Edited and compiled by JAMES HAMILTON
RECORD Mirror’s ace reviewer of the American Singles scene, “Doctor Soul” himself, was saying in print in 1969 that Al Green would be a future superstar, and that Gamble & Huff would one day rule! Read what he has to say today! And remember, no one else reviews pre-release Soul singles “Straight From The States” in any other weekly music paper! SOUL-sational!
Britain’s taste in Soul reflected by America’s more subtle approach
GREAT things have happened since our last Soul Special – who would have guessed that Britain would suddenly go overboard for the Philly Sound? Maybe Motown’s move from Detroit to Los Angeles has affected it, but for one reason or another the label does seem to have lost some ground in the British Charts – ground that Philadelphian producers Thom Bell and Gamble & Huff have eagerly taken up, with hits by The O’Jays, Stylistics, (Detroit) Spinners, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Archie Bell & The Drells, Billy Paul. Now Norman Harris’s First Choice are in the Chart too.
The Detroit Emeralds have had a hit with their least successful US single, and are consolidating their position with a re-issued million-seller. Stevie Wonder is the only old Detroit star doing much here – The Jackson 5’s Chart placings have been surprisingly poor in the light of their supposedly fanatical fan following. At least Gladys Knight & The Pips have finally broken through. Timmy Thomas and Deodato are out-of-left-field ones who thankfully caught your fancy. All in all, Britain’s taste is beginning to reflect the current American fashion for less frantic, more subtle Soul . . . which can only be good.
In America itself it has been the Philly Sound all the way, too. The Detroit Spinners with I’ll Be Around, Could It Be I’m Falling In Love and One Of A Kind (Love Affair) are as hot for Thom Bell as The Stylistics were before them, the latter group only scoring big with I’m Stone In Love With You during the same period. Thom’s also up there via New York City’s I’m Doin’ Fine Now and Ronnie Dyson’s One Man Band (Plays All Alone). Gamble & Huff are of course the success story of the season: hit LP’s by The O’Jays, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Billy Paul, and hit singles from those LP’s with Back Stabbers, 992 Arguments, Love Train, Time To Get Down, I Miss You, If You Don’t Know Me By Now, Everyday I Have The Blues, Me & Mrs. Jones, Am I Black Enough For You. They’ve also had some success with The Intruders, Johnny Williams, Bunny Sigler, The Ebonys.
Motown has been doing much better in America than here, although even there it looks as though the Jackson 5 are slipping. Stevie Wonder’s smash Talking Book LP has spawned Chart-toppers with Superstition and You Are The Sunshine Of My Life while Marvin Gaye’s soundtrack score of Trouble Man made a big LP and single. Gladys Knight left Motown for Buddah, with the sentiment that Neither One Of Us Want To Be The First To Say Goodbye, a sentiment which earned her the biggest hit of her career. Jermaine Jackson’s accurate revival of the Daddy’s Home oldie was a deserved smash. And Motown won the Grammy with The Temptations’ Papa Was A Rolling Stone.
Producer / performer / label boss Willie Mitchell kept it all nasty at Hi, where the Memphis label’s superstar Al Green walked off with his sixth gold single and third gold album. Al is the star of the year, and has usurped James Brown’s position as the biggest crowd puller in R&B. In a similarly understated way, Bobby Womack’s Understanding LP continued to be a steady-selling sleeper hit, and he got into movie soundtracks with Across 110th Street. Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly score and its assorted singles, including one of Give Me Your Love by Barbara Mason, was the leader in the black movie score field, though an annoying misunderstanding barred it at the last minute from being considered for an Oscar.
As in Britain, Timmy Thomas’s Why Can’t We Live Together? and Deodato’s Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001) intrigued huge audiences. War went straight to the top with their The World Is A Ghetto LP, after their All Day Music album had been one of last year’s most consistent sellers. And in a similarly inventive mood, Britain’s Cymande did commendably well with The Message.
If Britain’s taste continues to mellow like it evidently has been, how long before such groups as Cymande have a chance at home? Now, go out and buy Sylvia’s Pillow Talk and Barry White’s I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby, and learn to relax some more!
