June 30, 1973: Bobby Womack, S.O.U.L., The Montclairs, Bill Withers, Don Covay

Stateside singles

Our exclusive service to RM readers. James Hamilton listens to records so far only available in the US.

BOBBY WOMACK: Nobody Wants You When You’re Down And Out (UA).
Possibly the last time that this old song was given an R&B treatment was as the adventurous B-side of the Hesitations’ 1968 “The Impossible Dream”. It now gets a slinky sensuous bass-driven slow reading in Bobby’s inimitable hoarsely screaming Gospel-ish derivation of the Marvin Gaye sound, a style with which Womack has become progressively more popular amongst an ever-widening audience with each new LP release. Following “Communication”, “Understanding” and the shared soundtrack, “Across 110th Street” (all of which are available here), his latest US hit album from whence comes this hit single is “Facts Of Life”. Do give him a listen.

S.O. U. L.: This Time Around (Musicor).
Standing for “Sounds Of Unity And Love”, S.O.U.L. are one of those modern R&B groups who draw on many influences, not unlike such as War, Bobby Womack, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. This, their latest R&B hit, is particularly reminiscent of the latter’s “What’s Going On”, in fact, and is a very pretty amalgamation of cool lead, chunkily schlerping rhythm, tootling flute and underlying melodic chords created by the ethereal wordless harmonies of the group. A lovely record, even if not entirely original.

THE MONTCLAIRS: Prelude To A Heartbreak (Paula).
Are these the “Happy Feet Time” Montclairs? Their first R&B hit for years, this Oliver Sain co-production is a wailing slowie which starts with a muttered rap over a sexily soaring sax before the lead singer emotionally swoops through the lush strings, sax and group backing. Old-fashioned and smoochy in sound, it’s almost a throw-back to the late ’60’s. Continue reading “June 30, 1973: Bobby Womack, S.O.U.L., The Montclairs, Bill Withers, Don Covay”

June 23, 1973: The Osmonds, Four Tops, Diana Ross, Pep Brown, The Dells

Osmonds go for a Slade sound

THE OSMONDS: Goin’ Home (American MGM).
The Osmonds rock (writes James Hamilton) on their new American hit! Not only do they feature pounding piano, clanging guitars, buzzing clavinet (or some such other electric keyboard), and a chattering straight-ahead stomp beat, but also their frantic vocals include more than a touch of that Slade sound – especially where they emphasize the line: “I’ve gotta FIGHT, fight, fight, all day, and night, and day, ALL RIGHT!” Sorry I can’t say with authority which brother is singing lead (it’s not Donny or Jimmy!); whoever he is, his uninhibited rawly straining voice is just right, and is well backed up on the emphatic bits by the hollering full sound of the others. Yeah more than a touch of Slade. And a good solid rocker.


Our exclusive review service to R. M. readers. James Hamilton looks at the singles just released in the States.

FOUR TOPS: Are You Man Enough (Dunhill).
First “Shaft,” then “Shaft’s Big Score.” Now, are you ready for . . . “Shaft In Africa”? Yup, Ricky Roundtree will next be seen on the cinema screen taking giant steps all over the dark continent – as, coincidentally, will Ron O’Neal in the “Super Fly” follow-up. “Shaft In Africa” features music by the Four Tops, and this Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter–penned/produced piece of moody machismo is, if not the title song, certainly the big number. Strange, then, that it resembles the O’Jays’ “Back Stabbers” in just about every respect bar the words! Anyway, there’s always room for another Gamble & Huff dancer in discos, and this blends in with the genuine article pretty well. Uh, before we leave movieland – do go see “Slither,” it’s the flick that’s given me most satisfaction so far this year.

DIANA ROSS: Touch Me In The Morning (Motown).
The title track from divine Di’s new album, this brand new, non-Billie Holiday, tender slowie presents La Ross in a mature and unstrident mood, which may well be a result of lessons learnt while training for the “Lady Sings The Blues” vocal approach. The song itself is nothing unusual for her – it starts dead slow with just piano behind her wistful tones, then she breathes a “hey!” and the slow tinkle rhythm begins before the pace quickens and she gets into a typical fast, staccato chorus. The new difference is that even when the tempo accelerates and her voice rises, at no time does her old piercing shrill shriek spoil the easy listening qualities of the record. Still, what’s good news for some may be bad for others! Continue reading “June 23, 1973: The Osmonds, Four Tops, Diana Ross, Pep Brown, The Dells”

June 16, 1973: Rance Allen Group, Beautiful Zion Missionary Baptist Church Choir, Inez Andrews, Chairmen Of The Board, Melanie, Jerry Jeff Walker

Straight from the States

THE RANCE ALLEN GROUP: Gonna Make It Alright; I Got To Be Myself (The Gospel Truth).
I named the voice of Rance Allen as my “Tip For The Future” in our recent “Soulsation ’73” supplement, which means that the chap had better deliver or I’ll be upset! On his currently rising R&B hit (listed here as the B-side), he is poorly served by a clumsily constructed song, although his incredible swooping, Jackie Wilson-ish voice cuts through. However, it’s on the purer, simpler “Alright” side (straight Gospel) that his remarkable style comes into its own. The song is along age-old lines, used also by Marv Johnson’s “You Got What It Takes“, and the backing is just electric piano, tambourine, bass and guitar (the tempo even goes astray at one point!), which allow Rance to soar, squeal and scream in his spine-tinglingly exciting way. He’s now on his second Gospel market-intended single to go R&B, and his earlier “There’ll Be A Showdown” and “Truth Is Where It’s At” album are both at number five on the Gospel Singles and Albums Chart, so it looks as though he IS winning through in America. How long before he gets British recognition?

