December 4, 1971: Sly & The Family Stone, James Brown, Donnie Elbert, Elvis Presley, The Coasters

SLY & THE FAMILY STONE: Family Affair; Luv N’ Haight (Epic).
The first new product from the Family Stone (other than “live” material) in virtually two years, since the cataclysmic ‘Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin’, this single from the new ‘There’s A Riot Goin’ On’ LP has beaten its parent album to the very top of its respective Chart. Obviously long awaited and much anticipated, its meteoric rise is not surprising except for the fact that, compared with much of the group’s past output, this single is merely “nice” without being a real killer.

It shows Sly and the gang in a funky but subdued mood: starting the insinuous wah-wah and plopping, thudding rhythm in the same light way as it continues throughout, they keep all the sound on the same inter-related quiet monotone level. The title line is repeated by a Lennon-ish voice before the husky, slurring, almost Havens-ish lead voice (Sly?) handles the main lyric, which is about the strength of family ties and obligations. Amongst all this there are unobtrusive interspersions of electric piano and wah-wah lead guitar.

I have always been a bit doubtful about the expression “laid back”, but, by my own definition of its meaning, I reckon that you could apply it pretty accurately to ‘Family Affair’. One virtue of the low-key quality of the record is that it is, in its way, completely compulsive – it cries out to be played over and over again, so that it is a shame the side does not last longer. The flip is rather rougher and more aggressive, in the group’s old style, and (consequently?) less impressive.

JAMES BROWN: My Part/Make It Funky – Parts 3 & 4 (Polydor).
Indeed, this is another two sides of the incredible funk rhythm that Mr. J. B. whipped up on ‘Make It Funky – Parts 1 & 2‘, and, despite the label saying (Instrumental)”, it features Mr. Brown exhorting his cohorts with scat “ga ga ga ga, goo ga goo goo ga” noises and vocal encouragement to guitarist Coleman to “Give us a little bit of B.B. King”, and to trombonist Red to “Slide your Slide”.

The real joy of this record is contained in the basic riff and contagious rhythm, which, as on ‘Parts 1 & 2’, is made so powerful by the rock-solid thundering bass. This rhythm is (yes, I know, you’re credulous as hell) one of the very best that James Brown has ever come up with – in fact, its only rival must be that of ‘There Was A Time‘ – so that ‘Parts 3 & 4’ are just as vital as the earlier record … if not more so, because there is an added gaiety to this one.

Unfortunately, this has now been eclipsed in the U.S. Charts by J.B.’s almost simultaneously-released ‘I’m A Greedy Man – Parts 1 & 2‘ … well, you know, Christmas is comin’, and new material is a better bet for the Top 50 (which is where it’s at, right now).

DONNIE ELBERT: Where Did Our Love Go; That’s If You Love Me (All Platinum).
Rumoured to be the first British release out of Mojo’s rumoured association with the great Stang/All Platinum labels, veteran Donnie’s re-working of the Supremes’ oldie could so easily have been rather uninteresting. In fact, it’s brilliant.

This isn’t so surprising really, considering Donnie’s track record, which started in the mid ’50s with the superb ‘What Can I Do‘, a piercing ballad that, together with his later ‘Who’s It Gonna Be‘, is a cherished favourite of West Indian audiences.

ELVIS PRESLEY: I Just Can’t Help Believin’; How The Web Was Woven (RCA 2158).
Reputedly unexpected popular demand has forced these two tracks from the ‘That’s The Way It Is’ soundtrack LP: in truth, El’s current U.S. 45 is a dog which would probably bomb badly here. The much-featured (in the movie) B. J. Thomas oldie makes a nice bouncy topside, and is a good cheerful song.

THE COASTERS: Love Potion Number Nine; D. W. Washburn (Parlophone R 5931)
… on Parlophone?! Veteran freaks will already be salivating at the prospect of the teaming represented herein; the Coasters back together with their old mentors, Leiber and Stoller, on the old L&S-penned Clovers hit. The lineup may have changed but the sound hasn’t, except that the production is full-sounding and great, with lovely plopping rhythm and flute (both reminiscent of ‘Spill The Wine’) and an overall hit feel to it. Yes, HIT.

THE BEACH BOYS: Student Demonstration Time; Don’t Go Near The Water (Stateside SS 2194).
You may have heard how this is the old classic ‘Riot In Cell Block No. 9,’ an early ’50s hit by Leiber and Stoller for the Robins (who became the Coasters), with an up-dated lyric re-write by Mike Love – who has done a very good job, viz: ‘The violence spread down South to where Jackson State brothers/Learnt not to say nasty things about Southern policemen’s mothers’. It’s a powerhouse slow rocker which can hold its head high next to the original. Honestly.

