June 5, 1971: Whatnauts, Ray Charles Orchestra, Redeye, Wadsworth Mansion, James Brown

WHATNAUTS: I’ll Erase Away Your Pain; I Just Can’t Lose Your Love (Stang).
George Kerr is Boss! I finally reached this conclusion just the other day. It was his production work with the O’Jays and Linda Jones that made these R&B greats my very favourite Soul Vocal Group and Female Singer respectively, and his more recent work with the Stang and All-Platinum labels that has endeared the Moments and now the Whatnauts to me.

Those of you who are completely out of touch with what REALLY goes down on the American Soul scene will be lost here, deep in the world of delicate harmonies and wailing falsettos, where it is the form rather than the substance that matters. This is the world of the Soul Group Freak. A world in which singing styles do not change, because there is no other direction in which they can go, and yet stay within this world. The audience does not want change, anyhow. To this audience, there is no bliss comparable to being lost and carried away in the sweet mind-easing softness of a good Soul Vocal Group song. Suspend reality and hardship, just float amidst the enveloping anaesthetic.

The Whatnauts latest U.S. hit, produced by George Kerr with Nate Edmonds and written by him with Sylvia Robinson, is the crystalization and epitome of all that has ever gone before it in this style: the crystalization of the idea that this music lightens one’s burdens, the epitome of all that is typical about the style.

“I’ll Erase Away Your Pain” . . . the title, repeated many times throughout the song along with the lines “Little girl don’t change, don’t change, stay just the way you are; little girl please stop your crying, ‘cos I’ll erase away your pain,” the title and the whole song just says it all. And the performance . . . the performance! For sheer delicacy and lush beauty, this record beats the entire output of the Delfonics and all the other better-publicized Soul Vocal Groups. You’d better believe it!

Rarely have I heard such pure high-flying tensile wailing, such absolutely “right” vocal interplay, such mind-numbing perfection. George Kerr is a wizard. Nobody else can so successfully reverse the accepted rules and traditions of instrumental accompaniment. On all his productions, the voices become lead instruments while the drums merely act as an aid to the melody, and the melody depends on what the voices do, supported by subdued strings, piano, guitar and a little bit of staccato brass. Meandering is the best word to describe the style. And both sides of this record are the best example of the style. Unless you import it, you will never hear it.

THE RAY CHARLES ORCHESTRA: Booty Butt (Tangerine Record Corporation).
Surprisingly high in the U.S. Pop Chart is this delightfully underplayed instrumental gem by Ray Charles and his orchestra. Taken at a lazy yet funky pace, it shifts emphasis from instrument to instrument until it finally ends up (after a spurt from Ray’s piano) with a vocal verse from the Genius himself. Umm yeah!

REDEYE: Red Eye Blues (Pentagram).
This is the group whose jolly Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young-influenced “Games” has just recently been issued here by MCA. Their American follow-up is very different, being a chunky slow beater given a deliberate reading that only on the occasional harmony accents betrays the CSN&Y sound. Continue reading “June 5, 1971: Whatnauts, Ray Charles Orchestra, Redeye, Wadsworth Mansion, James Brown”