ANDY WILLIAMS: You’ve Got A Friend (CBS 7378).
Andy can sure pick ’em – this time, Carole King’s beautiful song. Don’t expect any subtlety from this version tho’: for that, hear those by Carole, James Taylor or Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway. Strict-tempo flip.
FRANK SINATRA: Lady Day; What Now My Love (Reprise K 14098).
Bob Gaudio and Jake Holmes’ lovely slow tribute to Billie Holliday may not be general enough in its message to rival “My Way,” but the melody should appeal. Brisk flip.
JOHNNY CASH: Singing In Viet Nam Talking Blues (Columbia).
I never thought that there could be a Johnny Cash record that would get me honestly raving about it – here it is though. Johnny and his wife, June Carter Cash, went to entertain the boys over there in Vietnam recently, and got sufficiently shook up as hell by their experiences to inspire this autobiographical account of them.
I am told that Tom Paxton has written similar songs: however, the story told here is obviously what really happened to the Cash’s, and the talking blues style is indeed common property. The way in which this story unfolds, and the strength of the content, is truly attention-grabbing. Normally, Cash is one of my least favourite stylists, but this telling it like it is record has powerful magic for me. Play “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’-To-Die Rag” after it.
SUGARLOAF: Mother Nature’s Wine; Medley: Bach Doors Man/Chest Fever (UA).
This group, totally ignored here, do seem to have something about them that I really like – maybe it’s a sense of subtlety allied with versatility and good musicianship. I must get their albums.
The A-side of this follow-up to “Tongue In Cheek” is from their latest LP, but while good it is less noteworthy than the flip, taken from their first LP (available here).
At the Band’s exceedingly dull Albert Hall show (where one might as well have been listening to their records with the treble turned up full), Garth Hudson delighted some and bored others with his over-long and over-florid organ intro to “Chest Fever” – Sugarloaf’s organist has done rather better, beginning in a mock Bach manner before the rest of the group fill in with several layers of guitar and bass, all at a tempo-less pace, before the organ eases into a very powerful start to the tune proper. Heard good and loud, it is great.
THE FOUR TOPS: In These Changing Times (Motown).
Oh, wow. The Four Tops have a new record. You all know what Levi Stubbs sounds like, but you’ll have to get the album by 100 Proof Aged In Soul to hear why so many discerning Soul fans have been raving about his brother Joe ever since he made “Alabama Bound” (on the “Apollo Saturday Night” LP) the most Soulful waxing in history.
Joe was with the famous Falcons back then, and now he has grown too big-headed (according to General Johnson) to stay in 100 Proof after experiencing real success for the first time in a long career. A shame. Anyway, listen to the ‘Somebody’s Been Sleeping In My Bed’ album and pay close attention to his two tracks, the incredibly driving ‘Backtrack‘ (presumably it’s too late for this to be a single?) and the unbelievably sexy ‘Ain’t That Lovin’ You‘ (on which he chats up a chick who is guaranteed to turn on every male listener that hears her).