February 10, 1973: The Spinners, Alice Cooper, Beach Boys, The O’Jays, Roy “C”

Straight from the States

THE SPINNERS: Could It Be I’m Falling In Love (Atlantic).
I’ve heard a disturbing story that Philadelphia producers such as Thom Bell and Gamble & Huff tend to use the same singers on their sessions, and that the groups whose names are put to the results are merely salaried faces who go out on the road. It’s the sort of story that has always gone the rounds, and in the case of, say, the Stylistics it is obviously not true . . . BUT, it did come from a respectable and knowledgeable source.

Listening now to the Spinners’ latest Thom Bell-produced US Chart-climbing easy-beat semi-slowie I have cause to pause for thought: the Spinners were always a pretty anonymous group vocally – exemplified by the fact that it was they who did the infamous Motortown Revue impersonations in their old stage act, and mimic-in-chief Sammy Davis Jr. could hardly be said to have a distinctive voice when singing straight.

Now, I’ve always rated the Spinners higher then most . . . . uh oh, I’ve just remembered I should be calling them the DETROIT SPINNERS, sorry Liverpool Spinners . . . . ever since their “That’s What Girls Are Made For“, and I’m not prepared to have my dreams shattered just like that. The lead singer here is definitely the same as on “I’ll Be Around”, but he does happen to be backed up strongly by some chicks. Could it be that some of the background singing is not necessarily always by the named members of the groups? That would be reasonable, and to be expected. I hope that’s what does go on.

Oh, the record has a grow-on-you appeal, an Al Green type of tempo, and a subdued Thom Bell- arranged/conducted backing. Of course it’s good, no matter who’s singing. Oh dear, I wish he’d never told me, mutter mutter, mumble mumble groan. . .

ALICE COOPER: Hello Hurray; Generation Landslide (Warner Bros K 16248 ).
Which way will his fans jump on hearing this slow, studied and somewhat theatrical change of approach? Decidedly odd initially, but second or third time around the insidious melody catches on, so strong. Jerky flip about Million Dollar Babies has spunky punk protest lyrics.

American Singles

THE BEACH BOYS: California Saga / California; Sail On Sailor (Reprise K 14232).
From “Holland”, where the change of air must’ve done ’em good: Al Jardine’s home-sick harmony-filled topside finds the boys back on classic middle period form – with sunny California subject matter, rolling “Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds” rhythm, and all the vocal bits we love to hear – while the flipside wistful slowie is a bluesy beaut, too. Continue reading “February 10, 1973: The Spinners, Alice Cooper, Beach Boys, The O’Jays, Roy “C””

February 3, 1973: Diana Ross, Partridge Family, Jackson 5, Rance Allen Group, Neil Sedaka

Straight from the States

DIANA ROSS: Good Morning Heartache; God Bless The Child (Motown).
The singer from the soundtrack album from the movie more-or-less about Billie Holiday’s life story, “Lady Sings The Blues” – a movie for which, incidentally, as long ago as 1964 the late jazz singer’s widower was trying to raise financial backing from the firm I worked with in New York. There was never much doubt that eventually someone would get around to filming the Billie Holiday Story, but, as there was always considered to be an element of risk involved (black singer, drugs, unsuitable vehicle for Doris Day, who’d want to see THAT?), it is a treble triumph that, once filmed, it was done so under the auspices of Motown, it is not only evidently very good but also a huge box office success, and it has transformed thespian tyro Diana Ross overnight into a fully-fledged motion picture STAR.

Anyway, the single couples two of Billie Holiday’s best-known numbers and presents them in a setting and style approximately appropriate to their origins – which has presented in turn the radio programmers of America (never an adventurous breed of man) with a problem of their own making: can they play dated-sounding big band jazz ballad music on a Top 40 show? Well, if it’s by one of the World’s most popular singers and from the current biggest-grossing film hit, why the hell not?

Ah well, but it sounds DIFFERENT. There you have in a nutshell why, I believe, this country is not destined to get a single issued from the film’s soundtrack album when it is issued in Britain . . . which is a pity, as this very mellow and very accurate evocation of the old big band jazz ballad sound is superbly smoochy music and shows Diana in, if not an afficionado-pleasing imitation of Billie’s voice, a completely credible and relevant new style of her own. Believe me, she sings these songs awfully well, managing to sound like both Diana Ross and a jazz singer at the same time. Lovely stuff.

American Singles

THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY Starring DAVID CASSIDY: Looking Thru The Eyes of Love; Storybook Love (Bell 1278).
Gene Pitney’s oldie gets a typical slow-starting then swelling into gentle rhythm comes-and-goes Cassidy ballad treatment, which has failed so far to do big biz in America. It’s good enough to make a maybe useful barometer against which to measure by how much recent revelations have affected his fans’ flipside sentiments (the flip’s brighter).

THE JACKSON 5: Doctor My Eyes; My Little Baby (Tamla Motown TMG 842).
No comment on the Partridges’ newie, the Jackson Brothers’ spirited thumpalong treatment of Jackson Browne’s year old US hit/GB miss may upset purist lovers of the original but is the only sort of treatment likely to make the beautiful song a hit here, unfortunately. An album track not on single in America, it’s a money-making move on Motown’s part which should pay dividends. Continue reading “February 3, 1973: Diana Ross, Partridge Family, Jackson 5, Rance Allen Group, Neil Sedaka”