June 24, 1972: Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Barry Mann, Sam & Dave, Young-Holt Unlimited

ARETHA FRANKLIN: All The King’s Horses; April Fools (Atlantic).
“All the King’s horses, all the King’s men, couldn’t put our two hearts together again”… bad luck, Humpty Dumpty freaks! “We sat on the Wall of Happiness, we sat on the Wall of Love, we sat on the Wall of Security, so high above. With his arms all around me, it was like a fairytale. Two people so in love – tell me, how could it fail?” All this has been so dead slow that I’ve been able to keep up with it with my one finger typing. Beautifully quiet, with just some elegant xylophone plonks, bass thonks, and gentle guitar glonks, until . . . whooo!

“Wall started shaking; I heard Love crying out, ‘Happiness is giving away, Security is coming down’. He fell, I fell, and” (end of dramatic organ and drums build-up) “all there is that’s left to tell, is all the King’s horses, all the King’s men, couldn’t put our two hearts together again.” It repeats, but basically that’s it . . . . and if those words alone aren’t enough to convince you that this is absolutely superb, I’m truly sorry. (Words by Aretha Franklin, published by Pundit Music in the USA).

On the flip, which in its own way is just as good, Aretha completely revamps and dresses-up the recent Burt Bacharach & Hal David film song, so that now it is full of pent-up yet joyful frenetic energy. Rapidly chinking chugging guitar, wah-wah, silky strings, thunderingly fast bass, woodwind-like synthesizer (I think) and girlie chanting are what do it to it. Oh, and Aretha’s voice is in there too, at its wailing, skipping, exuberant best! (Arif Mardin, need it be said, did the charts.) Both sides of this are a decided “up”. Yeah.

STEVIE WONDER: Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You); I Love Every Little Thing About You (Tamla).
OK, these are available here on Stevie’s new album ( “Superwoman” being more than twice as long in its full two-part version), but as this single is going great guns for the lad in America it gives me excuse enough to join in with all the others who have been raving about that new album, “Music Of My Mind. ” This, and the whole album, is very pretty music – prettier than anything else that Stevie ever did while under the supervision of the Motown staff (although there were some things on “Where I’m Coming From” which hinted at this new direction).

The point is that Stevie’s contract with Motown was coming up for grabs when he turned 21 (as did that of Mary Wells, who, so it turned out, made the wrong decision and split), and independent-minded Stevie hied himself off to a variety of studios where he was away from the disapproving supervisory gaze of Motown to put down, and put down again and again track after track of nothing but himself alone playing all the instruments and singing all the parts (well, almost all). The result was this new album, which he then proceeded to dangle like a carrot before the Motown nose. Shocked old Auntie Motown may have been, but so brilliant, so adventurous, so pretty and, above all, so like a repeat of recent developments with Marvin Gaye, was this album that Auntie could hardly let Stevie take it and himself to anyone else.

Thank goodness they didn’t, for everyone’s sake. What with Marvin Gaye and now Stevie Wonder being able to open out and do what they want to do (which, agreed, is not necessarily a good idea in every other case), there may be some chance that other talents in the Motown stable will get the opportunity to blossom in their own way. If you like pretty music, do try the new Wonder. Remember how he came to fame – with a ditty called “I Call It Pretty Music But The Old People Call It The Blues.” Tain’t Blues now, no way, but it sure is pretty.

BARRY MANN: Who Put The Bomp (In The Bomp-A Bomp-A Bomp); BRIAN HYLAND: Sealed With A Kiss (Probe “Goldies 45” GFF 104).
Lots of “real” music being reissued this week, and how’s this great double-sider for starters, huh?!! Barry’s glorious doo-wop putdown/paean of 1961 was the product of two halves of two important writing teams: Barry himself and Gerry Goffin (their respective partners being Cynthia Weil and Carole King, natch). Boogley, boogley shoo, rama lama ding doing, this is what music should be . . . FUN. Brian Hyland’s “Green Leaves Of Summer”-like alternative A-side from 1962 was the “Baby I’m-A Want You” of its day. He could rock too, as his tour here with Little Eva proved. Those were the days (yeah, I know, I’m as bad as the “Bring back the big bands” lot. Well, they’re good too!)! Continue reading “June 24, 1972: Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Barry Mann, Sam & Dave, Young-Holt Unlimited”