EDDIE FLOYD: Blood Is Thicker Than Water; Have You Heard The Word (We Should Be In Love) (Stax).
Oh, What?! Steve Cropper, Eddie Floyd and Mack Rice wrote it, Steve arranged it, and Steve and Eddie produced it. Nothing unusual about that, sez you, especially considering that the majority of “product” from that sort of Stax team tends to be stillborn by cliche out of clinical multi-track recording, these days.
Alors, mes amis, here’s bon news indeed – somehow they’ve managed to make a bitch of a superbly driving buoyant big bass beater, whose self-propelling oomph generates so much bounce and righteous good, good feelin’ that it is immediately irresistible and packed with punch!
The regurgitating doonk-a doonk-a-doonk-a doonk-a bass-run beat is what forces this along at such a joyful lick, and while not particularly sanctified in sound, it is redolent of Gospel influence. Eddie’s powerful beat-riding delivery, the vocal group’s chorus work, the tricky organ figure on the chorus, the braying brass, the chunky guitar, the thrashing thundering drums, all add immensely to the record – but none of it would have worked so well without the integration of that whomping bass into the overall texture of the sound.
That is Steve and Eddie’s greatest achievement. They have beaten the multi-track jinx, and revived that yearned-for and much-missed old Stax funk. Even on the tender slow flip, the bass level is pushed up high so that it dominates the MSO’s sawing strings and the rest of the sympathetic backing (in fact the flip is especially nice in its own right, and should appeal to Soul Vocal Group fans). Well done, lads!
B. B. KING: Ghetto Woman (abc).
So, the next stage in the All Americanisation of B. B. King is evidently to make him the Bobbie Gentry of the Blues. Even my Mum, on a rare visit, asked who was singing this one . . . which was not really surprising, as this (actually very good) moody and menacing slowie is made even moodier and more menacing by rumbling “Ode To Billie Joe” storm-cIouds-gathering wide-open-spaces throaty strings noises (arranged by Jimmie Haskell), which permeate the Riley King/Dave Clark song with brooding magnificence.
As a Pop record it is great, and, indeed, the words and sounds complement each other perfectly: “a rat run across the floor” (rrrr-growl) “a roach ran up the wall” (whirr-lelele) “everything that’s going around her/don’t seem to bother her at” (sing the Blues!) “awawawwwll, because she’s a ghetto woman” (now play the lowdown dirty Blues – yeah!). Sarcasm apart, I like it a lot.
THE NEWCOMERS: Pin The Tail On The Donkey; Mannish Boy (Stax).
Didn’t someone called Paul Peek once cut a similar title? Anyway, this Bettye Crutcher/Marvell Thomas-penned Allen Jones production is decidedly Stax in heritage if not in sound . . . far from it in sound. Casting covetous eyes towards the Jackson Five and Osmonds, Stax have now come up with their own squeaky voiced choppy rhythm answer to those other juvenile Rhythm and Bubblegum Squeak merchants. It’s not nice.
Thankfully, as compensation for the excesses of the hit side, the swaying slow flip is very nice indeed. Sung in lead-switching (and un-squeaky) Soul Vocal Group style, its good Allen and Marshall Jones-penned words are effectively emoted in such a way that it should snare all SGFs (Soul Group Freaks), everywhere.
It’s a pity that Stax aren’t concentrating more on this very satisfying facet of the group’s talent – especially so, since they seem to be ignoring the fabulous Mad Lads now. The Newcomers are in some ways reminiscent of the Mad Lads (is there any connection?), which ought to be recommendation enough for this side. Yes, it is, VERY nice. Let it grow on you.
THE 8TH DAY: You’ve Got To Crawl (Before You Walk); It’s Instrumental To Be Free (Invictus).
“Produced and Mixed for Greater and Sharper Sound Reproduction on the Air,” says the label – which means that Holland, Dozier and Holland still know what sells records. Greg Perry produced this Bond-Perry-Johnson-Dunbar-penned stomper from the 8th Day’s album, and it’s rather more straightforward and less interesting than their fabulous “She’s Not Just Another Woman” smash.
However, the instrumental flip (who’da guessed from the title?!) is ultra-rhythmically-funky and very good . . . but then, it IS a Holland-Dozier-Holland number, Prod. by (the ubiquitous) Staff. The flip has it, and it’s in the grooves.
THE 5TH DIMENSION: Never My Love (Bell).
Come on, get on with it! Shee . . . applause and cheers, dead slow lengthy intro, and then – some time after the chick has already given more than enough indication of what song she’s singing – the applause comes in again after her first mention of the title line.
RARE EARTH: I Just Want To Celebrate (Rare Earth RES 102).
