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!

THE HONEY CONE: Want Ads (Hot Wax).
One of the best girlie groups to emerge recently, the Honey Cone are Holland-Dozier-Holland’s new Vandellas, and this exciting Jackson 5-beat dancer is their biggest U.S. hit to date. Carolyn Willis, who (I believe) sings lead, has a piercing classic chick voice which cuts through everything to make this, as they say in America, a perfect “car” song . . . it’ll sound good on the radio when you’re driving.

Her voice should be good: she was a Blue Jean (no, dear, not a Swinging but a Bobby Soxx and the), and the other two chix have equal pedigrees. In truth, this is only a stock formula song (tum titty tum ti, tum tum ti-tum ti, this time), so that the performance and production (by Greg Perry) are the plus factors.

BRENDA AND THE TABULATIONS: Right On The Tip Of My Tongue (Top and Bottom).
Brenda and the Tabs, and Brenda in particular, have been favourites of mine ever since their lovely 1967 smash, “Dry Your Eyes” (have you heard the LP . . . mmm, MM!). In those Bob Finiz-produced days she used to have a very appealing voice that was not only young, delicate and waivery, but also very similar to that of Jamie label-mates Barbara Mason and Della Humphries.

Nowadays, under the wing of Van McCoy and Georgie Woods (the famous Philadelphia R&B D-J), she has a maturer version of the same voice and yet, to my mind, it is spoiled by the production. Hey – wait a minute, wait a minute (to quote). No, this swaying slowie is indeed lovely, despite all the sounds being brought up front (in Bob Finiz’s productions, the atmosphere, of which there was much, was incredibly spacious). Yes, I really dig this old (or rather, unchanged) style R&B group slowie very much. Surprisingly, it’s going big Pop in America.

ARETHA FRANKLIN: Bridge Over Troubled Water (Atlantic).
I know . . . before your heart sinks, I must confess that I was expecting to say of this “whatever you expect of it, it is.” But, amazingly, it isn’t. Aretha has reached into the goody bag and come up with a very subtle, completely different reading to win over even the most bigoted. It’ll obviously be out here, so wait and see.

WILSON PICKETT: Don’t Knock My Love, Parts 1 and 2 (Atlantic).
After the superb “Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You,” this Dave Crawford and Brad Shapiro-produced Muscle Shoals beater is a bit of a let down, although normally it would have seemed pretty damn good. Part 2 is instrumental, and features some very weird noises, presumably synthesised, amidst the freaking guitar and driving beat. The guitar is indeed incredible, and this is really by far the more interesting side, not at all “Soul” either.

C COMPANY FEATURING TERRY NELSON: Battle Hymn Of Lt. Calley (Plantation).
Exactly whatever you expect of it.

FREDA PAYNE: Rock Me In The Cradle (Of Your Lovin’ Arms); Now Is The Time To Say Goodbye (Invictus INV 512).
Straight out of the goody bag, especially for you, comes this Rhythm and Bubblegum classic stomper that everyone must surely know already. No problems of acclimatisation or subliminal selling before Invictus are able to hit paydirt, one mo’ time, C’mon . . . one mo’ time. A huge smash.

ISLEY BROTHERS: Warpath; I Got To Find Me One (Stateside SS 2188).
However great ‘Freedom‘ is, this is the more commercial of the Brothers’ two most recent US hits, indubitably. Fabulous chattering angry beat, lots of noise. Very good.

ELVIS PRESLEY: Rags To Riches; Where Did They Go, Lord (RCA 2084).
Thank you, RCA, for making ‘Rags To Riches’ the A-side here. A number one.

SANTANA: Oye Come Va; Samba Pa Ti (CBS S 7046).
Their Tito Puente Latin-Rock track, this is Santana’s most infectious number ever, and deserves to be a hit. Beautiful.

REDEYE: Games (MCA MU 1136).
From the Pentagram label, this CSN&Y-ish happy beater was a big US hit recently and it’s nice to see it out here, too. Very energetic, very pretty.

BOZ SCAGGS: We Were Always Sweethearts (CBS S 7219).
Having read about this Steve Miller Experience veteran, I knew he was into Soul music . . . but this far in? Great! His influences are the best, as he sounds remarkably like the Winstons, but with lovely jazzy flute and other good things to broaden the appeal. Best of the week.

STEPHEN STILLS: Sit Yourself Down; We Are Not Helpless (Atlantic 2091069).
Atlantic sure worked hard on his last album track. This noisy slowie will need even more effort, the British market being what it is.

JUDY LYNN: Married To A Memory (Stateside SS 2186).
Following Anderson Lynn and Mason Ann, you can bet those C&W tycoons have seen gold in them thar Pop Charts. How many more ‘Gentle On My Butterfly’ songs can we stand, though?

B. J. THOMAS: No Love At All (Wand WN 16).
I don’t know where this more stolid than usual slowie was recorded, but the song reeks of Atlanta, Georgia. BOBBI MARTIN, a chick, has done it a bit lighter (on Buddah 2011066).

GRAND FUNK RAILROAD: Feelin’ Alright (Capitol CL 15683).
The troglodyte trio (see their new LP cover) do 3 Dog Night’s . . . oh, all right, Dave Mason’s song fairly slowly at 45 rpm.

CRAZY HORSE: Dance, Dance, Dance; Look at All The Things (Reprise RS 23503).
The “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” crew on a new Neil Young song that lacks the presence of the Loner rather noticeably, as does the slow flip (which sounds like him but never had him in the first place).

LEON RUSSELL AND THE SHELTER PEOPLE: Stranger In A Strange Land; It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry (A&M AMS 828).
Incest may be fun while it’s being done but the result can be a mess. Dull Elton John-ish stuff.

JESSE DAVIS: Every Night Is Saturday Night; Washita Love Child (Atlantic 2091076).
I’ll drink to that! Lively trendy American noises, with superstar guests, good but a bit too rambling to be a punchy 45.

RY COODER: How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live; Goin’ To Brownsville (Reprise RS 23497).
Two album trax, both slow – one fashionably so, one bluesily.

(U.S.) SKY: Goodie Two Shoes (RCA 2070).
Nowt to do with Tommy Roe, the vocals are indeed Bubble Gum altho’ the backing has heavy pretensions.

THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: Who Loves The Sun; Sweet Jane (Atlantic 2091-088).
From ‘Loaded’, a pretty lilter and a subdued deliberate beater.

WADSWORTH MANSION: Sweet Mary (A&M AMS 842).
From the Sussex label, so maybe we’ll be hearing the Presidents soon! A male teenybop group making American hit noises. If plugged, it could take up valuable space on the Chart.

ANDY KIM: I Wish I Were (Paramount PARA 3013).
A wistful, gently building professional Jeff Barry production – as usual, well done Pop.

PAUL ANKA: Why Are You Leaning On Me Sir (CBS S 7133).
Here’s the guy who, with just the tiniest bit of help from Messrs Revaux, Francois and Thibaut, singlehandedly wrote ‘My Way’ for Frankie Boy. His own noisy slowie is crashingly boring.

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