Now, this Willie Henderson-arranged/produced Gospel record (on the Myrrh subsidiary of the religioso Word, Inc, of Waco, Texas, for whom Pat Boone has recorded inspirational ditties), is the same song in general as Rance Allen’s “Gonna Make It Alright”. It’s also on the R&B Chart and at number four Gospel. Here it’s given the big choir, lead chick and answering multitude, “Oh Happy Day”-type treatment, to a fast rhythm.

INEZ ANDREWS: Lord Don’t Move The Mountain (Song Bird).
The fourth pure Gospel record to go R&B in recent months, Inez’s calmly rasping treatment of the bass, guitar, organ and drums-backed slow and solid beater is still at number two Gospel, having topped the Chart. What is the cause of this new trend towards accepting straight (albeit accessibly treated) Gospel in R&B station programming? Was it the Vietnam Nam? Whatever, it’s good to see the roots of so much R&B being given non-specialist support.

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THIS week Record Mirror – the pop weekly that REALLY covers the record scene – has expanded its review section into a special four-page pull-out to bring you even more record and live reviews, every week. Featured are
British and American albums and singles. 

Editor’s Note: From this week, James’s American Singles reviews are given a whole page of their own, split off from his “Straight From The States” import reviews which continue on a separate page.

Continue reading “June 16, 1973: Rance Allen Group, Beautiful Zion Missionary Baptist Church Choir, Inez Andrews, Chairmen Of The Board, Melanie, Jerry Jeff Walker”

June 9, 1973: Bobby (Boris) Pickett, Manhattans, Johnny Williams, Fred Wesley & The J.B.’s, Asleep At The Wheel

Straight from the States

Just to let you know that, following the initiative of some West Coast jocks, this 1962 classic is Charted and climbing, once again!

MANHATTANS: There’s No Me Without You (Columbia).
Rhythm & Blues hit-makers since 1964, these guys have yet to break big Pop. Now, however, following the success of the Philly Sound and the increased profits that they have discovered through their new involvement with R&B, Columbia Records have signed up the group and given them to Philly’s Bobby Martin, who has produced them on this superb slowie (which is already climbing Pop). A powerfully harmonized dead slow throbbing thumper, it features crystal-clear unison note-holding, meandering lead and a sexy gruff rap – the whole being a bit reminiscent of the Dells. If you dig the Blue Notes, you’ll love this!

JOHNNY WILLIAMS: Put It In Motion (Philadelphia International).
One of late-’72 / early-’73’s biggest-selling sleepers, which bubbled under the Hot 100 for months on end, Johnny’s Slow Motion was an out-of-character Gamble & Huff production, being a brassy dancer. Now continuing the same Motion, but at a much faster tempo, the team’s newie is still brassy in the background but much more in the G&H hustling groove (arranged by Thom Bell), which should help its chances when it’s issued here. Continue reading “June 9, 1973: Bobby (Boris) Pickett, Manhattans, Johnny Williams, Fred Wesley & The J.B.’s, Asleep At The Wheel”

June 2, 1973: Smokey Robinson, The Ebonys, Soft Tones, Jim Stafford, Glen Campbell

Straight from the States

SMOKEY ROBINSON: Sweet Harmony (Tamla).
“This song is dedicated to some people with whom I had the pleasure of spending over half the years I’ve lived till now, when we’ve come to our fork in the road, and though our feet may travel a different path from now on, I want them to know how I feel about them, and that I wish them well.” With that spoken intro, Smokey launches into his first solo record since leaving the Miracles. The words to the rest of the Slowie are along the lines of encouragement to the group to go on singing sweet harmony and spread joy around the World. Isn’t that nice? It’s a pity that, while the words and singing of Smokey are good, the actual melody is monotonous.

THE EBONYS: It’s Forever (Philadephia International).
Penned by Leon Huff alone, arranged by Bobby Martin and produced by Gamble & Huff, this exquisite, shimmering strings, spine-tingling stately dead slowie features some breathtaking falsetto wailing offset against the gruff bellowing of the main lead singer. Hopefully it won’t take too long in coming out here, because it’s one that all lovers of the slower Philly Sound will want to hear.

SOFT TONES: I’m Gonna Prove It (Avco).
Arranged by Sammy Lowe and produced by Avco’s bosses, Hugo & Luigi, this is another exquisite (though less dramatic) dead slowie, more in the straight Sweet Soul style, with a pastoral type of lazy backing. Continue reading “June 2, 1973: Smokey Robinson, The Ebonys, Soft Tones, Jim Stafford, Glen Campbell”