THE JACKSON 5: Little Bitty Pretty One (Motown).
Well, while Michael Jackson revives Bobby Day’s “Rockin’ Robin,” he and his brothers get together and revive Bobby’s “Little Bitty Pretty One” (OK, Thurston Harris recorded it too, I know).
Although Michael is unavoidably evident on the brotherly offering, in fact it really is a family affair, with no-one in particular taking the lead honours. Also, whereas Michael’s “Rockin’ Robin” stays very close to the sound of the 1950’s hit, the brothers’ “Little Bitty Pretty One” retains the great doo-wop bass mumbling from the ’50s but otherwise plays around with the vocal lines in order that everyone gets a chance both singly (some gimmicky falsetto here) and together, with the result that the final sound is much fuller and mellower than the percussive Bobby Day recording.
It’s interesting that the only way in which the Jacksons seem able to get out of their well-tried herky- jerky hit formula is to revive a Rock ‘n Roll oldie.
Incidentally, my own favourite (and much-used) version of “Little Bitty Pretty One” is the 1968 recording by the Popular Five on Minit, which was released in Britain as the flip to “I’m A Love Maker” (Minit MLF 11011). United Artists, are you hip?
MILLIE JACKSON: Ask Me What You Want (Spring).
Millie is the bubbly-looking but hurtingly Soulful, mature girl who made such an outstanding recording of “Child Of God,” released in Britain recently by Mojo. It comes as a bit of a disappointment to find that her latest US hit is in a pseudo-Motown bag which, while certainly suiting her sexy external looks, completely ignores and belittles her real capabilities.
We all know that, given the chance, the majority of Motown’s own stars are capable of great Soulfulness (I’ll never forget being completely shaken by hearing Martha Reeves singing the Falcons’ “I Found A Love” at a small afterhours party in Harlem back in ’64), but here is a non-Motown singer who has already hit pay-dirt with a particularly Soulful song being given a run-of-the-mill thumping mid-tempo repetitive chanter which she just does not need. In fact, who in reality does need this sort of thing?
It seems a shame that Motown have so successfully brainwashed the World into only wanting their own predictable brand of Pop music that now, out of desperation, nearly every aspiring black singer has to toe the Motown line to earn any – though, let’s face it, often not much – appreciation at all. Not only Mono . . . Bring Back Soul!
ELVIS PRESLEY: An American Trilogy; The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (RCA).
From El’s “Standing Room Only” LP, recorded live, this is that dead boring/simply delightful (delete according to taste) pastiche of patriotic American songs with which Mickey Newbury made some small noise recently. The Big El is in his best beery, slurring, pub-singer voice for this brassily- crescendoing but otherwise quiet reading, and is well supported by a sympathetic backing which includes some nice flute and lots of humming.
In fairness, I do prefer this to the Newbury version, and ole El is … well, he’s, he’s ELVIS, isn’t he – even if he does go in for chest-beating melodramatics a bit too much these days. Yes, all in all, a very tender, emotional little record that will delight his current following. What’s more, to prove he’s no slouch at grabbing opportunities, the flip (from his “New Sacred Album”) is a damned sight more lively and better version than the exaggeratedly popular Roberta Flack’s US number one dead dull reading of the Ewan MacColl song. Slur on, Elvis, slur on!
LOVE UNLIMITED: Walkin’ In The Rain With The One I Love (Uni UN 539).
Edited from the US’s 4:50 down to our 3:35, which means we miss a big chunk of lovely sound- effects opening atmosphere and great bass outro, yet this gorgeous looking/sounding black girlie trio’s oh so sexy rap and slow chant sweet slowie (which includes a phone chat with a typical post- “Shaft” mellow black stud) is still an unsurpassable beauty which ought, repeat OUGHT, to follow the Chi- Lites’ not dissimilar hit into our Charts. Soul buffs, don’t miss this!
THE DOORS: Ships With Sails; In The Eye Of The Sun (Elektra K 12048).
In the first place, get the “Other Voices” album for the full long version of this pulsating gem, and in the second, turn this over and play the great stomping “get it on” flip at your next dance. It may seem heresy, but the Doors are so much better now.
EARL VAN DYKE & THE SOUL BROTHERS: I Can’t Help Myself; How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) (Tamla Motown TMG 814).
Since you can’t beat the Four Tops’ 1965 original for pure zest, swing and joyous fun, it follows that their backing track with added jangling piano by the ever-popular Earl HAS to be good too. It is, and sounds like a hit. Wheezy organ on Marvin’s flip.