THE PHILADELPHIA STORY
AS you walk down towards South Street (that’s where the hippies meet), some of the architecture you see reminds you of London’s Bloomsbury – the same Regency elegance, in atmosphere if not in fact, for Philadelphia is as old as America gets. Here was signed the Declaration Of Independence, here is the home of the Liberty Bell.
When you get to South Street, a scruffy tawdry entertainment-lined thoroughfare, you step into Krass Brothers’ clothing store, and the reason for Philadelphia’s modern fame is before your eyes. Everywhere, the walls of this warehouse are plastered with publicity photographs of all the aspiring singers and groups who have come to the Brothers for their ready-to-wear stage gear. Philadelphia is old and it’s big, and if a boy is poor he can maybe break out of it by becoming a star.
Why are you, from England, in the Krass Brothers’ emporium, anyway? Well, brother Ben has a music publishing firm called Krasbe, and this is its address. You’ve seen its name coupled with Downstairs Music on an interesting record label: the other words read, Gonna Be Strong (Gamble-Huff) The Intruders Produced by Gamble & Huff, Excel EX 101. The year is 1966, and you are there at the start of the modern day Philadelphia Story.
The older story began in the ’50s, when Philadelphia became home of the “American Bandstand” TV show, the teenagers’ televised record hop, which Dick Clark still comperes (but from California now). Back then it was the poor white Italian community which spawned forth their Frankie Avalons, Fabians, James Darrens, Bobby Rydells, who became boob tube-created singing idols over -night.
Cameo/Parkway was the local record label which entered the ’60s with a bang. By then there were black artistes getting a look in, and Rock ‘n Roll was becoming a bore to dance. Chubby Checker covered Hank Ballard’s dance tune, The Twist, and a new era dawned. Bernie Lowe, Kal Mann and Dave Appell of Cameo/Parkway had found a winner, and they went on to pen/produce dance craze records like Pony Time, The Fly, Mashed Potato Time, Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes), The Wah-Watusi, Bristol Stomp, and the immortal Let’s Twist Again for Chubby, Dee Dee Sharp, the Orlons and the Dovells.
During the mid-’60s attention switched from Philadelphia to Detroit, Memphis, and London. Whatever happened locally tended to be handled at some stage by Harold Lipsious, lawyer head of the Jamie/Guyden group of labels, just as his associates Huey Meaux and Dick Clark had a finger in any small-size pie in the South and West, respectively. Bob Finiz, producer of Claudine Clark’s The Strength To Be Strong, was working at Jamie with Brenda & the Tabulations: Brenda’s voice and that of Barbara Mason established a distinctive house style for Philadelphian girls. Dee Dee Sharp married a songwriter whose name was beginning to appear on R & B records, Kenny Gamble. Another name was Leon Huff.
Arguably, New York’s Teddy Randazzo produced a precursor of the modern Philadelphia, or “Philly”, Sound with his mid-’60s hits for Little Anthony & the Imperials, whose style had many of the qualities later to be associated with Sweet Soul. However, it was certainly the teaming of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff with the Intruders which realized the first true Philly Sound hit in 1966, United (released here 19.8.66). By the time that the same team were hitting a year later with Together, Gamble & Huff’s reputation was growing amongst Soul Freaks but their sound, although identifiable, was in fact not so far removed from the New York-recorded results of producer George Kerr’s work with the O’Jays. In November ’67, Gamble & Huff’s gimmicky Expressway To Your Heart topped the Hot 100 (by the Soul Survivors) and seemed to clear the way for the crystallization of their definitive Philly Sound smash, the Intruders’ Cowboys To Girls, which hit during the following Spring.
The Intruders, four handsome slim young men, were now drawing screams from black teenaged girls, although they could still not be thought of as singing Sweet Soul as we know it. It was later that Summer that three even sexier young Philadelphians got as sweet as they were able – the Delfonics, on La La Means I Love You. Thus producer/arranger Thom Bell first made his presence felt.
Thom Bell had already been working as an arranger and writer, in a somewhat subordinate position to Bobby Martin (responsible for The Horse amongst others), with Gamble & Huff on their sessions with Jerry Butler. Soul veteran Butler, The Ice Man, had been drifting from one producer to another before having some renewed success at the hands of Philadelphia’s Jerry Ross. Gamble & Huff were called on to write for him, and soon took over his production too. There followed an extremely profitable and artistically satisfying collaboration between Gamble, Huff and Butler, which more than anything else helped put the Philadelphian team on the map. Thom Bell became more closely involved too, as time went by, and was replacing Huff in the hit composer credits by 1969 – such as Moody Woman and A Brand New Me were Gamble-Bell-Butler songs.
