August 22, 1970: Melanie, Blinky & Edwin Starr, Poco, Tony Joe White, B. B. King

MELANIE: What Have They Done To My Song Ma; Ruby Tuesday (Buddah 2011-038).
What indeed? You may have heard the British cover by the New Seekers of Melanie Safka’s marvellous (and, in this case, particularly pertinent) little song – now you can go out and get the original, yet for some unintelligible reason as officially only the B-side of this release. Madness. “Ruby Tuesday” is a dull dirge, whereas “Song Ma” is a natural “easy-listening” smash if ever there was one – subdued but ultra-bouncy oompah beat, catchy chorus, pretty voice, and even a bit in French. Especially as the not dissimilar Joni Mitchell is so big right now, why the hell isn’t this the plug side?

BLINKY & EDWIN STARR: Oh How Happy; Oo Baby Baby (Tamla Motown TMG 748).
Written by Edwin in his Ric-Tic days, this was originally a US hit some four years ago by a white soul group called the Shades Of Blue (on Impact, one of the labels in the Detroit-based Golden World/Ric-Tic group that, together with Edwin, was taken over by Motown). Anyway, the story continues – last winter, in its present form as an exuberant, joyful beater of a duet, this new version was all set for release here (I even had my review copy) when it was suddenly scrapped, and a solo Starr side, “Time,” came out instead (so that he could plug it on a visit). Just as they have done by not promoting the Originals’ “Baby I’m For Real,” Motown goofed. “Time” looked great on “Top Of The Pops” but it wasn’t a hit. This will be.

POCO: You Better Think Twice; Anyway Bye Bye (CBS S 5141).
A spirited happy rocker, with good thumping bass, plus an involuted slow flip, from the Jim Messina/Richie Furay group. Now I wonder why they harmonize so much like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young?! Rather keen on these.

TONY JOE WHITE: Save Your Sugar For Me; My Friend (Monument MON 1048).
UUH! Grunt! Mumble, mumble. Now wah-wah me one time – keep the brass low and funky, y’all – schlerp that hi-hat some more – oh yeah, bring up some soulful chicks, but don’t let anything get too loud, mind, and we’ll cut this one. “UUH! Down in the swamps, now, running through the woods . . .” When “Soul Francisco” came out, THAT was an event. Still, if you’ve only got one party trick, no matter how nifty, it must pall sometime. The slow flip is better, to be fair.

B. B. KING: Hummingbird; Ask Me No Questions (Stateside SS 2176).
After the wah-wah overlay of “So Excited“, the latest step in Riley’s path to ‘teen acceptance is for him to record a Leon Russell slowie. What next – “Hey Jude”? Sure, it’s fine for him to do what he wants if he does it well, it’s nice that he can now play the Fillmores, it’s good that he may be richer, it’s time that he had universal acclaim, etc, etc, and there’s only so far you can get in the Blues and he’s been there for years, etc, etc, but he sure is paying the cost to be the boss. It would be easier if he joined John Mayall for a couple of months.

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE: Have You Seen The Saucers; Mexico (RCA 1989).
Whining guitar, shifting rhythms, loose vocals by all and sundry, and a simple repetitive chant of the title. I can see its good points without really digging it much (especially not the “Woodstock Nation” reference). Kinda “flower power”.

SMITH: What Am I Gonna Do (Stateside).
The “Baby It’s You”/”Take A Look Around” group, on a fairly ordinary rumbling drum slowie, sung by Gayle McCormick this outing.

THE GODWIN SET: Gotta Clear My Head (London).
Jamaican reggae, and even though I suspect that Roland Alphonso is heavily involved it don’t exactly sparkle.

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