In fact, ‘Don’t Go Near The Water‘, an ethereally pretty medium chugger with wah-wah ‘water’ effects, is the very good official A-side – but those of you who want that will also want the ‘Surf’s Up’ LP from whence these come, especially as it contains the beautiful ‘Disney Girls (1957)‘. (By the way, do catch D. Wilson and J. Taylor in ‘Two Lane Blacktop‘, which is much better than reported.)

HERB ALPERT AND THE TIJUANA BRASS: Darlin’; Montezuma’s Revenge (A&M AMS 869).
The lovely but under-rated Beach Boys oldie given a good brisk stomping smooth (although with a messily-done break halfway) instrumental workout. Typical bubbly bouncy flip.

VAN MORRISON: Wild Night; When That Evening Sun Goes Down (Warner Bros K 16120).
It would be difficult to choose the best tracks from Van’s ‘Tupelo Honey’ LP as all are exemplary and the album is a must; however, these two are the liveliest and most obvious. Given a push, this might be his first solo hit here.

CARPENTERS: Merry Christmas Darling; Ticket To Ride; Saturday (A&M AME 601).
A maxi, with the Carps’ pretty sloppy U.S. hit of last year, their first (much-altered Beatle song) U.S. hit, and Richard’s vocal B-side from ‘Rainy Days And Mondays’. Fine for fans.

BURT BACHARACH: One Less Bell To Answer; (They Long To Be) Close To You (A&M AMS 873).
Burt sings! (Well … he contributes some croaks to the girlie group on the treble strings-predominated flip, which sorely lacks the Carpenters’ climatic massed ‘Wahhh’ ending). On the lovely A-side, with which the 5th Dimension deserved to hit, Cissy Houston takes the vocal honours (and honour she earns – she’s great). Dead nice easy stuff.

SONNY AND CHER: All I Ever Need Is You; I Got You Babe (MCA MU 1145).
Following Cher’s solo success, the lovable duo are clicking U.S.-side with this plaintive lilter which contains some disconcerting early ’60s Carole King-like melodic bits. The flip is an untidy live version.

MELANIE: Brand New Key (Buddah 2011105).
From her own new U.S. label but still with Buddah here, Melanie’s latest little girl voice outing is a pert catchy little ditty (with even some subdued Rock ‘n’ Roll harmony backing) which might just charm its way Chartwards. Good.

B. B. KING: Alexis’ Boogie; Ain’t Nobody Home (Probe PRO 546).
Hard to believe, this guitar duet with Alexis (call him ‘Grandpa of the British Blues’) Korner is the very first acoustic guitar recording that B. B. has ever made (he’s now planning to do a whole acoustic album). Alexis wrote this throbbing convoluted instrumental (which B. modestly reckons he still hasn’t learnt!), although it does have much of the feel of ‘Why I Sing The Blues’ – which is no bad thing. Howard Tate’s oldie on the other side is the official plug side – and is no big thing.

LEON RUSSELL: A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall; Me And Baby Jane (A&M AMS 866).
Leon’s due in town, and here’s everyone’s favourite track from his LP to welcome him. By Dylan, natch, it’s done well with nervy rhythms and bouncy slow thud beat behind Leon’s distinctive phrasing. The dead slow melancholy flip is previously unissued and good for fans.


JAMES HAMILTON’S DISCOTHEQUE PICKS

UNTRIED BUT SHOULD BE GOOD

KENNY BALL: When You Wish Upon A Star (Pye 7N 45107) EL
THE COASTERS: Love Potion No. 9 (Parlophone R 5931) R&B/Pop

TRIED AND TRUE

WILLIE TEE: Thank You John; Teasin’ You maxi (Mojo 2092025) R&B
IKE & TINA TURNER: Doin’ It (UA UP 35310) R&B/EL
ELVIS PRESLEY: Jailhouse Rock; Teddy Bear; Are You Lonesome Tonight (RCA Maximillion 2134) R&R/EL
ELVIS PRESLEY: All Shook Up (RCA 1088) R&R
THE MARCELS: Blue Moon (Pye Mini Monster PMM 2002) R&B/R&R
DONOVAN: Mellow Yellow; There Is A Mountain; Sunshine Superman (Pye Mini Monster PMM 104) Mod
AL GREEN: most of the album (LP ‘Gets Next To You’ London SHU 8424) R &B

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