Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Four Tops--Keeper of the Castle/Ain't No Woman Like the One I Got (1972)

     It had been a common refrain from those artists who had a proud legacy with Motown. The late 60's saw major shifts in what was a hit making machine out of Detroit. As with any musical style it is subject to the whims of the buying public, and much of the formula that churned out hit after hit had begun to break down as the Holland/Dozer/Holland songwriting team left to form their own label.
     Several groups like the Temptations and The Four Tops began to experiment with more psychedelic forms that fit with the late 60's. New songwriters such as Ashford & Simpson, Norman Whitfield, and Johnny Bristol began to emerge with a new pop/soul sound.  Artists with more clout such as Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder began to bring new forms of the black experience and it's expression  to the Motown label. which although popular with the public, did not impress Label president Berry Gordy who had become fixated on newer groups like The Jackson Five, Rare Earth, and a newly solo Diana Ross. With this began a slow shift from Detroit to Los Angeles which culminated in an announcement in 1972 that all operations were to move there, as was the artists. 
     The Four Tops were not interested in moving. Having felt neglected by the label for the past several years, they chose to break away from Motown and signed with ABC-Dunhill. This sparked a renaissance within the group and 1972 became one of the best years they had since their salad days in Detroit. The first hit was "Keeper of the Castle" which although neglected by oldies radio was a breath of fresh music air in 1972, with singer Levi Stubbs showing once again why his voice was a distinctive one through-out the previous decade. The second hit of the year was, "Ain't No Woman Like the One I Got" which Stubbs was joined in co-lead spots by the rest of the Tops. "Ain't No Woman" was their last top five hit. Although never having another big hit, they continued to record throughout the 70's and from the 80's until the middle of this past decade toured the country with The Temptations in a very successful partnership.

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