Vinyl Minded with the Four Tops, Smokey Robinson and Steve Baskin

The Four Tops

Still Waters Run Deep (Motown/Universal/Elemental)

Limited edition 140 gram high quality virgin vinyl

Originally released in 1970, Still Waters Run Deep is Motown legends the Four Tops' ninth studio album (we think), and it came at the turn of the decade when many people were looking at R&B vocal groups as spent forces. Smokey and Diana were making moves as solo artists, threatening to leave the likes of the Four Tops and the Temptations behind.

The Four Tops responded with this gem. While the sweetest of harmonies were still present and correct, this is an album that saw the Tops continue to evolve.

1969's Soul Spin, the preceding album, still featured the guys in immaculate suits on the cover. Fast-forward one year, we're into the '70s, and through the reflection in those still waters we can see that the Four Tops are dressed individually, more in keeping with the times.

Naturally, the music is exquisite. "Still Water (Love)," cowritten by Smokey Robinson, is one of the band's best but the absolute star is the smooth rendition of "L.A. (My Town)," written by Motown ever-present Sherlie Matthews.

The packaging is simple but effective, and the heavy vinyl sounds perfect.

Smokey Robinson

Smokey (Motown/Universal/Elemental)

Gatefold limited edition 140 gram blue colored vinyl

Speaking of Smokey Robinson going solo, by 1973 he was a fully fledged solo artist and Smokey was his debut solo album. 1972's Flying High Together was his last with the Miracles--that band would forge ahead with Billy Griffin.

But Smokey was another thing entirely. The moon-esque bubble of smoke on the cover suggested that this wasn't going to your standard Motown boy group excursion. Rather, Robinson was intent on taking the listener on a trip.

That said, Smokey's voice is Smokey's voice. This writer has seen him reduce female concert attendees to a puddle with a single held note, in recent times. So when he performs the singles "Holly," "ASilent Partner in a Three-Way Love Affair" and "Baby Come Close," we're all invested.

He was growing and he'd continue to grow, and Smokey captures the great man in a fascinating and pivotal moment.

The blue vinyl is gorgeous, as is the gatefold sleeve, making this reissue a must-have for Motown fans new and old.

Steve Baskin and the Fourteens

Love is Hard (Vanelle's Songs)


This one's a new release from pop-Americana artist Steve Baskin and his band the Fourteens -- we receive so many reissues for this column, and that's great, but it's nice to hear some fresh music on vinyl.

Baskin combines "Blue-eyes American soul," country, pop and rock 'n' roll to great effect, and he's a gifted lyricist too. "We Thought We Were Grown" is a stunningly beautiful and vulnerable relationship tale, while "The One Percent" is topical and quirky.

There are hints of Billy Joel in there, some Mellencamp, even some Bon Jovi. The cover of the Monkees' "Pleasant Valley Sunday" is less impressive; Baskin is at his best when he's performing his own material. But overall, this is a record that will get more than one spin.