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?

BEAUTIFUL ZION MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH CHOIR: I’ll Make It All Right (Myrrh).
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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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.

American Singles

CHAIRMEN OF THE BOARD: Finder’s Keepers (Vocal); (Instrumental) (Invictus INV 530).
The CoB’s latest US R&B smash/Pop miss is kinda a cross between the Isley Brothers backed by Billy Preston, with some fruity trumpet near the end . . . . if you can get to that! The result is good and powerful, and should click Pop here, where they have a better track record than in America. The flip features a few vocal yelps, but is otherwise as the title says – which should make it appeal to some disco-goers.

MELANIE: Nickel Song; Close To It All; Lay Lady, Lay (Buddah 2011166).
Only the words have been changed to protect Alexander Beetle on “Nickel Song”, which will be familiar to all New Seekers fans (their cover was an American hit before they broke here). Add two more Melanie oldies and you’ve got a nice little pink-coloured Melanie maxi.

JERRY JEFF WALKER: L. A. Freeway (MCA MUS 1205).
With the departure of their Neil Diamond imminent, are MCA grooming Mr. Bojangles to be his replacement? He sure does sound like Neil on this slow-starting raspingly-sung comes-&-goes chanting-backed plodder.

MANHATTANS: There’s No Me Without You; I’m Not A Run Around (CBS 1542).
The first of these veteran R&B hit-makers on the newly hip CBS label, this dreamy Bobby Martin-arranged Philly Sound slowie is full of thumping drumming, note-holding harmonies, wailing interplay and a breathy recitation. It has much of the Dells’ old appeal, and is amazingly powerful for a slowie – although technically it could be classed as “Sweet Soul” it is probably too passionate for that tag. Flipside is another, less frenzied, slowie.

BIRTHA: My Man Told Me (Probe PRO 589).
Okay, so they’ve got balls – but what’s the matter with sounding like girls? It has to be said that the chix have come up with a nicely gritty thumper which must rank with Fanny’s “Ain’t That Peculiar” as one of the only singles by the new breed of all-girls-all-playing-all-singing groups to work.

JAMES BROWN: Think; Something (Polydor 2066329).
THE GODFATHER OF SOUL yells the big print under his name. Actually, it’s not print at all, but black vinyl showing through thick red paint, as is now the norm on all Polygram group singles, which are injection moulded to cut costs, leave the centres solid and make them ultra-breakable. When will there be an end to these beastly records? To return to JB, “Think” is a modern recording of a song which Lowman Pauling wrote for the 5 Royales in the mid-’50s and which James Brown first recorded after them but still early in his career. His new version is rather less dynamic than his other current things, and, although the interacting instrumental elements do set up a solid beat, it is surprisingly sluggish. Certainly it’s been his smallest US hit in a while. Vocally he’s screaming well, and may surprise (shock?) some with his flipside treatment of the Harrisong.

JOHN DENVER: Goodbye Again (RCA 2372).
Again is not soon enough! The rich man’s (IE: BBC 2 receivers’) James Taylor does an interminable wishy-washy teeth-grinding lament.

MANASSAS: Isn’t It About Time (Atlantic K 10306).
The moody slowly churning chanter that was pulled from Manassas’ second album in America, where such singles have a chance. The WEA group of labels, and Elektra especially, do seem to put out more no-hope singles here than any other company. Maybe they get the desired airplay for their parent albums, but then there are too many albums as well. If all concerned would just get on with the job of coming up with two really strong tracks for single release, and issue an album’s worth only after having a hit, the world shortage of record-manufacturing materials would be greatly alleviated. Didn’t know about that, didja? Yup, if the manufacturers don’t ease up there will be no more PVC/PVA left. Now start to worry.

JR. WALKER & THE ALL STARS: Way Back Home (Vocal); (Instrumental) (Tamla Motown TMG 857).
Out in America a while back, Autry’s version of the lazy-paced (Jazz) Crusaders tune gets one of his inimitable hoarse vocals, aided by chix and strings, over the top of his own sax wailing, which you can hear in its unencumbered (and Crusaders-like) state on the flip. It’s in the “Walk In The Night” groove, Pop-Pickers.

GENE ANDERSON & THE INTERNATIONAL HOOKUP: I’m Your Lover – Not Your Brother; Forgive This Foolish Man (London HLU 10421).
Produced by Willie Mitchell and – you guessed it – both sides have his patented “comfortable” Al Green sound, although the vocal on the mid-tempo chug top is grittier than on the Green things. Flipside the mood softens to cooing chix, but Gene still sounds interesting. Not great, just satisfying.

SUPREMES: Tossin’ And Turnin’; Oh Be My Love (Tamla Motown TMG 859).
The Bobby Lewis oldie which rocked to number one in America, number nowhere here, back in 1961 and which was recently mucked about by Bunny Sigler, is the Supremes’ grand finale number on their live shows but in this Jim Webb-produced version does not suit them, or modern dancers, at all. The Smokey Robinson-produced slow thump-beat flip was the US B-side of “Bad Weather”, and suits them better without being a great song.

