about an "Expanded Edition" you can pretty much expect a full disc worth of unreleased songs. The Tops weren't prolific in the studio quite like The Marvelettes or even The Supremes.

    When The Tops went into the studio to record an album they would usually record close to twenty tracks. It depended on how many producers had the time to cut something for the album. By The Supremes being a much bigger act and everyone breaking their necks to do something with them,QC might have forty or more tracks. Berry Gordy recorded them constantly between Detroit & L.A.,even to the tune of having to cancel certain projects. So when preliminary research starts for a reissue they start finding truckloads of unheard material on The Supremes whereas they might find another five to ten songs on The Tops. It works for an Ace/Kent, but it's not much of a project for Harry Weinger and won't keep him busy very long. So I can see why The Tops have never got the deluxe treatment. Just my viewpoint.

  43. #43
    No reason why haven't got expanded editions of the tops. For some reason the the Supremes get all the attention. They did way too many standards and not as well.

  44. #44
    Quote Originally Posted by soulster View Post
    As usual, I have a very unpopular opinion for this forum.

    I'm glad The Four Tops left Motown. They needed a change, some fresh ideas and a new musical direction. I think their collaboration with The Moody Blues encouraged that.
    I also agree with you on this: the move to ABC Records give the Four Tops give the group major hits in the early to mid '70s with "Keeper Of The Castle", "Ain't No Woman (Like The One I've Got)", "Midnight Flower", and others. And I read somewhere that the Motown brass didn't do anything to keep the group when their contract was up ("you guys are finished anyway" is what I've heard-maybe not from Gordy himself but from someone else at the company).
    Last edited by Motown Eddie; 08-22-2018 at 02:13 PM.

  45. #45
    Quote Originally Posted by Fourtopsbiggestfan View Post
    No reason why haven't got expanded editions of the tops. For some reason the the Supremes get all the attention. They did way too many standards and not as well.
    There are a few reasons for this:
    1.) The Supremes have more devoted fan base. That's not to say that there aren't Four Tops fans out there, but the Supremes were a bigger group with a household name star who is still touring and still having hits on the Billboard charts today. While people may know of Levi Stubbs, he's not going to have the same draw as Diana Ross. If Diana Ross is still out there in the public eye, a record label is more inclined to release material from that artist's catalog. The Four Tops don't have that same draw.

    2.) The Four Tops' Lost & Found collection wasn't a big seller. A collection like that is catered to a very specialized audience: die-hard Four Tops and Motown fans. So your market isn't going to be expansive. Granted the collection was unreleased material and didn't contain hits on it, but when a record company looks at album/artists and see the sales aren't there then that will prevent them from wanting to do more releases on that artist. It doesn't mean that they won't do some releases, but it certainly doesn't help the cause.

    3.) Universal has dropped the ball on all Motown releases. How many Motown catalog releases have we seen directly from Universal in the past 2 years? This doesn't include the releases from third-party labels. Universal just isn't producing and releasing the Motown catalog. We had to wait over a year between Supremes releases. Is it due to lack of demand? No. Lack of promotion on their end? Absolutely. I honestly believe if they actually invested in the promotion of these releases then it would boost sales, but when all you see is a little blurb on Facebook, how do they expect this stuff to sell? You see how hard and long it is taking to complete the Supremes catalog. Motown 60 is next year. I'm not expecting too much as Motown 50 was such a dud.

    Andy and George have expressed that they would love to do expanded editions on the Four Tops, Vandellas, etc. but they want to finish the Supremes/Diana Ross catalog first. I would love to see expanded editions on the other Motown groups and I'm hopeful one day we will, but there's only a handful of people working on the catalog (Harry, Andy, George, Keith, Kevin). There's only so much they can do especially within a major record corporation such as Universal.

  46. #46
    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    "The Key" is wonderful. When I heard that, I felt like it really captured that Motown Sound, but also moved it up a few paces and freshened things up.

    It seems Motown was putting the Four Tops a bit on the back burner for a spell. Perhaps I will say though, the album, "Four Tops Now" is one I find surprisingly good, even with the cover songs.
    I, too, love "The Key", Waiting..... In fact, speaking of cover versions (which I sometimes find dull before even hearing them, i.e., "Little Green Apples"), the Four Tops "Now" contains the full-length version of the most beautiful rendition of "MacArthur Park" I've ever heard. It's a classic example of Motown taking another record company's song and making it all their own -- spectacularly!

  47. #47
    Quote Originally Posted by soulster View Post
    As usual, I have a very unpopular opinion for this forum.
    Why you always putting yourself down like that soulster!? How can you know your view is unpopular before anyone has replied to it? I always enjoy hearing your views in the forum.
    Last edited by TomatoTom123; 08-23-2018 at 11:46 AM.

  48. #48
    Quote Originally Posted by waitingwatchinglookingforachance View Post
    or even "can't hold back"?
    yasssss

  49. #49
    Quote Originally Posted by Philles/Motown Gary View Post
    I, too, love "The Key", Waiting..... In fact, speaking of cover versions (which I sometimes find dull before even hearing them, i.e., "Little Green Apples"), the Four Tops "Now" contains the full-length version of the most beautiful rendition of "MacArthur Park" I've ever heard. It's a classic example of Motown taking another record company's song and making it all their own -- spectacularly!
    Yes LookingForAChance and Gary I LOVE "The Key"! Such a great Four Tops tune. I also love their version of "Don't Take Your Love From Me" from the same album.

    And Gary, "Little Green Apples" is a fantastic song, so don't let me hear you putting that one down again, OK?

  50. #50
    The NOW album has the amazing MY PAST JUST CROSSED MY FUTURE. That is one funky groove. Should've made another album with the unreleased material like SAME O SAME O, NO TIME, MY LOVE KEEPS ON GROWING etc

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