March 11, 1972: Robert John, Climax, Dawn, Joe Tex, The Marvelettes

ROBERT JOHN: The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh) (Mbube) (Atlantic).
Remember Robert John? He’s the white guy with the amazing black-sounding swooping voice who scored a minor hit in Britain back in 1968 with his beautiful ‘If You Don’t Want My Love‘. Remember ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’? The Tokens, who nowadays produce all those hits for Dawn, came to international fame by singing it a decade ago. Remember ‘Wimoweh’? It was the African chant on which ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ was based, and was also a British hit in 1961 for Karl Dallas.

Well, by now, if you have any kind of a memory at all, you should have worked out a pretty good idea of what Robert John’s new US Top Five smash sounds like … and you’re right. Still, it’s all helping to revive the spirit of blatant Pop, and it seems only natural that so many revivalists keep turning for inspiration to those perfect classics of the early ’60s. No other era has produced such a crisp, strong, solid, happy, just “Pop” without hyphens, sort of a sound.

CLIMAX: Precious And Few (Carousel).
No, not Climax Chicago, just plain Climax, these boys are a somewhat easy-listening vocal group of the Classics IV variety, who sing that peculiarly American brand of full-harmonied back-up, plaintive lead, mildly beaty but basically slow, all denominations and ages aimed, mass appeal music which gets called “Soft Rock”. Their particular example of the genre, this thoroughly pleasant little single, is their debut hit … and a Top Three hit at that.

DAWN: Runaway/Happy Together (Bell).
Well, here’s an amalgamation of one of those peculiarly American vocal groups and an early ’60s Pop classic. However, they have in turn amalgamated Del Shannon’s ‘Runaway’ with the more recent Turtles’ Happy Together’ (which now probably qualifies as the Mother’s greatest hit, too!). So, what do we get? Lotsa noise, but that’s beside the point.

The record starts off dead slow, with Tony Orlando singing the opening lines of ‘Runaway’ over quiet and moody noises, than the big pounding beat and his chick support come in (and the noise increases), then the pace slows again and ‘Happy Together’ gets the quiet treatment from the whole group, followed by a mixture of the two songs (with a reproduction of Del Shannon’s piercing organ line over all) that comes and goes in tempo. A good idea, but the mixture of tempos makes for a choppy effect which lessens the record’s impact. Continue reading “March 11, 1972: Robert John, Climax, Dawn, Joe Tex, The Marvelettes”