THE MYSTIC MOODS: Cosmic Sea; The Awakening (Warner Bros K 16265).
Famous (in America only) for their sexy mood music with sound effects LPs, the Moods now enter the Synthesizer Age via this pounding, herky jerky, Billy Preston “Outa Space”-type sputterer, which does indeed get a blanketing backing of strings behind the electronics – of course, they could be synthetic strings, too. Odd enough, but also sufficiently within people’s experience, to happen here. Telly theme-type flip, with ‘Desiderata’ talk.

THE DOOBIE BROTHERS: Long Train Runnin’ (Warner Bros K 16267).
There’s some of that Boffalongo feel to the lilt of the Doobies’ beautifully meshed acoustic guitars and plopping bongos/bass behind the late-period Quicksilver Messenger Service-type sound of their choppy vocal line. As with the best of both named groups, the result with the Doobiedoos is hypnotic and attractive, and should be heard.

KEITH HAMPSHIRE: First Cut Is The Deepest (A&M AMS 7066).
The Cat Stevens slowie with which P. P. Arnold had a hit, almost more years ago now than I care to remember, given a dramatic but otherwise unremarkable US hit treatment.

MANU DIBANGO: Soul Makossa; Lily (London HL 10423).
When I lent John Peel my copy of Getachev Kassa’s “Tezeta” (Ethiopia’s biggest-ever hit, did you hear him play it?) Pete Wingfield wanted to know if that was the African record he’d been hearing in America. No, this was. Originally recorded as the B-side of a souvenir single for the 8th Football Cup in the Cameroun, called “Hymne 8e Coupe“, it was issued in America through the African Centre. Somehow someone influential must have heard it, because now, a year after its original release, it has become such a popular R&B record that there are already seven cover versions and three bootleg pressings to meet the demand, as the original’s France-based Fiesta label has learnt to its cost. The first version of “Soul Makossa” to actually hit the US Charts is the carbon-copy cover by AFRIQUE (Pye 7N 25616), out here a week before the original, so don’t be fooled.

TRINI LOPEZ: Butterfly (MGM 2006260).
A bit early, methinks, to revive Danyel Gerard’s international Continental hit, even if it is in a faster, steel guitar and chix-backed version. Still, a good one for Radio 2.

ROGER MILLER: Open Up Your Heart; Whistle Stop (CBS 1552).
Mr. Dang Me on yet another easy-going ditty, made for Radio 2 but not really too distinctive. More interesting is the slightly lunatic, laughter punctuated, whistling and Mills Brothers-ish instrumental flip.

WILSON PICKETT: International Playboy; Come Right Here (Atlantic K 10307).
The old “Green Grass” flip, beefed up with added brass and a grunted “super fly” at the start, coupled with another oldie.

FIVE DOLLAR SHOES: Your Rock ‘N Roll Band; Antediluvian Movee Theme (Neighbourhood NBH 7).
The raunch of, but a thinner sound than, the Rolling Stones, decked out with some good sustain guitar and a girlie group. Given a less shrill mix, this could have been so much better. The instrumental slow flip goes appropriately nowhere.

THE MOB: Tear The House Down (MGM 2006278).
Previously produced by Philadelphia’s Jerry Ross, the Mob have now earned their name by copying Slade’s rabble-rousing methods right down to the tune, that of “Gudbuy T’ Jane”: however, in common with many other past American copies, their sound is a bit too “produced” to equal the spirit of the original.

THREE DOG NIGHT: Shambala; Our “B” Side (Probe PRO 592).
Also a US hit for B. W . Stevenson, this chiefly nonsensical reason for everyone to sing “ow-ooh-oooh -oooh-yeah” starts out by sounding like “Mama Told Me Not To Come”, which may be a help or a hindrance here. From what little lyric there is to be heard, it seems that Shambala is another Shangri-La, although this is less important than the overall happy harmonies. Good natured and interestingly irreverent “B” side.

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

  1. And there it is, Soul Makossa. Widely regarded as one of the first records that “created disco” in the US. This record made the Billboard Hot 100 without any radio play- a unique feat that peoved the power of club DJs in breaking records. The disco fuse had been officially lit and the slow burn would soon explode across the world within the next 12 months…

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    1. It’s interesting to analyse these early review columns from a “birth of disco” perspective. The term “hustling” has just entered James’s lexicon (first spotted in February, in a review of a Neil Sedaka single of all things!), and he’s now using it on an almost weekly basis – but listening to the tunes he’s applying it to, which are a rather diverse bunch, it doesn’t feel like he’s yet linking it to the dance moves, or to the rhythm that accompanied them. The nearest we get is with The Intruders’ “I’ll Always Love My Mama”, which was certainly another key “birth of disco” tune. The Philly sound is clearly taking shape; James’s lengthy piece about it a couple of weeks earlier was interesting, if still more focused on his beloved downtempo “sweet soul” vocal group style. Barrabas have recently been reviewed, too – said to be a major underground sensation at NYC venues like The Loft – but to these ears, I just can’t get past the raspy rock vocals. It’s going to be fascinating to see how things develop from here.

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  2. Incidentally, I have James’s UK 7″ review copy of Soul Makossa – I have quite a few of them from this particular period – and I last played it out just a couple of weeks ago.

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