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.
WADSWORTH MANSION: Michigan Harry Slaughter (Sussex).
The follow-up to “Sweet Mary,” their U.S. hit which A&M issued here recently. While the Bubblegum “Mary” was competent but hardly inspiring, this newie is interesting because, despite the teenybop slant of most of it, there are two segments of very good percussive vocal group harmony that remind me at least of the brief acappella bit in the El Dorados’ magnificent “At My Front Door.” That classic Oldie But Goodie, incidentally, is available again on the truly indispensable Joy LP, “Out Of The Past, Volume One” (JS 5007).
JAMES BROWN: I Cried; Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved (Part 1) (Polydor 2001190).
As material this slowie may not be particularly strong, but JB’s performance and the overall sound and feel are superb, putting it in the “Prisoner Of Love”/”Man’s World” class. One of his very, very best. Black pride rhythmic flip.
BRENDA & THE TABULATIONS: Right On The Tip Of My Tongue (CBS 7279).
Brenda Payton, my longtime fave, and the current U.S. hit slowie will mean little here except maybe to new Delfonics fans. Naturally, it’s a rare treat for Philadelphia Soul freaks. Lovely.
TYMES featuring George Williams: Someone To Watch Over Me (CBS S 7250).
Gershwin gets the lush big harmony back-up “People” treatment. OK, and pleasant subtler flip.
CLARENCE CARTER: The Court Room; Getting The Bills (But No Merchandise) (Atlantic 2091093).
Very much an ‘Ode To Billie Joe’ sound on this tale of a suspected lecherous vicar. Slightly disappointing.
SWEET INSPIRATIONS: Evidence; Change Me Not (Atlantic 2091073).
Funky wah-wah and herky-jerky rhythms blend with the wailing chix to make a bit of a mess. Nicer slow flip.
RAY PRICE: I Won’t Mention It Again (CBS 7213).
Easy Listening/Country by the C&W star whose last one, “For The Good Times“, has become an American standard already, while this romantic slowie is fast joining it. If all those Perry Como fans buy this, they won’t be disappointed. Myself, I like it too.
MASON-DIXON: Acapulco Gold (Stateside SS 2189).
Bubblegum from Teddy Randazzo . . . one wonders whether its “straight” audience will dig the message, but then this could be a subtle attempt by Teddy to fox the censors! Rainy Daze it is not.
LOBO: Me And You And A Dog Named Boo (Philips 6073801).
Big U.S. hit, sorta lazily paced Middle Of The Road Bubblegum – its American flavour may hold it back here, although it’s otherwise just right for all the adults who seem to buy the Top 50.
MYLON: Old Gospel Ship (Atlantic 2091072).
Despite its Delaney & Bonnie style, this jolly Allen Toussaint-produced white gospel thing isn’t as bad as I had anticipated.
TOM RUSH: Who Do You Love; Something In The Way She Moves (Elektra EK 45718).
Really great raving version, highly recommended, of Bo Diddley’s classic dancer; lively James Taylor flip. Don’t miss this!
LORRAINE ELLISON: Call Me Anytime You Need Some Lovin’ (Mercury 6052 073).
Lorraine’s output has got progressively worse as her producers have tried harder to give her a hit. Lou Courtney’s effort is a noisy muddle.
DEE DEE WARWICK: Suspicious Minds; I’m Glad I’m A Woman (Atlantic 2091092).
The Elvis smash done with very bare backing. It don’t kill me, but she has fans.
BREWER & SHIPLEY: People Love Each Other; Tarkio Road (Kama Sutra 2013021).
This “Weeds” track, having served time as flip to their last single “One Toke Over The Line“, turns up again as an A-side to their current U.S. hit “Tarkio Road“. Well? It’s pleasant if insipid soft Country Rock, while “Tarkio” is ballsier and better.
LYNN ANDERSON: You’re My Man; I’m Gonna Write A Song (CBS 7226).
Written by “Mr. Anderson” (Glen Sutton), her bouncy newie just doesn’t have the lyrical interest of “Rose Garden”. Yi-hah flip.
RAY STEVENS: A Mama And A Papa; Melt (CBS 7235).
An icky slowie that may be fine for fans of the man but not for fans of “Bridget”. Nice old-time flip.
CHICAGO: Lowdown; Loneliness Is Just A Word (CBS S 72181.
Since it is patently obvious that these days singles are bought by adults and albums by kids, what chance does this “III” excerpt have here? Its audience will already have it if they want it at all.
SOULOSOPHY: Take Me To The Pilot (Epic EPC 7203). Not bad Blue-Eyed bash at Elton John’s song, but the good back-up chix and male lead are even better on the light & bouncy flip.