May 29, 1971: Diana Ross, Partridge Family, Elvis Presley, Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose, Sugarloaf

DIANA ROSS: Reach Out I’ll Be There; (They Long To Be) Close To You (Motown).
Diana has tackled the Holland-Dozier-Holland classic in a completely different style to the original. Paul Riser has arranged it with a very soft electric bass and chinking cymbal slow intro, over which Diana, some chicks, and a piano gradually build up from her almost recitation start to (and this is over halfway through the record) a soaring extended climax. Not surprisingly, this last portion is stridently noisy in the time-honoured Ross tradition . . . this record, with its violent changes in volume, will be the disc-jockey’s bane!

Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson have done another good job of production, as usual. On the flip, taken from the “Diana!” tele spectacular, the canned applause segues into a none-too-subtle version of the Bachadaventers’ song, however.

THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY: I’ll Meet You Halfway (Bell).
Hey, Pop Pickers! Look at the goodie I got for you here! Nice, huh? Aw, sheee . . . No, seriously though, this is a very fine example of “family appeal” inoffensive twaddle. When it gets released in this country, it is bound to delight all the Mums and Dads who listen to the BBC and who, I feel sure, make up the majority of singles buyers.

ELVIS PRESLEY: Life; Only Believe (RCA).
Sorry there’s no pretty pic of El accompanying this review, but it seems that he does get a goodly share of RM’s pictorial space – now then, no complaints and silence in the ranks. Presleyites will remember me letting it all hang out (verbally) rather more than usual over my review of “Rags To Riches,” which really did hit me harder than anything else by the King in years, so that it was gratifying to see RCA issue it as the A side in this country. This new one is good too, but doesn’t have that magic for me.

“Life,” by Shirl Milete (and not Rick Nelson), is another of those ponderous slowies at which Elvis seems to excel these days, and gradually picks up power as it progresses along its resonantly heavy way. “Only Believe” is a rather nice “sacred” song, on which the Imperials help out, and it is more like the El of old. Incidentally, any old fans who are hoping for doses of Rock ‘n’ Roll in “That’s The Way It Is” should be prepared for disappointment. Musically it is nowhere near as interesting as his TV special. Continue reading “May 29, 1971: Diana Ross, Partridge Family, Elvis Presley, Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose, Sugarloaf”

May 15, 1971: Chi-Lites, James Brown, Edwin Starr, Honey Cone, Brenda & The Tabulations

THE CHI-LITES: (For God’s Sake) Give More Power To The People (Brunswick).
Eugene Record (Richard Williams’s favourite Soulster) sings lead, writes and produces (with direction by Willie Henderson) on this fast-rising U.S. smash. The Chi-Lites were previously a sweet Soul Vocal Group, but here have followed on in the funky social conscience shoes that the Temptations recently vacated. Those of you lucky enough to have heard the Tempt’s last hit in that bag, “Ungena Za Ulimwengu (Unite The World),” will know how ear-shattering and mind-messing the intro to that was: well, on this, the side opens with a piercing synthesised noise that’s not unlike an air-raid siren getting warmed up! There’s a great chunky funky driving rhythm, lots of bass vocal rumbling, a bit of crowd cheering, and a touch of the old Vibrations sound about the vocal (which is full of interplay) at times. Very nice – let’s hope we get it here, too.

JAMES BROWN: I Cried (King).
It will come as no surprise to regular readers that I love this (and virtually every other) James Brown newie, so, before your attention wanders elsewhere, I must convince you that this pleading impassioned slowie is extremely, outstandingly, “It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” good. Helped out by a female chorus and relaxingly unstrident tasteful backing (apart from his voice and the song’s form, this is the nearest he’s come to an “easy listening” sound), Mr Brown wails, swoops and screams with ten times more real Soul than I’ve heard from him for ages.

The chicks begin it all with a mellow “Keep me in pain” before J.B. eases in with his beautifully modulated screech, “I cried, I cried, my heart filled with misery.” Later, although he doesn’t need to, he asks the girls “Tell me what I’m singing,” and they chime back from stratospheric heights, “Soul … Soul … Soul.” Further, to set the mood, he advises “Listen to my rap – so turn your record set down, real low; Brother Jock(ey), you turn yours down, too.” Fabulous. When it comes out here, we evidently get his “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved” hit as the flip: in America, they have (and not before time!) “World, Part 2.

EDWIN STARR: Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On (Gordy).
Talk about noisy intros: the one here does its best to beat those of the “War” series, and succeeds. The under-rated Edwin hollers out the definitive credo, “I like the sound of funky music,” and for the rest of this pile-driving powerful cacophony (no criticism intended) funky music is exactly what is in the Gordy grooves. More so than in “War,” I think that here Edwin fully realizes the exciting potential he showed in, but never followed up after, “Agent 00 Soul.” There’s a different and good raucous version of “Cloud Nine” on the flip, for extra value. Sheee . . . the U.S. singles are so good this week! Continue reading “May 15, 1971: Chi-Lites, James Brown, Edwin Starr, Honey Cone, Brenda & The Tabulations”