Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"Second Album" by The Four Tops (1965)

“It’s the same old song, but with a different meaning…”
Soul Classics on This LP:I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) and It’s the Same Old Song
My Overall Rating of the Tracks Separately:
HIGHLY Recommended (3.5/4 stars)
When I was a kid, it seemed like my family was always on its way to somewhere.  The car was our temple and the radio was our swinging censer of jasmine.  And Solid Gold Saturday night was a weekly ritual.  It hooked me on oldies and exposed me to a lot of really good and really diverse music.  My education was so thorough that I can still remember the show’s jingle and call-in number.  It’s going strong these days with the original DJ, Mike Harvey – only now it’s called Super Gold and they play way too much disco.  I have nothing against disco, but for me, “oldies” music stops dead in 1974.
My dad also kept about 20 eight tracks (and later, cassettes) in the car at all times, in case the radio hit a streak of songs he didn’t like or we drove out of reception – this was always a possibility in our particularly rural neck of Eastern Kentucky.  When I was about six, I latched on to a couple in particular.  My request was always for Sam Cooke’s Greatest Hits, the one with the yellow and black cover.  Being a big Sam Cooke fan, but also growing tired of playing the same thing over and over, Dad introduced me to similar music he thought I might like. 
And so, between Solid Gold Saturday Night and my father’s music collection, an undying love for soul music was born.  And it grew.
One of my first music purchases was a cassette with the best of The Four Tops on one side and the best of The Temptations on the other.  I played that thing until it broke.  For a long time though, I couldn’t distinguish between the two groups, since they were mingled together on the same tape (I had a similar problem with BTO and Grand Funk Railroad).  But now, there’s no comparison whatsoever.  The Temptations had some great songs, but not nearly as many as The Four Tops.  Also, The Four Tops tie The Beach Boys in my book for best, most consistent use of the baritone saxophone ever.
Like I said before, I love this type of music.  There’s just something… primordial going on in those early Motown records and their ilk – you can’t not be moved by them.  It’s like they took the blues and infused them with a spark of hope, even in the most hopeless of songs.  That’s an impossible, yet impeccable equation.  And nobody has ever been able to recreate it.  Nobody has ever even come close.
So, is it an album?  Yes.  It’s tight, it’s focused and it’s guaranteed to make you smile.
Up next, we stay in our R&B vein with Stevie Wonder’s double-album opus, “Songs in the Key of Life.”

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