by: The Four Tops

The last of the major Motown groups to receive proper box-set treatment, the Four Tops in a sense got the best of the bunch, since this tells a ripping history while providing a cornucopia of rarities. The latter part of that statement is what prevents the set from being a true must-have for those who just want a comprehensive history, because there are too many major songs present in alternate mixes or versions that are slightly different than the hits that brought the group its deserved fame and fortune. Not that any of these are bad -- it's just that it presents the group's history through a slightly skewed prism, enough to prevent it from being thoroughly comprehensive. Still, it's an accurate history and a wholly engaging one, largely because the Four Tops had a fairly extensive pre-history before joining Motown, and they continued to have hits after leaving Motown, thereby giving the box a real narrative thrust -- especially because the late-'50s recordings that dominate the first half of the first disc are as gritty and powerful as their mid-'70s recordings were smooth, stylish, and sexy. Like many comprehensive four-disc box sets, it spends too much time in the post-hit era. Sure, the Four Tops continued to chart until the early '80s, but this extends into the early '90s, meaning that the record just sort of peters out to a less-than-satisfying conclusion. Nevertheless, that's a minor quibble, because the box does tell the story very effectively and is filled with great music, great sound, and solid liner notes, especially notable for its rare pictures. For the hardcore who have been waiting a long time for a Four Tops set, such loving presentation and abundance of alternate takes and mixes makes it worth the wait. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Please enable Javascript to view this page competely.