August 7, 1971: Dramatics, James Brown, Temptations, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Chi-Lites

DRAMATICS: Watcha See Is Watcha Get; Thankful For Your Love (Volt).
Inspired by the Flip Wilson catch phrase, this rapidly (and deservedly so) rising U.S. hit is amazingly in no way at all a cash-in or gimmick.

(Incidentally, in defence of Flip Wilson, in the long-off days when he used to appear regularly at the “Apollo” he was a truly great comedian, basing most of his jokes on pot-smoking, drugs, sex and other human foibles, all treated with a sympathetic understanding of ghetto life. Just thought the record should be put straight, in case you imagined he was as crass as on his telly series all the time).

Anyway, back to the Dramatics and their superlative new record. The group have been around for some time, showing up on the Win Gate label (a subsidiary of Golden World in Detroit) back in the mid ’60s.

When Detroit-based Don Davis, the producer (who was linked up with the Golden World organisation) moved his Groovesville Music operation to Stax/Volt he seems to have signed the Dramatics to Volt at some stage too, and was producing them in the late ’60s.

“Watcha See” is published by Groovesville but produced by Tony Hester and arranged by Johnny Allen, though. And, as I keep trying to say, it is great.

Opening with plopping beats and subdued brass blasts, the song kicks off with each line being taken in turn, by a husky, then falsetto, the husky, then bass, then intense voice, all of which ride in, on, over, through and around this infectious easy-paced plopping rhythm.

It is a multi-layered, ever-changing effect, full of fascination and attention-holding interest – let alone sheer irresistibility! A perfect amalgamation of beautiful backing and subtle singing, which has scarcely left my turntables since it arrived.

As a bonus, the slow and sweet Soul Vocal Group flip is in its own right pretty damn good too. It’s nice to think that Detroit is still sending goodies down to Stax/Volt, while their own Memphis studios are multi-tracking away their old Soul.

JAMES BROWN: Escape-ism, Parts 1, 2 and 3 (People).
Hot Pants” may be Mr. Brown’s annual summertime smash, but this is the hit that’s best. Nothing more than the proverbial repetitive riff (and S0000 good that thank goodness it keeps on forever) with James Brown chatting and rapping with members of the band over the top of it . . . no song, just jive talk, bullshit, and funky fun.

Yeah, you DO have to be Soul People to appreciate it properly, which is a pity, ‘cos the King has come up with his best rhythm pattern in a long time. If only it didn’t fade out where it does.

THE TEMPTATIONS: It’s Summer; I’m The Exception To The Rule (Gordy).
Yes, the Tempts did this song as the flip to “Ball Of Confusion” and on their “Psychedelic Shack” album; however, this is a different, less gentle and subtle treatment of it, with the whole group joining in much more on top of a noisier backing.

The flip is rather more interesting (being completely new), starting after a quiet instrumental intro with a bit of deep bass recitation, followed by the others singing virtually a cappella a slowly unwinding and rather doom-laden unusual song. Continue reading “August 7, 1971: Dramatics, James Brown, Temptations, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Chi-Lites”