Straight from the States
BROWNSVILLE STATION: Let Your Yeah Be Yeah (Big Tree).
Recently in reviewing the J. Geils Band’s Reggae-styled newie, I remarked that the new “R & B” boom was on its way. Maybe my reasoning was a bit obscure: my use of the term “R & B” in quotes was meant to denote what the British Pop public, and not Soul fans, thought of as that type of music, back in the mid-’60s. Thus, just as the British “R & B” groups of that era played a mysterious musical concoction which owed little to its American inspiration, so the new breed of white plagiarists are adapting Reggae to their own limitations, with the result that they may well create in the process a de-based “Reggae” boom that becomes to the ’70s what so-called “R & B” was to the ’60s. Here, for instance, the sometime Rock Reviving raucous white group have made Jimmy Cliff’s Pioneers hit into a crashing clomper which owes just about nothing to real Reggae. Of course, that may have been the group’s intention, as the song itself is strong, but the end result is very similar to the kind of coarse cover-job that made Pop hits out of subtle black songs in the “R & B” past.
FOSTER SYLVERS: Misdemeanour (Pride).
Open the trade mag, see a pic of Michael Jackson, think “Hi, Mike!”, then read the name “Foster Sylvers”, go “Huh?”, do a double take, and believe what I say in the American Singles column alongside when I describe the Sylvers as visually modelled on the Jacksons. What’s more, although there are differences, young Foster has even been made to sound as much like Michael as possible (although I’d imagine he’s a bit younger). The perky little plinker that he sings was penned, as was the group’s British single, by Leon Sylvers III, and the whole group sing Leon’s more intricate flip in their sophisticated Stairsteps/Friends Of Distinction/Miracles style. Again, this is one very good group which should be heard. As for Foster, who could well be the one to break them with the ‘teens, as they’ve obviously planned, he’s in at 127 first week on the Record World Top 150 Chart, jumping from 71 to 40 R&B.
GLADYS KNIGHT & THE PIPS: Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye) (Tamla Motown TMG 855).
Gladys & the Pips’ biggest ever US smash, this subdued and tender super-Soul slowie was topping the American Charts at the same time as the group were switching labels to Buddah . . . such sweet parting, such irony.
LAURA LEE: You’ve Got To Save Me; Crumbs Off The Table (Hot Wax HWX 119).
A strong week for the chix, this. Laura must rank amongst the hierarchy of Soulstresses, but is not always well served by her material . . . as, to a certain extent, here. This tambourine-chinking gospel-girlie slow lurcher is very worthwhile for the raw excitement of its performance, though may be flipped by many in preference for its chunkier flip, already known as done by others, which has a great sputtering wah-wah percussion track that builds brassily, moodily and magnificently. Why isn’t it the plug side?
MILLIE JACKSON: Breakaway; Strange Things (Polydor 2066317).
The “My Man, A Sweet Man” gal who deserved to smash here last time out but failed to break through beyond number fifty, Millie is back emoting on another, less fluid and more deliberate, Raeford Gerald thumper. The slower “adult” flip is rather more powerful.
GUNHILL ROAD: Back When My Hair Was Short (Kama Sutra 2013063).
There are a disturbing number of those horrible new cheapo injection-moulded, paint-labelled, brittle new-style pressings amongst this lot of releases, all on the Phonogram/Polydor (ie: Polygram) group of labels. Object and help stamp them out! All of which is unfair to this Kenny Rogers-produced group’s stop/start gentle thumper which captures in its lyrics, unintentionally, the atmosphere of Britain’s “That’ll Be The Day” nostalgia movie. And how come that movie could goof so badly (even if justifiably from a dramatic viewpoint) in the chronology of its music?! So much stuff from the early ’60s being played in ’59 . . . bah!
TERESA BREWER: Music, Music, Music; School Days (Philips 6073706).
The Xmas reissue of Patti Page’s “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window” inspired me to look for the original of this, truly the first Pop song that I personally was ever aware of, which would have been a logical follow-up to Patti anyway. Delight turned to horror on hearing this, though – Teresa has re-recorded it, backed by the otherwise excellent but here inappropriate – wait for it – Heads, Hands & Feet! Put another nickel in! Why can’t we, please, have the original? Chuck Berry’s flip is actually funky and fine, and it works rather well . . . ooo oooo weee!
NEIL SEDAKA: Standing On The Inside (MGM 2006267).
