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.

BILL WITHERS: Friend Of Mine (Sussex).
I don’t normally go for Bill Withers, but I’m all in favour of this lovely Stevie Wonder-ish smooth lilter from his “Live” LP set. The melody is breath-taking and the tempo is creamily clomping, sweetened by strings and spiced by wah-wah. With the gradual introduction of an intensified rhythm and some vocal group support, by the end it’s jumping!

DON COVAY: I Was Checkin’ Out, She Was Checkin’ In (Mercury).
Don’s latest R&B Chart entry coincides with his taking an A&R post at Phonogram. The hit is a hurtin’ slowie, the title of which tells much of the story: as he was checkin’ out of the motel with his woman, he saw his old lady and another man checkin’ in! So, who’s makin’ love . . .


American Singles

FOUR TOPS: I Can’t Quit Your Love; I Am Your Man (Tamla Motown TMG 858).
The Jackson Five do this muddled churner rather better on their good new “Skywriter” LP (which, in common with the other two new Motown albums, suffers from sloppily printed punctuation marks – is there some foreign significance in that, hint, hint?). Anyway, ole Levi strains away in time-honoured style over every effect bar the kitchen sink: despite this supposedly adventurous backing track, the vocal familiarity breeds my contempt, I fear, although quite possibly lots of others will love it. Umm, yeah, it gets better with time. Nice moodily solid slow flip.

BOBBY GOLDSBORO: Summer (The First Time); Childhood – 1949 (UA UP 35558).
Starting with the soothing sound of swirling surf sloshing up the seashore, Bobby’s recollection of his initiation into sexual pleasure at the hand of an older woman is very, very beautiful . . . and very much a musical version of the plot from “Summer Of ’42” (an idea reinforced by the more cloying flipside’s title). In the past I have been rather averse to Goldsboro’s work, yet this time he’s got me hooked – line and sinker. Hear this and make it a hit. POP PICK.

CONNIE FRANCIS: Should I Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree (The Answer); Paint The Rain (GSF GSZ 10).
YEE-HAA! Do you believe it? Not only the return of wimp-whiner Connie, whose many oldies have become much sought as classics of camp (but they were good), there’s also a chance that she’ll bring back the era of the answer disc! Roll back the clock, one more time. Interestingly, she’s produced here by the song’s writers, Levine and Brown. Carpenters-type pretty flip. Now, where’s the Helen Shapiro revival? POP PICK.

SYREETA: To Know You Is To Love You; Happiness (Mowest MW 3006).
Mrs. Wonder gets a vocal assist from hubby Stevie at the slow start of her generally Wonder-ful slinky throbber, which not surprisingly is much in the mould of producer Stevie’s own recent work. Syreeta (nee Rita Wright) wails effectively, and what with family connections could pick up interest. Relaxing dead slow flip. R&B PICK.

NINO & APRIL: Put It Where You Want It; I Can’t Get Over You Baby (A&M AMS 7075).
That’s Tempo & Stevens, of “Deep Purple” fame, and they’re doing their own vocal version of the Crusaders’ funky jazz instrumental which used to intro the Dave Simmonds R&B show. (Our own Average White Band also did a vocal version with different lyrics). The backing is very close to the original, which means that the whomping stomping buoyant beat is irresistible. Lovely flip. FUNK PICK.

GODSPELL: Beautiful City; Bless The Lord (Bell 1309).
From the original motion picture soundtrack, the anonymous cast sound like an optimistic Bee Gees on this inspirational Stephen Schwartz ditty. There’s more on the flip.

LOU REED & THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: I’m Waiting For The Man; Run, Run, Run; Candy Says (MGM 2006283).
One of the few occasions when an earlier label’s post-hit cash-in re-release is welcome, this singles debut for Lou’s menacing chugger from the VU’s “banana” LP is likely to have everyone lining up waiting for a fix with 50 pence in their hand. Great stuff, as are the nose-dripping rattler and reflective slowie that make up the maxi trax. Turn on today! HEAD PICK.

THE INTRUDERS: I’ll Always Love My Mama (Parts 1 & 2) (Epic EPC 1623).
With the two parts divided between straightforward vocal and instrumental-with-funky-streetcorner-rap, this new Philly Sound dancer from the Gamble & Huff stable (arranged by Bobby Martin) has something for every type of disco. The Intruders were G&H’s very first group, so that it’s good to see them taking this bouncy beater up the US Charts alongside the other Philly hits. R&B PICK.

DR. JOHN: Such A Night; Life (Atlantic K 10329).
Not the Clyde McPhatter / Johnny Ray / Elvis Presley oldie, this slithering trombone second line New Orleans funker is the good Doctor’s own, penned under his real name of Mac Rebennack. A mainstay of the original late ’50s / early ’60s New Orleans Sound, he’s not surprisingly got the laid back good natured feel just right. A charming record, it hopefully will get more Beeb support than John’s current US smash did. Trickier N. O. sounds on flip. MUSIC PICK.

