March 24, 1973: James Brown, Sylvia, Marlena Shaw, Supremes, Diana Ross

Straight from the States

JAMES BROWN: Down And Out In New York City; Mama’s Dead (Polydor).
Mr. Brown has joined Messrs. Hayes, Mayfield, Gaye, Womack, Hathaway, Van Peebles & Co. in becoming one of the black stars to have scored (or, in the case of the “A” side here, merely arranged/produced) the music for a black-aimed movie. “Black Caesar” is the name of this one, and the music from it selected for this initial single is refreshingly removed from Mr. Brown’s usual groove. “Down And Out” starts slowly and builds impassionedly to a plopping bongo-led, mellow brass-backed, jerky, non-dance, dramatic rhythm, while “Mama’s Dead” (shades of “Freddie’s Dead”? ) is a dead (!) slow and very beautiful soulful mood, sung in a crying style that we don’t hear enough of these days.

SYLVIA: Pillow Talk (Vibration).
Sylvia Robinson, of Mickey & Sylvia and ownership of Stang / All Platinum / Vibration record label fame, is back – and how – behind the microphone . . . oh boy! And it’s the boys who will be going “oh!” when they hear this super-sexy, breath-sucking, winsomely little-girlish, perfectly contrived piece of cock-teasing. That may seem strong, but believe me that this is indeed a VERY strong record! If red-blooded males are able to resist its charms, they’d better go visit the blood bank for a top-up! Add to the brilliance of Sylvia’s hissing, sucking, sighing and squeaking the loveliness of the light mid-tempo romping rhythmic music, and you’ve got one foxy mutha!

American Singles

MARLENA SHAW: Last Tango In Paris (Blue Note UP 35517).
Still they keep coming! (Think about it!) Sultry jazz-soulstress Marlena, who did the vocal of “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”, sings Dory Previn’s lyrical addition to Gato Barbieri’s theme in a Horace Ott-arranged Marvin Gaye-ish way – which is odd, ‘cos his “Save The Children” happens to be on the flip. Along with the EL CHICANO (MCA MU 1188), this is the most satisfying, musically . . . and sexually.

SUPREMES: Bad Weather; It’s So Hard For Me To Say Goodbye (Tamla Motown TMG 847).
Stevie Wonder penned and produced the “A” side here especially for Jean Terrell: it’s in his own current mould, which means full of weaving melodies and poly-rhythms – and, like Stevie’s own LPs, it slips by all too easily. Lovely listening, but will it stop Pop Pickers in their tracks? The Frank Wilson-produced tensile slow flip is a strung-out beauty.

DIANA ROSS: Good Morning Heartache; God Bless The Child (Tamla Motown TMG 849).
Two exquisite slowies from “The Lady Sings The Blues” movie, these are not surprisingly indelibly associated in the minds of jazz lovers with the late Billie Holiday: however, congratulations are due to arrangers Oliver Nelson and Benny Golson, and to Diana herself, for doing such a good and tasteful re-enactment of them. Smoky early-hours nite club music.

RONNIE DYSON: One Man Band (Plays All Alone); I Think I’ll Tell Her (CBS 1278).
Although Thom Bell penned (with Linda Credd) and produced these semi-slowies specially for the ex-“Hair” star, the late-developing topside lacks all the magic of his recent work with the Stylistics, Spinners, etc., while the more lilting flip is a prettier (and Phillier) proposition.

THE SHARPEES: Tired Of Being Lonely; Just To Please You (President PT 399).
Hot on the heels of their “Do The 45” comes Bennie Sharp and the boys’ earlier hit, issued here mid-60s, with its weirdly subdued churning rhythm and Gospel-ish vocal touches. The wobbly guitar and wailing Gospel clomp beat flip has always been my own favourite.

ARTHUR CONLEY: Take A Step (In My Direction) (Atlantic K 10294).
This huskily sung very pretty and much commended slowie is but the lead side of a maxi comprising also the similar “Put Our Love Together” and “Love Comes And Goes”.

GEORGE JACKSON: Let Them Know You Care; Patricia (London HLU 10413).
Switching camps from Fame to Hi, George has joined with Willie Mitchell in producing a pair of ultra-relaxing soft slowies which are imbued with that Al Green-popularized “comfortable” Hi Sound. Hard to decide between ’em, they’re both so yummy. George, sing one for me!

