The Four Tops' story is one of longevity and togetherness: these Motown legends teamed up in high school and spent over four decades without a single personnel change. In between, they became one of the top-tier acts on a label with no shortage of talent, ranking with the Temptations and the Supremes as Motown's most consistent hitmakers. Where many other R&B vocal groups spotlighted a tenor-range lead singer, The Four Tops were fronted by deep-voiced Levi Stubbs, who never cut a solo record outside of the group.
You'd be hard pressed to find two better singles on a debut album than "Ask the Lonely" and "Baby I Need Your Loving." These were the cornerstones of The Four Tops' first LP, and besides netting them one Top Ten and Top 20 pop single each, as well as a Top Ten and Top 20 R&B single, it established Levi Stubbs' resounding voice as another unforgettable one at Motown. Even the tunes that didn't do so well, like "Left with a Broken Heart" or "Without the One You Love (Life's Not Worth While)," were marvelously sung. It was a debut to remember.
Forrest Gump (1994) is one of the most successful films ever made, winning Tom Hanks his second successive Best Actor Oscar (he won the previous year for Philadelphia) as well as claiming the Best Picture Oscar and many other awards and nominations, including several for music. A unique fable of American life from the 1950s to the 80s, the film blends comedy, drama, war, romance and groundbreaking special effects into a social and political portrait of the passing years, all seen through the eyes of the intellectually challenged but immensely likeable Forrest Gump. The soundtrack is a double album featuring 31 classic pop tunes plus a suite from Alan Silvestri's rich orchestral music, represented more completely on the companion score album. Opening with Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog", this is a fine anthology of three decades of American music, taking in everything from Joan Baez's "Blowin' In The Wind" to Aretha Franklin's "Respect", The Mammas and The Papas' "California Dreamin'" and Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson". Here also is Scott McKenzie with "San Francisco", plus Jefferson Airplane, the Supremes, Lynyrd Skynrd and many more. Like American Graffiti (1973), this is one of the great pop soundtracks, happily at home in just about any music collection.
The Complete Motown Singles has been a dream project of Motown and soul fanatics for many years, ever since the first decade of Stax/Volt singles was compiled in an impressive nine-disc box set in 1991. The Complete Motown Singles might have seemed like a logical move to soul collectors and fanatics, but it remained in the realm of fantasy for many years because, as enticing as that set was, it was difficult to create.
The Ultimate Christmas Album, Vol. 5 collects more pop and rock holiday tunes, this time venturing further into the '70s and '80s with songs like Paul McCartney & Wings' "Wonderful Christmastime," Hall & Oates' "Jingle Bell Rock," and Barry Manilow's "It's Just Another New Year's Eve." The collection still features traditional pop chestnuts, including Dean Martin's "A Marshmallow World," Johnny Mathis' "The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)," and Andy Williams' "Sleigh Ride," but this volume's overall feel is more contemporary than classic. Other highlights include Manhattan Transfer's "A Christmas Love Song," the Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping," the Tokens' "Little Drummer Boy," and the Jackson 5's "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." If The Ultimate Christmas Album, Vol. 5 isn't necessarily the most coherent volume in the series, it's certainly one of the most interesting.
The five disc Ultimate Collection: 60s Classics box rounds up 100 genre spanning hits from the explosive decade, with highlights arriving via iconic cuts from the likes of Jimmy Ruffin ("What Becomes of the Broken Hearted"), Percy Sledge ("When a Man Loves a Woman"), the Walker Brothers ("The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)"), and the Moody Blues (Nights in White Satin").
Motown issued a sizable amount of seasonal material, and as this two-disc, 51-track collection shows, a lot of it was done at a high level of quality. There are simply some wonderful Christmas sides here, including the Jackson 5's buoyant "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," the Temptations' delightfully rendered "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer," the Funk Brothers' surging and joyous instrumental take on "Winter Wonderland," Smokey Robinson's hopeful "Christmas Everyday," the Four Tops' lightly funky "Merry Christmas Baby," and a pair of odd but beautiful Marvin Gaye pieces, "Christmas in the City" and the achingly perfect "I Want to Come Home for Christmas."
This DVD features some of Motown's greatest hits recorded live by current Motown touring groups, at The Sands Casino and Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on March 15 & 16, 2005. Featured stars include The Four Tops, Martha Reeves (of Martha & The Vandellas), The Temptations Review featuring Dennis Edwards, Joe Billingslea's Contours, and The Velvelettes.
Given the Beatles' fondness for covering Motown favorites like "Please Mr. Postman," "Money (That's What I Want)" and "You Really Got a Hold on Me," it was only logical that Motown stars like the Supremes, the Four Tops and Stevie Wonder would also cover the Fab Four as well, albeit to varying degrees of success. It's telling that none of the17 tracks collected on Motown Milestones: Motown Meets the Beatles were major hits, as most seem like filler in comparison to the individual acts' best-known performances of the day; only Stevie Wonder's driving "We Can Work It Out" and Marvin Gaye's gossamer reading