Editor’s note: a few of James’s earlier single reviews for Record Mirror have surfaced, spanning from 1969 to 1974. These will also be posted on this blog.
DIONNE WARWICK: This Girl’s In Love With You; Lonely In My Heart/Dream Sweet Dreamer (Pye International 7N 25484).
Right and proper that Dionne should sing Herb Alpert’s big vocal hit, as it is of course a Bacharach and David song (of exceptional beauty, which everyone must know already). This is much the same as Herb’s version — if not better — except that in place of his trumpet it has what sounds like, but surely can’t be, comb and paper! The song is so good that it should be a smash again with no difficulty, and is already just that in America. Some confusion over what the flip is, but if it’s “Lonely In My Heart” it’s nice. CHART CERTAINTY.
TYRONE DAVIS: Can I Change My Mind; A Woman Needs To Be Loved (Atlantic 584253).
Release at last for this monster American R&B/ Pop smash. Tyrone Davis debuts most impressively, and, if he can maintain this quality, should soon become a Giant of Soul (Doctor Soul’s prediction). With a fantastically powerful but beautifully controlled, roaring, Little Milton-ish voice, he power-drives through the gentle B-side slowie with such force that it gave me goose-bumps on first hearing! However, it’s the ambiguous-beat, slowish and catchy “Can I Change My Mind” that should be a hit, especially just after “For Once In My Life’s” success. Tony Blackburn, please play it! CHART POSSIBILITY.
STEVIE WONDER: I Don’t Know Why; My Cherie Amour (Tamla Motown TMG 690).
Lovely freaky noises lead into mature-voiced Stevie, who pours his heart out more and more as the strings and brass build and build. The mid-tempo slowie is nowhere near as melodious as “For Once In My Life”, and will probably have less wide-spread appeal as a consequence, but it must sell well just on the strength of Stevie’s impassioned delivery . . . he leaves you feeling quite limp! For melody lovers, the pretty flip is the side, and it could be equally popular. CHART CERTAINTY.
THE RASCALS: Heaven; Baby I’m Blue (Atlantic 584255).
One must admire the Rascals’ devotion to Negro music, especially when, as here, they alienate most of their white audience by sounding more spook than spooks! “Heaven” has a heavy muddled waltz tempo and busy backing, while the flip-side slowie is very soulful and more satisfying. Their singing really wails! * * * * *
RICHIE HAVENS: Three Day Eternity; No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed (Verve Forecast VS 1512).
Popular with the Negro folk-rocker’s fans, this slow and poignant song is distinctive enough to stick in the mind — and could do rather well if played by the BBC. * * * * *
(Note: Havens was misprinted in Record Mirror as “Stevens”.)
THE ELECTRIC FLAG: Sunny; Soul Searchin’ (CBS 4066).
Somebody, muzzle Buddy Miles! Rarely does his singing match his drumming — luckily the A-side is complemented by a very fine stompin’ instrumental flip. Actually, “Sunny” is not that bad! Fans will dig. * * * * *
THE BOX TOPS: Sweet Cream Ladies, Forward March; Sandman (Bell BLL 1045).
A re-release, with the sides reversed so that the Box Tops’ current American hit is now the A-side. It’s interesting and original, but the slow “Sandman” remains more appealing. * * * *
BO DIDDLEY: Bo Diddley 1969; Soul Train (Chess CRS 8088).
Bo Diddley’s back in the driver’s seat! Subdued guitar keeps that ole’ beat going, while chicks chorus — a thin sound, but it moves. Lots of organ on the funkier Kasenetz-Katz flip. * * * *
PAUL REVERE AND THE RAIDERS Featuring Mark Lindsay: Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon; Without You (CBS 4025).
Mark Lindsay actually wrote, arranged, and produced both sides too! It’s jolly Bubble Gum music, and has returned the teeny-boppers’ favourites to the U.S. Top 30, where they belong. * * * *
WES BUCHANAN: Working My Way Through A Heartache; A Heel That Time Will Wound (CBS 4084).
Pleasant C&W song, with mandolin-sounding guitar giving it a Mexican flavour . . . somehow it ought to be Elvis singing! Lovely title, but typical stuff on flip. * * * *
PEACHES & HERB: When He Touches Me (Nothing Else Matters); Thank You (Direction 58-4085).
The re-united original duo sing prettily and airily the slowie that was first recorded (very soulfully) by Rodge Martin . . . quite nice. Slow ‘n’ lush flip is pretty too. * * * *
LOU RAWLS: It’s You; Sweet Charity (Capitol CL 15583). Lou never made it here, and has now faded even in the States. This cooks along quite nicely, with jazzy backing, but won’t help him much. How about a re-issue of “Love Is A Hurting Thing“, hey? * * *
5 thoughts on “March 15, 1969: Dionne Warwick, Tyrone Davis, Stevie Wonder, The Rascals, Richie Stevens”
Always fascinating to look at reviews of “new” releases with the benefit of hindsight and a whole lot of time/history. Often recordings that go on to become iconic classics or massive sellers are greeted with no more than a lukewarm reception by the reviewer. The review of Stevie Wonder’s single is a case in point- “the pretty flip” etc. Also the cultural norms of the time shine through- references to “negro’s & spooks” makes me wince! The plea to Tony Blackburn acknowledges the power that Radio 1 jocks had in helping break records and create hits- never to be underestimated! Lou Rawls would of course “make it” in the UK 7 years later with the classic Philly track “You’ll Never Find”. Look forward to more of this new focus on your blog.
The racial references in that Rascals review made me wince so hard, that I seriously wondered if they should even be re-published – but I think, on balance, that it’s better to be historically accurate about these things.
The passing reference to Lou Rawls’ earlier track, Love Is A Hurting Thing, is interesting. I only knew of the song as covered by Gloria Ann Taylor in 1973, and only then because it was re-released in 2015 – to some considerable interest – at around the same time that it was sampled by U.S. Girls for a track called Window Shades.
Agree re the racist comments Mike- they are seen here in context and serve to remind us of how the world was not that long ago
In all the millions of words I must have read from this period and before and I’m talking all the way back through the 20th century ive never seen something like spooks written in a review or anything else -outside outright blatant racist stuff not published by mainstream publishers.
The use of negro is completely different many blacks at the time would still have described themselves as negros. With James’s immersion in black culture and his time in America specifically in Afro American culture (and when even most true racists wouldn’t have used it in something meant for publication) I can only think he had heard it used on the street by Afro Americans and misconceivedly tried to use it as white man trying to get down with the brothers.
And further to my above comment it should also be remembered that James was a man who as we’ll see later in his columns used to big up Malcom X and thought Martin Luther King was too soft.