Pictures by Charlie Holloway/ www.psychedelicplayground.com
ATLANTA – It was Motown in the A-Town Friday night, June 27 at Chastain with the Kings of Motor City. Backed up by orchestras with strong brass sections they served up a heapin' helpin' of rockin' soul and a fantastic trip down memory lane.
At first blush, it might seem that an act would be watered down if only one original member remains, but The Four Tops, Motown Royalty, have succession not unlike their European counterparts.
Not only did they never suffer the rifts that bedevil other groups, singing together unchanged for 40 years, their legacy is handed down from father to son, and kept all in the family.
They were the darlings of the legendary dream team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. Motown Records has been cranking out hits like a Detroit assembly line since 1960 and H-D-H was the power train behind the majority of them.
"Baby, I Need Your Lovin'" - written in '64 by H-D-H, was their first single and first Top 20. It was also their first million-seller. Bernadette was their final Top 10 hit of the ‘60's, stalling out at no. 4. Not too shabby!
"Same Old Song" is legendary for going from 0-60 in 24 hours. When "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" struck no. 1, Berry Gordy ordered another single - yesterday! It went from idea to release in one day! So, one can be forgiven for thinking their intros sound an awful lot alike!
Couples were shagging behind the terrace tables, and Lawrence, Jr. stretched down a long arm to dance with a lady in front of the stage. The mellifluous harmonies were especially tight on "In The Still Of The Night."
Then they paid tribute to their three "fallen brothers," beginning with Levi Stubbs, the quartet's founder. His brother Joe sang for The Falcons, and Jackie Wilson was his cousin, so his family tree was rooted in music.
He got many offers to go it alone, but said, "It's the four of us, or none of us." He passed on five years ago, and "was and always will be their captain," according to sole survivor Duke Fakir. Ronnie McNeir stepped in for Stubbs when he became too ill to sing before he died.
Obie Benson was co-writer (with Marvin Gaye) of "What's Going On," named one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine. It hasn't lost any of its message since it was first sung in 1971.
Lawrence Payton, Jr., who replaced his father, brought more than a few tears to eyes when his uncle brought out his mother as he was singing "To Dance With My Father Again." A perennial tear-jerking favorite of fatherless brides, it was so touching. She genuinely looked startled that there were so many people watching her. She wasn't dressed up at all -- just had her pocketbook over her shoulder like anybody's Moms.
And the hits just kept on coming! "Shake Me, Wake Me When It's Over" and "Reach Out (I'll Be There)" and "Standing in the Shadows of Love" had everyone up and shakin'! The Zumba Queen in front of us had the most awesome Tina Turner moves. It's rare that the dance styling of fellow concert-goers enhance the show!
But the party was over and they had to cede the stage so they could "Get Ready" for The Temptations! An announcer announced the announcer (yes) for The Temptations, who declared it "Star Time!" and invited us to "reminisce on some of this."
Otis Williams, the only remaining original, was known as "Big Daddy" back in the day, but at 72, now he's "Granddaddy." His little grandchildren could be seen as the stagehand set up an arsenal of water bottles with precision that would make Martha Stewart proud. He knew they were going to need it with those shiny polyester costumes in the sultry Atlanta humidity.
They did not disappoint, with all those synchronized dance moves they virtually own the copyright to. They unleashed a juke-box load of hits on us: "The Way You Do The Things You Do," "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," "Ball Of Confusion," and "I Wish It Would Rain."
They plugged a little local color into their first hit "Just My Imagination." "A cozy little home in Atlanta, with two children . . . I can't afford more than two children!" complained tenor Terry Weeks. They indulged in a lot of hokey Vegas-type banter both amongst themselves and with the audience.
They sang their hit with The Supremes "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" and they sure did. Unwilling to rest on their (abundant) laurels, they still continue to make new music, and sprinkled a few shiny new songs amongst the golden oldies. They have released their 57th CD!
They closed with the song that is probably played for more Father/Bride dances than any other. The song they call The Temptations' National Anthem: "My Girl." Their first no. 1 hit and the one they left us humming in our hearts and minds.