Smooth Soul Survivor – “Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got)”

4topsMaybe the smoothest Smooth Soul Survivor to be selected thus far, the wonderful ‘Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got),‘ was recorded by the Four Tops and is taken from the band’s 1972 album ‘Keeper of the Castle‘.  Although, throughout the sixties, the Four Tops were synonymous with the very best that the consistently excellent Motown had to offer, ‘Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got)‘ actually comes from that era in the early seventies when the band found renewed success by switching from Motown to the ABC Dunhill label.  In fact it was the decision made in 1972 by Motown to move its headquarters from Detroit to Los Angeles that, in part, forced on the Four Tops into the change.  Having been in the Motor City their whole lives, the four members of the ‘Tops’ chose to shun California and remain in the Midwest.  Here ABC introduced them to the songwriting and production team of Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, who immediately found considerable success in recreating the group’s hallmark Motown sound.

Levi Stubbs, Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Renaldo "Obie" Benson, and Lawrence Payton met in 1953 whilst still attending various Detroit-area high schools.  Dubbing themselves the Four Aims, they began rehearsing together and Payton‘s cousin Roquel Davis, who himself was an upcoming song writer, helped them get an audition with Chess Records.  In order to avoid confusion with the Ames Brothers the band changed its name to the Four Tops but their lone Chess single, ‘Kiss Me Baby‘, failed miserably.  After brief stays with Red Top, Riverside and, in 1960, Columbia, they still awaited the breakthrough which eventually came in 1963 when the Four Tops signed with longtime friend Berry Gordy‘s new label.  After a false start with the intended debut ‘Breaking Through‘ (which Gordy scrapped) they were placed with the Motown songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland.  The result was the 1964 smash ‘Baby I Need Your Loving‘ and from there the Four Tops went on from strength to strength.

Written by Lambert and Potter, ‘Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got)‘ proved to be the band’s final top five pop hit and although they followed it with ‘Are You Man Enough‘ from the film Shaft in Africa, plus several other R&B chart hits, the band’s last album for ABC was ‘At The Top‘ in 1978.  After comebacks, first with the 1981 hit ‘When She Was My Girl‘, and later with the aptly titled ‘Indestructible‘ the Four Tops were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1990.

‘Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got)‘ is a metaphor for sumptuous smooth soul and as such has been covered by some interesting artists.  Friends of Distinction, which made its name in the summer of love with ‘Grazing In The Grass‘ produced an individualistic take on the song while Mamas & the Papas created a version that, although low on soul, was high on melody.  Interpretations from acts as varied as East Coast Band, Bloodfire Posse, Home T, Kashif, Johnny Mathis and Hamilton Joe Frank & Reynolds have, over the years, all brought something different to the tune but an outstanding personal favorite arrived in 2007 from guitarist Jeff Golub.  This long time member of Rod Stewart’s touring band now enjoys considerable fame as a star of the contemporary jazz genre.  His re-imagining of ‘Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got)‘ comes from the CD ‘Grand Central‘, features Richard Elliot on sax and has been riding high on the charts of most played on smooth jazz radio for the latter part of the year.

In every respect ‘Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got)‘ is an outstanding Smooth Soul Survivor.

By Denis Poole,

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