To accompany their Gamble label, which starred the Intruders, Gamble & Huff formed Neptune, to which they have provided a shot in the arm with Wilson Pickett, Joe Simon, Laura Nyro and the Chambers Brothers. Thom Bell was producing Little Anthony & the Imperials as well as the Delfonics, and then hit his winning streak with the ultimate Sweet Soul group, the Stylistics. To consolidate their position, Gamble & Huff joined the mighty Columbia Records (CBS) distribution set-up when they formed their Philadelphia International label last year, with results which probably staggered even them: album and album track hits by the O’Jays and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, and, with Billy Paul’s Me & Mrs. Jones, the top selling single over the Christmas period.
The Philly Sound is big business – strange, then, that it should stem from just one recording studio, where most people seem to help each other regardless of their own commitments. This is Philadelphia’s Sigma Sound Studios, at which Joe Tarsia is the over-worked engineer responsible for nearly all the Philly Sounds we hear. Everyone who works there, be it as producer, arranger or musician, is a member of a sort of co-operative, and works in one or other capacity on most of the sessions. Thus Gamble & Huff get arrangements from Thom Bell, Bobby Martin, Norman Harris, Lenny Pakula, Ronnie Baker, Roland Chambers, all of whom probably are playing on those sessions they are not themselves producing. Roles blur, so that it becomes difficult to tell who is responsible for what on which records.
No longer is it the record label which immediately indicates the Philadelphian source of the music, unlike in the days of Cameo and Jamie. True, Gamble & Huff’s work does now tend to be on either Philadelphia International or Gamble (CBS and Epic here), but Thom Bell’s hits with the Stylistics, (Detroit) Spinners, New York City and Ronnie Dyson, to name a few, are spread about on Avco, Atlantic, RCA and Columbia (CBS). These days there is an easier way then reading label copy to tell the city of origin . . . just listen for that Philly Sound!
Influential stars of R&B
Began by playing keyboards, writing hits (often with David Porter), eventually producing, at Stax in Memphis during mid-’60’s. Stoned solo album debut was followed in 1969 by classic smash “Hot Buttered Soul,” which single-handedly ushered in the era of the long drawn-out Soul slowie and the super-spade rap. His 12:00 Walk On By remains the best example. Wrote the Shaft score in 1971, establishing the “chukka-wukka” guitar sound and a new fashion for black movie scores. Known as “Black Moses,” Ike is both witty and impressive on stage. (LP: Hot Buttered Soul / 45: (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right – Stax).
Now a law unto himself, whom nobody bothers to copy any more, Soul Brother Number One hit first with Please, Please, Please in 1956 but reached his present position of importance in the early ’60s, especially with his 1963 Live At The Apollo smash LP. Conscious of being black leader. Churns out incredible number of ultra-funky 45s, possibly more for juke box sales than the public. Unbelievably popular in Africa. Exciting soulful screams on slowies, complex rhythms on dancers. The hardest working man in show business on stage (LPs: Live At The Apollo, Volume 2; Revolution Of the Mind / 45s: I Got Ants In My Pants; King Heroin – Polydor).
From 1963 and their work (as a quintet) on Imperial, the O’Jays have always been one of the most passionate yet cool Soul Vocal Groups. With producer George Kerr on Bell in the late ’60s they formulated a hesitant slow style in which rich harmonies counterpointed a pleading lead, and made an important contribution to Sweet Soul by having the stuttering percussion section carry much of the melody. Reduced through four to three, they have adapted their approach to fit their current hit-making Gamble & Huff formula. (LPs: Back On Top – US Bell; Back Stabbers – CBS / 45: There’s Someone Waiting (Back Home) – US Neptune).
Broke big as a solo star in 1963 with the first of a long line of dance hits, which culminated in 1968’s I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Tamla’s biggest seller and itself a departure from his norm. Always a sensitive singer, Marvin then withdrew to work (not necessarily with Tamla’s blessing) on a sound that was his own completely. The resultant What’s Goin’ On introduced a new casualness to Soul, with gentle, amorphous, swimming multi-tracked sounds concealing social commentary lyrics. Not a prolific recorder now, his only releases since 1971 being a political 45 and the mainly instrumental / Trouble Man score. (LP: What’s Goin’ On – Tamla Motown).
