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?
DONNY OSMOND: Go Away Little Girl (MGM 2006071).
The little squeaker tones it down and comes up with a really pleasant U.S. No. 1 smash reading of Carole King & Gerry Goffin’s lovely old Steve Lawrence (and Mark Wynter) lilter.
CAROLE KING: So Far Away; Smackwater Jack (A&M AMS 867).
Having thrown myself so wholeheartedly into the Carole King and Jo Mama albums a few months ago, I must confess to being a bit sated by them now, so that it’s difficult to work up much fresh enthusiasm. Here, the top is dead slow and yearning, while the flip is perky, bouncy and punchier. Get into the albums (and try Lesley Duncan too) if you dug “It’s Too Late”: these tracks, though very good, don’t rival it, singles-wise. If flipped, “Jack” just could click.
ISLEY BROTHERS: Love The One You’re With (Stateside SS 2193).
Steve Stills’ great strummer made unexpected hit material for the “Shout!” trio in the States – and they do the good song in a very Pop way without bettering the original. It’s up to the disco stompers now.
EXUMA: Do Wah Nanny (Kama Sutra 2013038).
Phoney calypso Radio One forced bonhomie, cleverly contrived for maximum joviality. If you like jumping about to thundering native drums, try “Burundi Black – Part 2” (Barclay BAR 3) for the real mindblowing thing. “Do Wah” is Exuma’s best so far, in fact, and could click.
RAIDERS: Birds Of A Feather (CBS 7474).
Joe South’s song in a new U.S. hit version. Familiar material, it could be the one to break the veteran Bubblegummers here.
THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY: I Woke Up In Love This Morning (Bell BLL 1173).
This merry comes-and-goes beater is the one that all new super-rave David Cassidy fans will want.
THE NEWBEATS: Run, Baby, Run (Back Into My Arms) (London HLE 10341).
Disco stompers are evidently clamouring for this Four Tops/Seasons-formula tired old bang bang banger.
THE NEWCOMERS: Pin The Tail On The Donkey; Mannish Boy (Stax 2025063).
Uninspired Jackson 5/Osmonds copy on top, while the grow-on-you great Soul Vocal Group flip is superb. Dig the vocal interplay and the storyline.
RUFUS THOMAS: The Breakdown – Parts 1 & 2 (Stax 2025060).
Funky hunky chunky new rhythm dancer that’s as good as you wanna.
BOBBY BYRD: (Hot Pants) I’m Coming, Coming, I’m Coming; Hang It Up (Mojo 2093004).
The sole remnant of the Famous Flames is coming, coming, coming all over his baby, with a funky James Brown-prodded rhythm. Once he’s come, he hangs it up on the flip.
VICKI ANDERSON: I’m Too Tough For Mr. Big Stuff (Hot Pants); Sound Funky (Mojo 209 3005).
Panting hotly, James Brown fans will want this easy sparse beater too, in which shrill-voiced Vicki cashes in on a few R&B hit ideas. Luckily Mojo, having discovered a steady market for the Brown sound, are going to release a lot. Heavy instrumental flip.
BILL WITHERS: Ain’t No Sunshine; Harlem (A&M AMS 858).
We’ve already had “Harlem” (a building strummer) on a single before. The top, U.S. hit side is a somewhat Jose Feliciano-like slowie by this Booker T.-produced black but non-Soul stylist.
JOE SIMON: You’re The One For Me (Mojo 2093003).
Incredibly good backing (worth the price of the record) arranged by Norbert de Coteaux, unenhanced by Joe’s smooth uninvolvement – he hits all the notes, and that’s it. Hear “Your Time To Cry” for Joe on great form.
FLAMIN’ GROOVIES: Teenage Head; Evil Hearted Ada (Kama Sutra 2013031).
The Cult Rock group do a lewd and pulsating beat driving top, although it is on the “My Baby Left Me”-like flip that they really shine, Elvis echo voice and all. Rockers will love it or loathe it, but it is honest.
James Hamilton’s Disco Picks
RARE EARTH: I Just Want To Celebrate (Rare Earth RES 102) Mod
STEPHEN STILLS: Nothin’ To Do But Today (Atlantic 2091141) Mod/Prog
T. REX: Jeepster; The Motivator (LP “Electric Warrior” Fly HIFLY 6) Pop/Mod
JOHN LENNON: Crippled Inside; Oh Yoko!; It’s So Hard; I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier (LP “Imagine” Apple PAS 10004) Pop/Mod/Prog
THE FLOWER TRAVELLING BAND: Satori (Enlightenment) (Atlantic 2091128) Prog
FABULOUS COUNTS: Get Down People (Mojo 2092021) R&B
JERRY LEE LEWIS: Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On; Great Balls Of Fire (Sun 6094007) R&R
GLENN MILLER: Moonlight Serenade; In The Mood (RCA 2124) MoR
STUART GILLIES: More (Philips 6006164) EL