THE OSMONDS: Yo-Yo (MGM).
The Osmond brothers don’t seem to mean much in Britain (little Donny’s “Go Away Little Girl” might alter that), but in America it is now probably true to say that their popularity has outstripped that of the incredibly successful group which they started out by copying: I refer, of course, to the Jackson 5, who began the latest craze for juvenile singers. Once again it looks like a case of the white plagiarists being able to please a wider market, although, in this particular one, the black originals have achieved a world-wide immediate fame that most of their predecessors were denied.
The reason behind the Jacksons’ (hopefully temporary) slight slip would appear to lie, amazingly, at the feet of mighty Motown: the material they have been putting out on singles has progressively lost its sparkle and vivacity, until the Jacksons’ last one, “Maybe Tomorrow“, was decidedly dull – a fact that was reflected in its being their lowest-placed hit yet.
On the other hand, the Osmonds, and Donny Osmond in his own right (who effectively doubles their output), have come up with one bubbly winner after another, each of which has got simpler and more Bubblegum than the others. Credit for this consistent success formula must presumably go to their producer, the veteran Muscle Shoals man, Rick Hall, who has had countless hits during the last decade (beginning with Arthur Alexander, whose early Hall productions were much copied by the first wave of British groups).
There is poetic justice here, for despite his many successes, Hall has never hit on such a winning streak as that of the Osmonds before. One of the leading R&B producers (and studio owners), his productions have tended to be distinctly “Soul” in sound, so that it is not only his becoming the force behind America’s leading teenybop rave group but also his becoming a stone Pop producer that are new departures for him. Will such fame turn his head from his old famous Fame sound?
Oh, yes … what about “Yo-Yo”? A Joe South -penned song, it’s a bass-guitar and brass-backed fast beater into which the vocal textures of the thrusting delivery are well worked. The lead switches about a bit (Donny has a nice “whoops now” trick) and the group do some rapid cooing and even some deep bass “yeah” punctuations. The yo-yo is depicted by a “poyinnggg” noise, for added appeal. So, in fact quite complex in its construction, it is a good old frantic dancer in sound. Maybe greasy kids’ stuff, but it’s darn well made.
THE CHI-LITES: I Want To Pay You Back (For Loving Me); Love Uprising (Brunswick).
You may be expecting gushing praise for this Soul Vocal Group newie, but sorry to say, it honestly does not deserve it and I cannot oblige! Eugene and the gang have reverted to their lovely if bland old slow smooth style (a return which is welcome), without doing it to anything very special.
Eugene (that’s their lead singer, Eugene Record) wrote both sides, and of course the classic beaut on the flip is as great as you would expect – but then it does sound exactly like its original recording by Otis Leaville, and its more recent reading by Jackie Wilson. Still, it’s good to hear it being put across with the wailing sweetness of its writer, this time.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END: Monkey Tamarind (Alston).
This male trio of uncertain nationality have just hit big in America with their gas of a funky summer hit. “Funky Nassau” (Groovy Gandhi?). They seem to be still hung up on Nassau, as this very similar but less good follow-up is all about a poisonous plant that grows down Nassau way … it makes you scratch your feet, etc., which would seem to be the basis of a complicated new dance step. Hey now everybody, get in a big boss line … the mind boggles. Chubby Checker, where are you? Continue reading “October 16, 1971: Osmonds, Chi-Lites, Beginning Of The End, Carole King, Isley Brothers”