ARETHA FRANKLIN: Master Of Eyes; Moody’s Mood For Love (Atlantic K 10288).
Aretha sings one for us, a jerkily crashing semi-slowie arranged by ma man Quincy Jones with all sorts of surprises – not the least being the possibly over-inventive yet so skilful new treatment of its James Moody/King Pleasure flip, which suffers somewhat from overkill. Pure jazz, it’s the side that stretches both most.

DON McLEAN: Everyday (UA UP 35519).
Taken by public demand (they say) from a nicely rough ‘n mono BBC recording, Don’s simple guitar-backed reading of Buddy Holly’s simplistic classic is an apt tribute to the inspiration of “American Pie”, and right in the spirit of the original. Expect it to hit, anyday.

ROBERT THOMAS VELLINE : Take Good Care Of My Baby (UA UP 35516).
Some may find Bobby Vee’s new steel-backed slow treatment of his old hit full of fashionably languid beauty; others may find it suffering from that modern malaise, lack of drive and guts. I wonder what veteran letter-writer Rick Winkley thinks? Nice to see you back in Mirrorpick, Rick !

TOMPALL & THE GLASER BROTHERS: Where Has All The Love Gone? (Polydor 2058337).
This Mexicali ditty was out before when featured in Jim Brown’s “…Tick…Tick…Tick…” movie: now it gets maxi coupling of the Country stars’ current yearning steel ‘n fiddle slow C&W hit, “A Girl Like You”, and the brighter “Delta Lost”.

BATDORF & RODNEY: All I Need (Asylum AYM 514).
Gently starting with harmonica and acoustic guitar in a mellow mood, the harmonizing duo’s ultra-pleasant light lilter is decidedly Labi Siffre-ish.

PAUL DAVIS: Boogie Woogie Man (London HLM 10410).
Although most of the Bang man’s bouncy beater is pure bubblegum, it does have a touch of Rolling Stones raunch.

LOU REED: Vicious; Satellite Of Love (RCA 2318).
If the incredible “Walk On The Wild Side” whetted your appetites for more from the ex-Velvet Underground / David Bowie influence, you may be disappointed by this more straightforward, Bowie-type stomper. While he’s certainly no singer, he does seem to have created one of the sounds of the moment . . . and this is more of it, as good as the rest.

KIM FOWLEY: International Heroes; ESP Reader (Capitol CL 15743).
If famous freak Fowley had filled fewer hours of tape, there’d be more hope of my finding time to transcribe it into a fascinating interview. As it is, untold outrages go . . . untold. Kim’s keen newie is not at all outrageous, though – more’s the pity. A pair of moral tales, set to music that lets you hear all the words, they’re thoroughly “nice”.

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART AND THE MAGIC BAND: Too Much Time; My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains (Reprise K 14233).
The Captain at 45 rpm? Yup, and it’s a reet neat little brass-backed soul song too, handled with loving attention to the authentic soul style. Even the pretty flip is pretty soulful. An ear-opener.

DOBIE GRAY: Drift Away (MCA MU 1184).
Gray is right – even in his “In Crowd” days, Dobie was more white than black in sound. Now he’s back in the US Charts with a repetitive hook-line comes-and-goes slowie which fits the current Mac Davis/Lobo-admiring pop audience to a T. Not bad of its type, it could click here.

5th DIMENSION: Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In; Carpet Man; Magic Garden (Bell MABEL 3).
At 33 1/3rd, here are the full 4:49 of the 5D’s “Hair” hit (that’s 1:50 more than before), plus two of their light and lively Jim Webb hits.

James Hamilton’s Disco Picks

THUNDER ROAD: Peter Gunn (Buddah 2011163) The Big Beat!
THE CRUSADERS: Put It Where You Want It (Blue Thumb WIP 6143) R&B/Jazz.
BILLY YOUNG: The Sloopy (Atlantic K 10277) R&B.
STEALERS WHEEL: Next To Me (A&M AMD 7046) Exquisite Slow Easy Listening.
FRANK SINATRA: LP “Swingin’ Sinatra” (Capitol DUO 102) Practically the whole double set, great Easy Listening.
BOBBY WOMACK: I Can Understand It (LP “Understanding” UA UAS 29365) R&B /Modern.

One thought on “March 24, 1973: James Brown, Sylvia, Marlena Shaw, Supremes, Diana Ross”

  1. I still have James’s copy of Captain Beefheart’s “Too Much Time”, and I played it out last Friday, sandwiched between The Staple Singers “Respect Yourself” and The Blackbyrds “Walking In Rhythm”. Always wanted to slip a bit of Beefheart into a set!


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