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.

SMOKEY ROBINSON AND THE MIRACLES: Crazy About The La La La; Oh Baby Baby I Love You (Tamla).
Not doing too well in America, the Miracles’ latest starts off with a Mexican flavour before becoming a muddled-beat messy chugger. Okay, so it’s none too commercial, but it’s certainly more interesting than their bang bang bang style. The flip is indeniably lovely, in any case.

CHI-LITES: We Are Neighbors (Brunswick).
Beginning, as it does, with the noise of a door being rapped and “Who Is It?”, followed by a rich deep bass voice uttering the deathless introduction “Hello dere, l’s your new neighbour,” this record really doesn’t need to go on any longer . . . it’s gas enough like that! In fact it does go on, in the same chugging style as its forerunner, “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power To The People“.

JAMES TAYLOR: You’ve Got A Friend; You Can Close Your Eyes (Warner Bros. K 16085).
This is Carole King’s beautiful song, the one that Andy Williams has covered. Since James plays guitar on Carole’s original version, and Carole helps out on his new LP (though not on this slowie), this certainly qualifies as the other authorised original. It’s also number one in America.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG: What A Wonderful World; Give Peace A Chance (Philips 6073703).
Actually the gratingly unsuitable “Give Peace” has been made the plug side – madness, when Louis’s re-working of “World,” with its new long philosophical recitation opening, is different and good enough to happen again. These, I believe, are from his 70th birthday party LP, and lack his golden horn. Play on, Satchmo.

NANCY SINATRA AND LEE HAZLEWOOD: Did You Ever (Reprise K 14093).
Not another “Jackson“, this steel guitar and flute-backed boy/girl verbal exchange is fairly . . . I was going to say “pleasant,” but I think “dull” is more applicable – which is a pity, ‘cos I don’t mind these two. Livelier flip, anyway.

JERRY REED: When You’re Hot, You’re Hot (RCA 2101).
Recently America’s number one C&W hit, this continuation of the “Amos Moses” success formula, lively though it is, is spoilt somewhat by the over-enthusiastic and strident vocal support of the Holidays girlie group. Jerry’s good though . . . and he’s hot.

BARBRA STREISAND: Where You Lead; Since I Fell For You (CBS 7396).
And Streisand sings King too. Go out and buy Carole’s “Tapestry” LP, right NOW. She does this stomper quite well, but more to Barbie’s credit her treatment of the classic slow R&B flip is simply luvverly.

SOUNDS OF SUNSHINE: Love Means (You Never Have To Say You’re Sorry) (London HLD 10333).
It had to happen, and this lush harmony slowie is as wet and sweet as you would expect. Keith Mansfield has a British tune with the same title, but this American hit is the gooey one to go for, if that’s your bag. (A bag, brown paper, as for use in aeroplanes, might be handy for the rest of you).

REDBONE: The Witch Queen Of New Orleans; Chant: 13th Hour (Epic EPC 7351).
At long last their “Maggie” is hitting in America, and we get something even better from the half-breed Red Indian so-called “Swamp” band, who really do manage to produce a rhythm that (a) won’t quit and (b) is all their own. The insidiously driving top and the great flip deserve to be heard.

DON GIBSON: A Perfect Mountain (London HLE 10335).
The Country vet (that’s short for veteran) sounds shit-kickin’ good on this sprightly fast steel-backed shuffle beater, with nice 1950s’ ooohing group fill-ins. It’s almost as if the clock stood still for Don. One of the week’s better sounds.

One thought on “August 7, 1971: Dramatics, James Brown, Temptations, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Chi-Lites”

  1. Ah The Dramatics record is a soul classic! James Taylor’s version of You’ve Got A Friend is timeless. The Sinatra Hazelwood record was banned by the BBC due to it’s innuendo and would reach No2 on the charts!


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