Billed as The 12 Year Old Genius when his Fingertips topped the 1963 US Charts, Stevie has only recently managed to live down that “Little” appendage. Like Marvin Gaye, but from a stronger standpoint, he experimented with sound and composition until on turning 21 (contract renewal time) he was able to release Music Of My Mind, an LP that was literally all his own work. Working with synthesizers, over-dubs, and extremely pretty melodies, he has reinforced Marvin’s breakthrough with a joie de vivre. Thought of by many R&B musicians as the hope for the future. (LPs: Music Of My Mind; Talking Book / 45: If You Really Love Me – Tamla Motown).
THE FRIENDS OF DISTINCTION
Mistakenly considered by some to be another 5th Dimension, this two men / two girls (now, only one girl) group are much more Soulful, despite their tendency towards pretty material. Their 1969 vocal treatment of Grazing In The Grass accelerated Aretha Franklin’s “sock it to me” into a dazzlingly staccato percussive effect, at its fastest on “Icandiggit hecandiggit shecandiggit wecandiggit theycandiggit youcandiggit, oh let’s dig it.” A complete contrast, Going In Circles was a tortuous dead slowie of exquisite beauty. Although not as successful these days, their influence continues to be felt. (LPs: Grazin’ ; Best Of Friends – RCA).
TIP FOR THE FUTURE
Rotund Rance is a Gospel artist whose work is beginning to hit the R&B Charts, and who appeared in the “Wattstax” movie. Known here only for his exciting, Jackie Wilson-ish and more, inspirational reading of There’s Gonna Be A Showdown and its powerful slow That Will Be Good Enough For Me flip. I have a hunch that this is but the start of something big – and I felt the same about Wilson Pickett in 1963 and Al Green in 1969. Watch out! (LP: Truth Is Where It’s At – US Gospel Truth / 45: as above – Stax).
BLAST FROM THE PAST
Ex-Falcons, ex-Contours, ex-100 Proof (Aged In Soul), Joe (brother of 4 Tops’ Levi) has dropped from view: reportedly, unable to cope with fame. His raw Gospel yelping voice is heard to spine-tingling effect on the Falcons live versions of I Found A Love and Alabama Bound, and on 100 Proof’s Backtrack; his sexy stoned conversation with a foxy chick on 100 Proof’s Ain’t That Lovin’ You is a guaranteed turn-on. In my mind, Soul’s most exciting voice. (LPs: Various – Apollo Saturday Night – Atco ; 100 Proof – Somebody’s Been Sleeping In My Bed – Hot Wax)
R&B TOP THIRTY
Review of Billboard’s US Soul Chart for week ending 19 / 5 / 1973
1) LEAVING ME The Independents (Wand), a hesitant vocal group slowie with lots of empty spaces in the quiet backing, traditional and somehow “pure” in concept. Out here on Pye 7N25612.
2) PILLOW TALK Sylvia (Vibration), a sexy romp, coyly squeaked, sucked and hissed by the winsome label president / producer, Sylvia Robinson, to a delightful bubbling backing. Out here on London HLU 10415.
3) I’M GONNA LOVE YOU JUST A LITTLE MORE BABY Barry White (20th Century), another, slower, sexy record, spoken and groaned in the Isaac Hayes manner by Love Unlimited’s producer. Out on Pye 7N 25610.
4) I CAN UNDERSTAND IT New Birth (RCA), a Harvey Fuqua-produced copy of the (shortened) Bobby Womack number, treated much as the original but with an emptier backing and more vocal tricks. On RCA 2360.
5) FUNKY WORM Ohio Players (Westbound), a freaky novelty which features a funny “Funky Granny” voice and an electronic worm that plays synthesizer and GUITAR! Out here on Westbound 6146100.
6) WITHOUT YOU IN MY LIFE Tyrone Davis (Dakar), chugs along to a bouncy wah-wah beat with brassy punctuation and Tyrone’s inimitable throaty rhythm-riding sounding at its expressive best.