MICHAEL JACKSON: Rockin’ Robin; Love Is Here And Now You’re Gone (Tamla Motown TMG 816).
The Bobby Day/Hollies oldie (the Hollies did do it, didn’t they?) from around Michael’s birth date is going to be a twiddly diddly dee happy hit for him, and he can feel proud of his nice version of the Supremes’ flip, too.
THE SUPREMES & THE FOUR TOPS: Without The One You Love; Let’s Make Love Now (Tamla Motown TMG 815).
The Tops are joined by their female cousins for this thunderingly ambiguous bass-prodded re-make of one of their initial, familiar still, hits. It’ll be sought by fans. Lovely relaxed Friends Of Distinction-like slow flip.
NILSSON: Coconut; The Moonbeam Song (RCA 2214).
“Cute” nervy semi-slowie from a popular stylist who seems to be a man of many West Indian voices. Some may like this “Schmilsson” track, but it gets a bit wearisome.
NEW RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE: I Don’t Need No Doctor; California Day (CBS 8035).
Humble Pie recently tried this Ashford / Simpson / Armstead rocker, and NRPS do it with more finesse if less aggression. Great buzzing distortion is a highspot. Maybe better, the Country (Garcia steel-enhanced) flip is a real shit-kicker.
THE WACKERS: I Hardly Know Her Name (Elektra K 12054).
Old-fashioned name for a Gary Usher-produced Pop group on a good thumping jolly staccato song.
THE NITE-LITERS: K-Jee (RCA 2203).
My favourite R&B instrumental of last (and, practically, any) year, out here at last! Harvey Fuqua has given us a “Tighten Up” rhythm gas that still refuses to leave my turntables, and which is must MUST for all of you who trust my immodest taste! Diggit, diggit, diggit!
GLORIA LYNNE: Never My Love (Mercury 6052146).
Wow! All right, take it easy. Phew! If you can get past the soul-searingly powerful intro, you’ll find a perfect gem of Soulful Gospelly, gut-tearingly intense song-selling . . . and will be forgiven for not recognising the Association oldie being sold so solidly! Yeah, La Lynne can do it to it when she wants.
JACKIE MOORE: Time (Atlantic K 10164).
A treat for “Precious, Precious” fans, a Soul-packed maxi by Miss Moore: jerky churning “Time”, lovely Barbara Lewis-cum-Irma Thomas-ish Soul drenched slow “Darling Baby” (her current US hit), and stodgier “Cover Me“. Recommended, especially for “Darling Baby”.
THE COUNTS: Why Start All Over; Thinking Single (Janus 6146013).
The fabulous Counts back with a distinctly odd, hybrid R&B, Latin-Rock, BS&T-vocal tricky rhythm thing which is even more specialist than the Ohio Players’ incredible “Pain“. The more Sly-slanted flip is easier, though equally out-of-the-rut.
JAMES HAMILTON’S DISCOTHEQUE PICKS
TRIED & TRUE
T. REX: Metal Guru; Thundering (T. Rex MARC 1) Better than “Telegram Sam” for dancers, with lovely vocal emphasis by ex-Turtles. “Thunder” is sorta slowed-down “Get It On.” Pop/Modern/MoR/Across-the-Board.
LOVE UNLIMITED: Walkin’ In The Rain With The One I Love (Uni UN 539). Late nite slow smooch, good after, say, “Have You Seen Her.” R&B/Pop.
THE NITE-LITERS: K-Jee (RCA 2203) R&B.
THE DOORS: In The Eye Of The Sun (Elektra K 12048) Great “get it on” Modern.
EARL VAN DYKE: I Can’t Help Myself (Tamla Motown TMG 814) Pop/R&B.
PAUL DUPONT & HIS ORCHESTRA: For Deborah (York SYK 521). Lovely slow lush Johnny Harris-like Easy Listening.
CLAIRE HAMILL: Baseball Blues (Island WIP 6133). Winsome bouncy semi-slowie that’ll follow Melanie’s “Brand New Key” into the Charts. AtB.
MICHAEL JACKSON: Rockin’ Robin (Tamla Motown TMG 816) Pop.
MIGHT BE NICE
OPHELIA: Chau Zai; Anita (Aark A 701).
Two odd, very foreign (where?) sides. both dissimilar and both good with the swaying flip more generally useful, although the slow rumpity “Chau Zai” is a possibility. Adventurous MoR/Easy Listening dee-jays, check these oddities.