I first played this fabulous incredibly powerful chattering stuttering freaker at a dance well over a month ago, and . . . well, it SHOULD be a smash (and being on Motown’s Pop label it probably will be).
TAMI LYNN: That’s Understanding; That’s Understanding; Never No More (Mojo 2092012).
In more than one sense, there are two records here: “That’s Understanding” starts out as sub-Motown monotony, and from the halfway point becomes churning instrumental monotony. The flip features the same dreary song but with the instrumental part edited out (for airplay?), plus a slightly perkier gentle beater as a maxi track.
As the plug side doesn’t even have a disco stomp beat (although there are people who like the bass run), John Abbey (who co-produced) must have much faith in Tami’s name appeal. While not brilliant, the instrumental part is the disc’s saving grace. Still, if Jimmy Ruffin can score with barely better cliched stuff, this must (heaven forbid) have a chance.
FABULOUS COUNTS: Get Down People; Lunar Funk (Mojo 2092021).
If Mojo are going to hog the Charts, it would be so nice if they could do it with this gas of a funky rhythmic dancer . . . so nice. One of the few records this week that’ve refused to leave my turntable, it is very basic but full of subtlety and, above all, rhythm. No Soul fan need hang his head in shame if this is a hit.
TOMMY ROE: Stagger Lee (Probe PRO 538).
Fairly good Bubblegum treatment of the folk song/Lloyd Price classic.
ANNE MURRAY: Talk It Over In The Morning (Capitol CL 15696).
Given a good song, young Anne makes a good Easy Listening purveyor. She’s got a pleasant bouncer here.
JEANNIE C. RILEY: Good Enough To Be Your Wife (Philips 6006152).
Pithy sentiments on a jolly bouncer, by a chick who really turns me on!
MELANIE: “Songs For Children”: Alexander Beetle; Christopher Robin; Animal Crackers (Buddah 2011093).
Treated more like an EP than a maxi, this is just what it says – winsome kiddies’ ditties by Mrs. Schekeryk, who now has her own Neighborhood label in America. If her corncrake voice hasn’t worn people down too much, this sensible package of old material should do well at Xmas.
THE FLOWER TRAVELLING BAND: Satori (Enlightenment), Parts 1 and 2 (Atlantic 2091128).
For something that’s really heavy and far out, man, try this. Part 1 starts out in best Hawkwind style, and contains much ominous angry guitar and exotic screaming, while Part 2 (the plug side) is more straightforward, with a beat, wailing Arabic-type guitar distortion and a decidedly Middle Eastern vocal.
The fact that the group is Japanese does not detract from this being bloody good, nor from it being Middle (rather than Far) Eastern-Rock in sound (an amalgamation that I for one have been waiting years to hear).
SEATRAlN : Marblehead Messenger; Despair Tire (Capitol CL 15697).
A bit like a mixture of “Jig-A-Jig” with Jethro Tull, their LP title has some nice fiddle, flute and wah-wah rabbits, while the flip is a real down home mind-blower (which honestly DOES seem to feature wah-wah rabbits, or something!). I’m glad their Albert debut did them good here.
ANDY WILLIAMS: A Song For You (CBS 7499).
This Leon Russell song is coupled with “You’ve Got A Pal” in America, and is the hit side. You all know what his voice sounds like, and he does his usual lush job on an out-of-the-rut slowie. Now it’s up to the fans.
PEACHES AND HERB: The Sound Of Silence; The Two Of Us (CBS 7291).
Music to dance to, huh? If you’re a Diana Ross/Motown freak, I suppose so, and there do seem to be a few of them about. Will this (it’s the Paul Simon song, “Great Ones” readers) rate the wrath heaped on Johnny Johnson’s Dylan effort? Nice bubbly sexy flip.
FREDDIE SCOTT: Just Like A Flower; Spanish Harlem (Jay Boy BOY 34).
Good on President for letting us hear the superb Soulster’s 1968 wailing U.S. hit at last. Sensible flip too, both songs being about flowers (“There is a rose in Spanish Harlem” . . . OK, dear?). The spirit of Bert Berns still lives.
JOSE FELICIANO: Que Sera (Che Sara’); There’s No One About (RCA 2126).
One of them everyone get up and sing along type slowies, sung all foreign. Depending on your taste, either kinda dull or ever so nice (it’s been a big international hit). Enjoyable old-fashioned flip.
JOHNNY CASH: Singing In Vietnam Talking Blues (CBS 7300).
Not normally a Cash fan, I cannot help but dig this fascinating story set to music, which recounts Johnny and June’s deeply felt experiences in Vietnam.