7) YOU ARE THE SUNSHINE OF MY LIFE Stevie Wonder (Tamla), Stevie’s on top of the Pop Hot 100 with this pretty track from his Talking Book LP, and is already in our own chart, on Tamla Motown TMG 852.
8) GIVE YOUR BABY A STANDING OVATION The Dells (Cadet), a lovely idea, incorporating stage announcement, rap, wailing singing, and the all-important audience applause, on a meandering slowie.
9) MASTERPIECE Temptations (Gordy), a disappointment in that, brilliant though it be in conception, it is really too much like Papa Was A Rolling Stone . . . still, it’s selling here, on Tamla Motown TMG 854.
10) ONE OF A KIND (Love Affair) (Detroit) Spinners (Atlantic), also a disappointment following the brilliance of their last two, this plod beat slowie has an incredible old-fashioned big band jazz flip.
11) ALWAYS Luther Ingram (Koko), a long way short of being as big a hit as his I Don’t Want To Be Right, is an easy-rolling slowie with words that come as naturally as falling off a log.
12) IT’S HARD TO STOP (Doing Something When It’s Good To You) Betty Wright (Alston), finds the Clean Up Woman gal giving out an impassioned truism rather repetitively to a funky brass and bass riff.
13) ARMED AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS First Choice (Philly Groove), is the female Philly Sound from Norman Harris with the Dragnet intro which is now deservedly, and belatedly, a hit here, on Bell 1297.
14) I’ BEEN WATCHIN’ YOU South Side Movement (Wand), has a Meters-like slow funk rhythm track and hoarse strangulated vocal, all very laid back and empty sounding. Out here on Pye 7N25615.
15) NATURAL HIGH Bloodstone (London), the title track from the group’s deservedly successful second LP, is a beautiful ethereal slowie with exquisite harmonies and jazzy guitar. Out on Decca F 13382.
16) CISCO KID War (UA), a monotonous sputtering wah-wah and percussion semi-slowie with chanted lyrics, is a fusion of many different influences of which Latin music dominates. Out here on UA UP 35521.
17) SUPERFLY MEETS SHAFT John & Ernest (Rainy Wednesday), the biggest gas on the chart, is described in full in the Straight From The States column this week, but in brief is made up from pirated snips from other people’s records spliced together with a commentary to tell a silly story.
18) I’M DOIN’ FINE NOW New York City (RCA), a smoothly grooving Philly Sound light clomper, is another Thom Bell production. Out here on RCA 2351.
19) WILL IT GO ROUND IN CIRCLES Billy Preston (A&M), is a plodding slow beater with typically Preston piano and organ cutting through the brass and his smokey vocal. Out here on A&M AMS 7049.
20) DADDY COULD SWEAR, I DECLARE Gladys Knight & The Pips (Soul), has lyrics that live up to the title, and Gladys in subduedly-backed beaty Gospel voice, reminiscent of Heard It Thru The Grapevine.
21) BREAKAWAY Millie Jackson (Spring), is a rawly hollered thumper but lacks the more straightforward punch of her My Man, A Sweet Man hit. Out here on Polydor 2066317.
22) YESTERDAY I HAD THE BLUES Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (Philadelphia International), a rather boring abridged dead slowie, should have been swapped for the lovely Be For Real as it did not do well. Out here on album CBS 65350.
23) FINDER’S KEEPERS Chairmen Of The Board (Invictus), sounds just like the Isley Brothers backed by Billy Preston playing Outa Space, and features some fruity trumpet when the yelping stops.
24) PEOPLE ARE CHANGIN’ Timmy Thomas (Glades), is similar overall to the last one but has subtle differences and a faster rhythm. Out here on Mojo 2027015.
25) FENCEWALK Mandrill (Polydor), a mixture of tight brass honks, wah-wah “chukka-wuks,” thumping bass and chanted vocals, breaks into a more blatant “Latin-Rock” guitar and brass segment.
26) BAD, BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL, GIRL Persuaders (Atco), an oldies-influenced slowie which combines a Chi-Lites flavour with the Persuaders’ own brand of vocal interplay, beautifully.
27) HEY YOU! GET OFF MY MOUNTAIN Dramatics (Volt), an intriguingly titled delicate slowie, is the antithesis to the Rolling Stones image it might suggest.
