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.
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.
THE RANCE ALLEN GROUP: There’s Gonna Be A Showdown; That Will Be Good Enough For Me (Stax 2025152).
Reviewed last week, this (especially the slow US R&B hit flip) is the most important Soul single since “Tired Of Being Alone” . . . and it was recorded as pure Gospel. Thank you Neil Sedaka, Stewart Henry, Rosko, Johnny Moran, for digging it too. Don’t miss this.
NEIL SEDAKA: That’s When The Music Takes Me (RCA 2310).
Considering the early affection of the “Oh Carol” star for young Carole King, I suppose it should be no surprise that he now sounds very like the recent Carole King on both the hustling thumping top and the slow flip. Happy music, though less incisive than of yore.
ALBERT HAMMOND: It Never Rains In Southern California (Mums MUM 8499)
Half the Hammond & Hazlewood cleffing team, and erstwhile Family Dogg, astute Al knows how to cull coin from US Pop buyers – he’s set every American’s dream of El Dorado to a lilting melody and a Carole King-ish thunking beat. It sounds good too, but his hippie’s appeal to “Anyone Here In The Audience” on the flip is too groovy to be true.
ROBERTA FLACK: Killing Me Softly With His Song; Just Like A Woman (Atlantic K 10282).
Maybe my ears are due a retread, but try as I may I cannot appreciate the new fashion for precisely sung superslow sparsely accompanied smash hits. This one’s another. Technically brilliant, I don’t doubt, but not for me . . . though probably for you and you, and you over there.
ANDY WILLIAMS: Marmalade, Molasses & Honey; Who Was It? (CBS 1059).
Concocted to be the “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” from Paul Newman’s new “The Life & Times Of Judge Roy Bean” flick, it’s as sickly sweet a slowie as its recipe would suggest without having the charm of its [Editor’s note – the review is cut off at this point]
ROY DRUSKY: All My Hard Times; I Still Love You Enough (To Love You All Over Again) (Mercury 6052188).
Country crooner Roy gives the Joe South song a flowing Easy Listening reading which wouldn’t frighten Dean Martin fans. Pretty lazy slow flip, too.
LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III: Dead Skunk (CBS 11201.
This stinky-poo banjo and fiddle fun is wafting its way up the US Charts (and into the hearts of Middle America), and might do a male Melanie here. All over the road, technicolour, man . . . come on, STINK!
GOVE SCRIVENOR: Goin’ To The Country (Uni UN 553).
A B-side, this slow bottleneck starting then picking and strumming before vocal and harmonica Mountain Music-type breakneck yi-hah raver is worth finding.
DR. HOOK & THE MEDICINE SHOW: The Cover Of “Rolling Stone” (CBS 1037).
The “oh wow, beautiful, man” crowd may find too close for comfort this nicely satirical modern All-American dream, by Shel Silverstein again. Thankfully not irritating like “Sylvia”, and not weeny-bop enough to make the cover of “Record Mirror” (although they’ve attained nude gatefoldom in the States).
THE WACKERS: Day And Night (Elektra K 12081).
Nilsson-esque slow-starting then extremely jaunty clonking, clanking, herky-jerky high-spirited Pop beater of much charm and impact.
ELLA FITZGERALD: I Get A Kick Out Of You; Just One Of Those Things; I’ve Got You Under My Skin (LP “Ella Loves Cole” Atlantic K 40450).
Great Easy listening, a vital complement to her earlier Cole Porter LP and to Frank Sinatra’s “The Select Cole Porter” (Capitol SRS 5009).
RUBY KEELER, DICK POWELL, WINIFRED SHAW: 42nd Street; Lullaby Of Broadway (LP “The Golden Age Of The Hollywood Musical” UA UAG 29421)
Not-So- Easy listening which can reward the adventurous dee-jay if used with flair, for instance in conjunction with Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, etc. You might get ’em all tap-dancing yet!
THE JACKSON 5: Doctor My Eyes (Tamla Motown TMG 842) Pop.
MARK ALLAIN: Be Mine (Island WIP 6156)
Lovely Latin-Jazz gentleness.
THE TREE PEOPLE: We’ll Gather Lilacs (Polydor 2058293)
Possibly useful Slow MoR, Ivor Novello camp classic.