No thanks in small part to the extremely high quality control, Berry Gordy and his creative directors exercised a finite but massive backlog of recordings that never saw the light of day at Motown, forever locked away and archived in some warehouse. An unfortunate situation, as Motown engineers and artists on their worst day far excelled other labels on their best. Thankfully, a movement has been afoot to unearth many of these treasures. Excellent anthologies such as the Cellarful of Motown series and individual artist anthologies (largely, and sadly, available in the U.K. only) have helped to shed further light on the talents of minor Motown players, artists that could have been top-tier elsewhere. Then there were the juggernauts of Motown, with names like Smokey, Stevie, and Diana, and groups like the Temptations and the Vandellas who were synonymous with the label's early success. With this, Motown has had the good sense to start the Lost and Found series. Alternate takes, mixes, and lost cuts that were never issued on vinyl are all cleaned up and digitally remastered with beautiful liner notes and breathtaking packaging. In this volume, 1963-1970, the Four Tops are presented in a two-disc, 41-tune marathon concentrating on the Detroit years of their success. More important than their status as previously unreleased, this is a quiet barometer of their evolution that isn't plastered in hit after hit. Their blues- and jazz-tinged early singles show a group raw with promise, not yet by the Motown hitmaking artist machine that would turn them into the consummate soul showmen. Midway through disc one, however, that transformation becomes highly evident. Not only in the production and songwriting, but in the highly polished quality of their vocal delivery. Make no mistake, this record isn't for the casual listener to use as a starting point to the group's rich history. But for die-hard fans, Northern soul fanatics, and Motown enthusiasts, this stuff is essential. It's like falling in love with the same group all over again.
AllMusic Review by Rob Theakston
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2