28) I CAN MAKE IT THROUGH THE DAYS (But Oh Those Lonely Nights) Ray Charles (ABC/Tangerine), is another good title, and its song is a Gospel organ-drenched slowie which Raymond sells with all his old Soulful tenderness.
29) I DON’T WANT TO MAKE YOU WAIT Delfonics (Philly Groove), is a particularly typical Delfonics Sweet Soul slowie, the chart progress of which must be pleasing the group, who’ve had hard times recently.
30) INTERNATIONAL PLAYBOY Wilson Pickett (Atlantic), was – yes – an old ‘B’ side but is now out again with added intro mention of Superfly and other beat-emphasising embellishments to counteract his new RCA recordings.
Lose the Blues – call AL GREEN
WILLIE MITCHELL, trumpeter and hit recording star in his own right, is the producer of AL GREEN’s famous “comfortable” sound, and President of Hi Records. His rise to an executive position was both funny and sad.
“In 1970 my contract was running out with Hi. I was in California playing in Disneyland and Joe Cuoghi” (Hi’s owner) called me and said, ‘Willie, you know your contract ran out?’ I said, ‘Has it?’ and he said, ‘Yeah – what you gonna do?’ At this time there was a lot of labels really trying to get me – I could have picked any label. So I says, ‘Joe, I tell you what, you make out the contract and I’ll sign it.’ He says, ‘What you want me to put in it?’ I say, ‘Anything you want to put in it’, and he says, ‘Why don’t you just catch the ‘plane and come on to Memphis?’ I walked into Joe’s office that Monday morning, and he says, `By the way, here’s a five-year contract, you’d better read it,’ and I just signed it and gave it back to Joe. He said, ‘You’d better read it. ‘ I said, ‘I don’t want to read it, Joe, I’ll just save my copy in the bank.’ He say,’ By the way, you the Vice-President of Hi Records!’ ”
Less than a month later, Joe Cuoghi died. Willie Mitchell checked the company’s books with a lawyer, to find that it was flat broke and busted. Undaunted, he bought out a partner and set about making some hits.
Up until 1967, Cuoghi had discouraged Willie from trying record production. However, following the success of his self-produced Soul Serenade, Willie spent nearly every day of the next three years experimenting in the studio until he had found the sound he wanted. The first hit to feature the perfected sound was Al Green’s “Tired Of Being Alone” . . .
Can it be just a coincidence that Al Green’s image is founded on the well-proven appeal of a vulnerable, soulful loneliness – sure to rouse a girl’s maternal instincts – when another Memphis superstar, Elvis Presley, played nothing but lonely men in all his earlier films? Certainly, Al seems sincere about his lonely life.
“I write and sing about real things that happened to me, but I don’t want you to think that every time a record comes out I’ve just LOST somebody, because that’s not the case! At this point I don’t think it would be too much of a problem to get married if I wanted to do THAT! But I don’t think it would be fair with a lady if I got married right now, because I have so much to do. Right now I’m single, maybe later . . .”
Judging from the screams at his London concert last Friday, Al would have no problem in finding a willing bride right here. His stage act is both looser and more intense than on his first visit, with a Joe Cocker-ish look to the abandonment that overcomes him as he gets lost in a song.
“I approach the audience as if I’m greeting an old friend who I haven’t seen for a long time. I feel that I associate myself . . . I give out my REAL ‘phone number, which is, you know, just a part of the for-real thing we try to have going on.
“Everything has its moments, and there are times you might find some kid thousands of miles away calling you at 3 o’clock in the morning because she simply is in love with you or something . . .”
That DOES sound like an invitation! Now then,’ girls, what WAS that number he told us during “Call Me”?
Straight from the States
JOHN & ERNEST: Super Fly Meets Shaft (Rainy Wednesday).