Considering the great popularity with dancers of Neil’s “That’s When The Music Takes Me“, it seems strange that the record went no higher than eighteen (of course, the other Neil – Diamond – fared similarly with “Song Sung Blue”). Despite his sudden switch of labels, Mr. Sedaka’s newie is awfully like that last one, though sounds less like Carole King.
BING CROSBY: Gonna Build A Mountain (Daybreak DAS 401).
Okay, laugh, but you’d betta believe that Bing’s Basie-backed bouncy treatment of the hackneyed Newley warhorse swings like a bitch, and really stands out as something refreshingly light and airy. Yeah – bring back the big bands!
THE BOBBY FULLER FOUR: Another Sad And Lonely Night (President PT 394).
From 1966, the same year that they fought the law, this white group’s jangling beater has Beatles influences well to the fore – my, how those moptops ruined American music! Only R & B benefitted, filling the gaps in the Chart while white Pop had a re-think. Bring back Randy & the Rainbows, too!
THE GRASS ROOTS: Love Is What You Make It (Probe PRO 583).
Almost the American Hollies in the consistency stakes, these bubblegummers have yet to hit here. Their latest US hit is an urgent staccato scrubber about love, and if you make it with me we’ll make it all right.
JOHNNY RODRIGUEZ: Pass Me By (If You’re Only Passing Through) (Mercury 6052305).
This young Chicano ex-con is a protege of Tom T. Hall and is fast becoming a big Country star. Country & Wetback? Er hum! His plaintive vocal style is pleasant if unremarkable on this ditto near-yodelling creamy slowie which features some mighty fine (but predictably present) pedal steel and fiddle. Afficionados will appreciate the inherent tension, though.
SKEETER DAVIS: The End Of The World; I Can’t Stay Mad At You (RCA 2356).
Miss Davis’s slowie was a Worldwide smash in 1963, and sounds remarkably like the sort of thing that Dana might have sung in her bath prior to Eurovision fame. Heartbroken brief recitation, and a Goffin & King flip which sounds it, shoobedoobedoobop dum dum bedoobedoo.
THE SYLVERS: Wish That I Could Talk To You; How Love Hurts (MGM 2006-198).
Following in the footsteps of the Stairsteps, except visually modelled on the Jacksons, the Sylvers are another black family act who make lovely Smokey lead-swapping music and intricately arranged Friends of Distinction-ish high-flying harmonies on these delicate slowies, which I unreservedly commend to the attention of all Soul Group Freaks. Unfortunately, although their image is right, their music is far too subtle to snare the ‘teens over here, on this showing.
BOBBY WOMACK & PEACE: Across 110th Street; Hang On In There (UA UP 35512).
Bobby, the Soul star you should all be getting hip to, on his own theme song from the new blacks/Mafia/fuzz flick. His is a cool but rasping voice, full of Gospel authority, which he sets in Marvin Gaye-ish smoothly churning lushness on top and in chugging acceleration, gently driving rhythm flipside. Can you understand it?!
BARRABAS: Woman; Wild Safari (RCA 2339).
Penned/produced by Fernando Arbex, this looked Continental to me until I saw that it’s climbing R & B and breaking out in New York, Philly, LA and St. Louis. Well, the chap singing these percussive throbbers still sounds extremely Continental, and rather hoarse, which only emphasize the Latin rhythm. Another Chakachas? More Titanic?
ALBERT KING: Breaking Up Somebody’s Home (Stax 2025162).
Albert and Lucy, his guitar, have a satisfying if predictable Blues sound which is both sorta warm and huggable and brain-searing with it. On this recent Ann Peebles hit plodder, the wailing Lucy gets super-searing and should be played loud. WHHOOOO!
Hamilton’s Disco Picks
EDGAR WINTER: Frankenstein (Epic EPC 14440) The “NOISE” on its own is an incredible cut-in over-ride effect!
HENRY HALL: Teddy Bear’s Picnic; Here’s To The Next Time; any more! (LP “It’s Five Fifteen And Time For . . .” WRC SH 172) MoR Nostalgia.
KEN DODD: The Song Of The Diddymen (MFP Surprise FP 26) Conga-type Fun.
UPPER CRUST: Mayday (MCA MUS 1197) MoR/Easy.
JOSEPH HOROVITZ ORCH: Search For The Nile (Sovereign SOV 117) Dead slow Easy, for a topical “Dr. Livingstone, I presume” voice-over!
LYNSEY DE PAUL: All Night (MAM 99) She “Gets Down” quite sexily, MoR/Pop.