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Issue 1089

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Review

Magnificent: The Complete Studio Duets The Supremes & The Four Tops

Magnificent: The Complete Studio Duets The Supremes & The Four Tops

 

6.0

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UK release date 23.11.2009

I know, I know, you’re sick and tired of me banging on about this. Well, I promise this’ll be the last timeâ€Â¦..for this year!! No seriously, the fact that this unique, limited edition is now available for a reasonable price here is a cause to celebrate. So, let me tell you a bit about this release...

When Diana Ross left the Supremes (Mary and Cindy) to be replaced by Jean Terrell, their first single 'Up The Ladder To The Roof' was an across-the-world hit in 1970. Jean’s voice was deeper and more soulfully solid than Diana’s which meant the group’s sound was, perhaps, warmer.

The Four Tops (Levi, Obie, Duke, Lawrence), with the same membership as day one, had always been regular hit makers at Motown until Holland, Dozier, Holland left the company. The quartet wavered for a while before returning with the 'Still Waters Run Deep' project. Prior to all this, in 1968 US television screened 'TCB – Taking Care Of Business', a musical special, starring Diana Ross and the Supremes and The Temptations. The hits flowed as 'TCB' led to other joint shows and albums. A huge success by anyone’s standards, so Motown thought they’d try it again with the new line-up of The Supremes and the Four Tops.

The debut album was 'The Magnificent 7' in ’70 from which 'River Deep Mountain High' became a no 11 hit a year later. 'The Return Of The Magnificent 7' album followed, and 'You Gotta Have Love In Your Heart' was a no 25 UK hit late in 1971. And basically that was it on the hit singles front. However, we still wanted more, and a third album was issued titled 'Dynamite' featuring, what we assumed at the time, material left over from the other two albums. And we believed that was that. So we lovingly dusted off our vinyl and stored it away in brown paper. Now that’s all changed. They’re here for the first time in cd form together with another album’s worth of tracks, eleven titles in all!

OK, so this teaming of super-groups wasn’t as successful as the other one, but it’s rather special nonetheless. The ease with which the group’s gell, whether it be Jean and Levi, or Obie and Mary, and most of the time they seem to have having a ball and. quite often, their smiles can be heard through the voices! The first album offers mostly cover versions like Marvin and Tammi’s 'Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing', Diana’s first solo outing 'Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand)', and Sly and the Family Stone’s 'Everyday People'. The second album is, perhaps, more exciting, more original, with an air of confidence. I’m drawn to 'One More Bridge To Cross', 'I Can’t Believe You Love Me' and 'What Do You Have To Do (To Stay On The Right Side Of Love)' in particular, while the third 'Dynamite' simply relies on other peoples’ songs. There’s Stephen Stills’ 'Love The One You’re With', Barbara Lewis’ 'Hello Stranger', Marvin and Tammi’s 'If I Could Build My Whole World Around You' and Aretha Franklin’s 'Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream'.

So you see, quite a pot pourie of music, and positive proof that Motown really had no idea how to present these two groups on record. They weren’t get down funky and dirty; more cabaret and glamorous, and their music was veering more from mainstream into middle-of-the-road, having left the soul market some time earlier. Not all the tracks are great; some are unimpressive, lacking excitement and originality. Yet the groups are forgiven. There’s moments that are brooding and understated; other times spiritual and gutsy; climaxing choruses and hook lines, finger snapping melodies, or wistful tunes. But all the while, we’re treated to the engaging interaction of voices that are enthusiastic one minute and dreamy the other. The unreleased items are, of course, extremely worthy like their takes on The Isley Brothers’ 'It’s Your Thing', Spencer Davis’ 'Gimme Some Lovin’' and Shorty Long’s 'Function At The Junction', while other tracks have been re-mixed, and twiddled with. This release is what made Motown so magical; the memories of happier times flood back with a vengeance, and I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to be invited, once again, into the musical world of The Supremes and the Four Tops.
Words SHARON DAVIS

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