Back in 1956 there was a famous American hit called “Flying Saucer, Parts 1 & 2” by Buchanan & Goodman (available here on UA’s “Deeper Into The Vaults” LP, UAS 29153). It consisted of a mock radio news item featuring an interviewer’s questions, the answers to which were pirated snippets from top hit records of the day (Presley, Richard, Platters, etc). Legend has it that the team responsible were jailed or otherwise dealt with as a result of this copyright violation (which itself sold a million!) Since then there have been other similar records – both Motown and James Brown have had their material used legally, while pirated material was on a “Nixon vs. Kennedy” debate, amongst others. Now Dickie Goodman, of the original hit, has joined Sal Passantino to make a modern Soul updating of his original idea, with the news item being about the President’s enlistment of Shaft in the search for Superfly! Thus, the question “What seems to be the problem?” is answered by the President in the voice of James Brown with “I got ants in my pants and I need to dance”! “Mr. President, what are you and Shaft doin’ in there?” “Holding hands, making all kinds of plans”, in the voice of Billy Paul! Get the idea? It’s chock full o’ laffs, thanx to the out-of-context contributions of James Brown, Temptations, 4 Tops, Billy Paul, Detroit Spinners, Isaac Hayes, O’Jays, Curtis Mayfield and Jermaine Jackson. I hope you can hear it!
THE STYLISTICS: You’ll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart) (Avco).
On “People Make The World Go Round“, Thom Bell had the Stylistics sounding as though they were singing Bacharach & David when they weren’t. Now he has done likewise when they ARE, and the teaming is absolutely perfect! Russell Thompkins Jr’s crystal clear Sweet Soul voice was obviously MADE to sing those sweetly melodic pretty-pretty Bacharach & David lines. Now, just as the two writers have parted company, maybe their work will live anew, if producer Bell decides to let the Stylistics run with the success formula. This certainly looks set for success, as it hit last week’s Hot 100 straight off at number 77.
JACKSON 5: Hallelujah Day; To Know (Tamla Motown TMG 856).
Happy herky-jerky optimistic chanting, surely not unconnected with the Vietnam withdrawal? Despite this topicality, not a notable success in America. The lovely slowly lilting flip is somewhat Stevie Wonderful and should appeal to more than just J5 fans.
THE INDEPENDENTS: Leaving Me; I Love You, Yes I Do (Pye 7N 25612).
One that creeps up on you, this super-slow lurcher by the guys revered for their “Just As Long As You Need Me” has taken its time to creep to the top of the US R&B Chart. Its tender cool crooning, slightly Impressionistic, is complemented by a sweet harmony and lush guitar fast flip.
WHATNAUTS: Instigating (Trouble Making Fool); I Can’t Stand To See You Cry (GSF GSZ 9).
Still rising R&B, this gently finger-snapping wailing Sweet Soul goodie, arranged by Bert Keyes, is penned / produced by the great George Kerr (for more fax, see under “O’Jays” elsewhere in this ish). The beautiful dead slow flip was even penned by the Poindexter Brothers, who had the same duties in the Kerry / O’Jays’ old Bell days!
SOUL GENERATION; Million Dollars; Sailing (Sticky STY 2).
Yet another dead slow Soul Vocal Group wailer – whatever’s happening here this week?! Specialist in appeal, maybe, but those specialists are gonna love it! Friends Of Distinction feel to the pretty slow flip.
THE NEW BIRTH: I Can Understand It; Oh, Baby, I Love The Way (RCA 2360).
Harvey Fuqua’s big group on an emptier, more percussive treatment of Bobby Womack’s “Understanding” classic groover. Harvey’s own slow flip has a dramatic structure, plunking bass and – dare I say it again? – Friends Of Distinction-type girls guys singing.
MAJOR LANCE: Ain’t No Soul (Left In These Old Shoes); Investigate (Contempo C 9).
Although recorded live at “The Torch” in Stoke, these versions of Major’s old hits are much, much better than might have been expected / feared. The booming bass and soul clapping audience have replaced to advantage the rather reedy backing of the original “Ain’t”, while Major’s unencumbered voice brings to life “Investigate” (the pedestrian original of which was, in any case, a British recording).
THE SOUTH SIDE MOVEMENT: I’ Been Watchin’ You; Have A Little Mercy (Pye 7N 25615).
“Look-A Py Py” slow funk rhythm and hoarse spaced-out vocal, offset by some bell-like brass bits and subtle guitar. More good guitar, in tighter style, on the brassier faster flip.
QUIET ELEGANCE: Mamma Said; I Need Love (London HLU 10409).
From Hi, and produced by Willie Mitchell with his customary comfortable sound, these three girls come on mellow and soulful to the smoothly bouncy backing. The slower flip is even more Soul-satisfying, and is likely to have a longer-lasting appeal.
