Picks and Pans Review: Indestructible

updated 10/17/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/17/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The Four Tops

This album is better than anyone had a right to expect. The Four Tops—boasting the same lineup of Levi Stubbs, Duke Fakir, Obie Benson and Lawrence Payton for more than 30 years—still tour constantly. The drawing card has always been their extraordinary string of Motown hits from the '60s, including Bernadette, I Can't Help Myself and It's the Same Old Song. Since those days, the Tops' attempts to record new material have fallen resoundingly flat. Indestructible ends that streak. It's filled with good contemporary pop-soul, fashionably produced and energetically performed. That's hardly a surprise, considering the stellar group of Four Tops' admirers who lent production, writing or instrumental help. The fan club includes Phil Collins, Smokey Robinson, Huey Lewis, guitarist Joe Satriani and many others. Of course, the Tops are never without their own ace in the hole, Levi Stubbs, with his molten voice that barrels along somewhere between a baritone and a tenor. In the history of soul singing, Stubbs's booming power has been approached only once, by Eddie Levert of the O'Jays. Stubbs is never really challenged on Indestructible, nor is he taken into the deeper regions of his register, but he still sounds great. If Ever a Love There Was is a smooth ballad, on which Stubbs duets with his female counterpart, Aretha Franklin, while Kenny G gilds this vocal lily with a decorative soprano sax. Narada Michael Walden stirs up the tempo and the intensity on two of the songs he produces, When You Dance and The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine. When the Four Tops perform in concert this year, expect them to slip some choice new material in among the classics. It's not the same old song anymore. (Arista)

From Our Partners