The Four Tops: Renaldo "Obie" Benson, Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Lawrence Payton, Levi Stubbs (vocals).
Additional personnel: The Supremes, The Funk Brothers.
Producers include: Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, William Stevenson, Ivy Jo Hunter, R. Dean Taylor.
Compilation producer: Harry Weinger.
Recorded between 1964 & 1988. Includes liner notes by Stu Hackel.
Not to be confused with the Four Tops compilation simply entitled Anthology (which only covers their Motown recordings), 50th Anniversary Anthology is a double-CD set spanning their first Motown hit in 1964 to the late '80s. Does it include all of the popular numbers that most fans want from a greatest-hits collection? Definitely. Is it as good as Anthology, or slimmer compilations that focus exclusively on their Motown hits from the 1960s and early '70s? No, because there's way too much dispensable post-mid-'70s stuff on disc two. Still, for those who want an anthology that includes non-Motown hits (particularly their early-'70s Dunhill singles) and are reluctant to splash out for the four-CD Fourever box set, this is the best available alternative. And unquestionably, the first two-thirds or so of this collection is excellent, including all the big Motown hits; plenty of good, less celebrated lower-charting Motown singles, like "I'll Turn to Stone" (the B-side of "7-Rooms of Gloom"); and their early Dunhill hits, in which they capably imitated Philly soul stars the O'Jays and the Spinners. But the group floundered as the '70s waned, and by the time of the ribald 1976 disco hit "Catfish," they were on the verge of not only losing their personality, but of embarrassing themselves. The proceedings don't stop there, unfortunately, tacking on a bunch of other small post-1976 hits ("When She Was My Girl" was the only big one), culminating in Levi Stubbs' gruesome contribution to the Little Shop of Horrors, "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space." It was a long way from "Baby I Need Your Loving," though luckily it's the classic stuff that dominates the program. ~ Richie Unterberger