JOE SIMON: Step By Step; Talk Don’t Bother Me (Mojo 2093030).
Two up tempo sides, the smoother flip had split sales until the harder-knocking easy clomper top went ahead up the pop charts.
GATO BARBIERI: Last Tango In Paris; Return – Tango (La Vuelta) (UA UP 35505).
Three months late, we finally get the composer’s own original soundtrack recording of the slinky movie theme which must eventually be both an Oscar nomination and a smash for someone, once the flick goes on national US release. Lotsa strings before the late-starting sax, plus a flip that really IS a Tango – albeit a rather incidental, lushly Gallic one.
LIZA MINNELLI: Cabaret; Maybe This Time (Probe PRO 590).
Wonderful what an Oscar can do: now the “Cabaret” LP is climbing the US Charts again, and we get Pookie herself on the jolly (but thinly backed) title tune, flipped by one of the flick’s big emotional builders. My cynicism does not extend to the movie itself, which is truly a mind-numbing experience that shouldn’t be missed. Liza can also be heard on: Dancing In The Moonlight; Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight (CBS 1520), an unfortunate choice, as she manages to do a better job of overkill on Boffalongo’s classic than even King Harvest. At least she brings an authentic touch to James Taylor’s after-hours cocktail lounge flip, but the strings seem unnecessary.
JIM WEATHERLY: Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye); Old Kentucky Moon (RCA 2367).
The man who wrote it, sings it (it being Gladys Knight’s US chart-topper), and – guess what – it was a sentimental Glen Campbell-type country number as originally conceived. It was also equally chart-worthy. That ole pedal steel gets into the John Denver-type flip.
MOSE JONES: Here We Go Again (MCA MUS 1202).
Produced by Al Kooper, with lots of inventive tricks, this interestingly developing mainly instrumental slowie begins with tinkling guitars and moody cellos before progressing through synthesized crashes and burbling organ to high weazling and smokey gruff vocals. There’s an insistent chinking rhythm which, more than anything, lends this a satisfying nervous tension comparable with that of the otherwise dissimilar “No” of Bulldog. In other words, I like it.
THE SHAKERS: One Wonderful Moment (Probe PRO 582).
This six years old Cashman and Pistilli-penned perky stomper is doing well with a certain type of disco-goer. It sounds a bit like the Bachelors sing the 4 Seasons, to a lightly hustling backing with an echoing backbeat at the end of every bar.
GLEN CAMPBELL: One Last Time (Capitol CL 15748).
Glen’s great current US hit stomper, the Neal Hefti-penned “I Knew Jesus (Before He Was A Star)“, not only has too-much words but also is a proven discotheque smash: why it isn’t out here instead of this almost morbid plodding plea, Superstar knows.
BARBARA FAIRCHILD: Teddy Bear Song: (You Make Me Feel Like) Singing A Song (CBS 1419).
Now climbing pop, this top country hit is a charming little bit of wishful thinking, winsomely sung complete with country twang to an unobtrusive gentle backing. The slightly beefier flip would have made a good Eurovision entry for the New Seekers.
Hamilton’s Disco Picks
DAVID BOWIE: Let’s Spend The Night Together (LP “Aladdin Sane” RCA RS 1001). Modern.
STEALERS WHEEL: Stuck In The Middle With You (A&M AMS 7036). Modern.
GLEN CAMPBELL: I Knew Jesus (Before He Was A Star) (US Capitol import). Pop.
NEIL SEDAKA: Standing On The Inside (MGM 2006267). Pop.
FATS DOMINO: Blueberry Hill ( UA UP 35539). Slow MoR.
FRANCES DAY: It’s D’Lovely (LP “After The Ball’ Starline MRSSP 513) and BEBE DANIELS & BEN LYON: There’s A Small Hotel (LP “Great Movie Stars Of The ’30s” Parlophone PMC 7141) I’ve had great success (on the right occasion) with these Easy oldies. A good sequence, lyrically, for weddings!
One thought on “May 26, 1973: SOULsation ’73: seven-page supplement, edited and compiled by James Hamilton”
I find it staggering that James was able to review the entire US R&B Top 30, given that many of the tracks wouldn’t yet have been available in the UK. (It’s not as if he could fire them up on YouTube!) Looks like he picked a good week to do it; that’s an excellent chart.