This week, we’re taking it all the way back to one of the all-time great vocal groups, with Four Tops and 1966’s Reach Out I’ll Be There.
If we’re all being totally honest, you don’t need me to tell you anything about this song that it doesn’t tell you itself. There are number of songs, especially from this period, that just transcend critique or comment. Pioneers of that classic Motown sound, the Four Tops have a class and sauvity that you just don’t get anymore, at risk of sounding like an old grandad. With tracks like Reach Out, you get that kind of rich, warming sound that can universally bring a smile to anyone’s face.
From the perfectly-crafted vocal harmonies to the crisp, unencumbered mix, the composition of the song is Holland-Dozier-Holland through and through, with this galloping, determined beat characterising the lyrical strive, as well as giving the song an energetic pulse. This is matched by Levi Stubbs massively-empassioned lead vocals, which, at points, errs even on shouting; that’s how much the man put into this, you can near hear the strain in his voice. That said, it doesn’t hinder the technical ability of the singer in the slightest, only serving to further sell the fire of the track. Duke, Obie and Lawrence also add to this Reach Out‘s iconic elements, their angelic, soaring backing vocals contrasting the hugely-masculine “HUH!”s that herald in the verses, because calling them ‘grunts’ would only injustice the sheer polish of the whole production.
As the song fades out, the fantastical woodwind melodies seep back into the mix, only adding to mysticism of such an untouchable soul masterpiece.