JEANNE PRUETT: Satin Sheets; Sweet Sweetheart (MCA MU 1209).
Pert Miss Pruett (who’s actually quite buxom and bedable in her LP pix) is raisin’ the temperature on both Country and Pop radio in America with her beautifully backed sensuous slow weeper. She’s leaving her lover for another who can give her more than he can, to an echoing chorus, acoustic guitar, plonking bass and slinky steel. Gay harmonica-helped flip. C&W PICK.

DRAMATICS: Hey You! Get Off My Mountain; The Devil Is Dope (Stax 2025181).
There’s something about this hoarsely emphatic Soul Vocal Group Slowie which makes me think it might have Pop prospects. Its powerful title phrase is forcefully delivered with appropriate drama, while the main lead is taken by a wailingly emotional higher-pitched voice which creates a tensile interplay. The sound of burning hellfire and devilish laughter is good fun on the socially aware message flip, which began a long time ago as the A-side. R&B PICK.

THE BUCK RAM PLATTERS: A Little More; Sunday With You (Avalanche AV 67330).
Not the most romantic of names, written like that now! Ole Buck’s protecting his interests as hard as he can, evidently, and penned / produced both sides too. The topside is a sickly sweet pseudo-operatic slowie which would sound better by Andy or Engel – who, come to think of it, have probably already recorded it under another title, as I’m sure the tune is one of them classical oldies. At least the smoochy Flamingos-like flip is a goody, sung by the bass voice of the group (not Herb Reed, I fear).

MICHAEL OLATUNJI: Soul Makossa (Parts 1 & 2) (Paramount PARA 3038).
Oy-oy! Another of the many covers of this ace African disco dancer. What’s the point? The original is best, and that’s by MANU DIBANGO on London HL 10423.

FATS DOMINO: Red Sails In The Sunset; There Goes My Heart Again (Probe GFF 117).
The Fat Man recorded this nostalgic oldie back in 1963, making it sound like all his older plod beat slowies from the ’50s but sweetened with strings. The lively jiggling flip is from the same vintage.

B. W. STEVENSON: Shambala; My Feet Are So Weary (RCA 2376).
B. W.’s scoring alongside Three Dog Night in America with this howling ditty about the mythical halls of Shambala. Somehow he sounds a bit like Van Morrison at times, but it’s all terribly pop-y. Wearisome flip.

CARL JACKSON: Foggy Mountain Breakdown; James Louis Henry (Brother of John) (Capitol CL 15754).
This Glen Campbell-produced banjo-picker’s treatment of the Bluegrass knees-up which graced “Bonnie & Clyde” in its Flatt & Scruggs version is expertly picked, as is the jaunty-then-frantic flip, and is fashionably post-“Deliverance”, but there ain’t much new about it. Once you’ve heard one . . .

THE DRIFTERS: Like Sister And Brother; The Songs We Used To Sing (Bell 1313).
Although a British song this appears to be an Anglo-American production (by Billy Davis / Cook / Greenaway), arranged by New York’s Bert de Coteau. So – who cut what where? Not that it matters. The result is a very pleasant mellow, warm slowie, with much humming and staccato vocal group emphasis, and a Delphonics-type twanging electric sitar. The jolly flip sounds straight from the “Under The Boardwalk” era, which is no bad thing.

TYRONE DAVIS: Without You In My Life; How Could I Forget You (Brunswick BR 4).
The Great Tyrone’s lightly expressive then suddenly gruff Soul style is sounding – uh oh – kinda Al Greenish on his new evenly-sung though bouncy beat beneath it all US hit. One of the masters, he’s never less than interesting and he’s much better than that here. He really knows his art, as the tempo-switching but likewise smoothly sung flip further demonstrates.

LITTLE JOHNNY TAYLOR: As Long As I Don’t Have To See You; Strange Bed With A Strange Head (Contempo CR 15).
On a new hit streak produced by Bobby Patterson, the “Part Time Love” blues star is nowadays recording in a straight Soul side on his A-sides, as the jerky Malaco-ish brass’n chix thing here. However, you know with a title like that the B-side HAS to be a bluesy gas, and – sho nuff! – it is. This cat does get in some trouble with his women . . . the quintessential Jody.

AL DOWNING: Bring Your Good Lovin’ Home; Thank You Baby (Janus 6146-022).
A Northern disco biggie, Al is on an evidently recent but dated type of comes and goes beater with girlie group support here, which maintains a chink beat rhythm even if the rest of the impetus drops away at times. I’d have played this down at the old “Scene” back in ’65, but nowadays I’m afraid that it isn’t my type of Soul at all. Still, it is plenty of others’, and I can see its good points. Slightly Clarence Carter-ish flip, nice.

FONTELLA BASS: It Sure Is Good; I’m Leaving The Choice To You (Contempo CR 14).
Produced by Cash McCall, the “Rescue Me” gal is in her old vocal mood but over the top of an unremitting though cleverly created hunky funky backing, which seems to pivot around a constantly revolving picky guitar figure. Thus you got your old style comforting vocals for one taste and your modern instrumental excitement for another, neither can lose. Extremely satisfying, beautifully performed slow flip.

MAXINE BROWN: Picked Up, Packed And Put Away; Bella Mia (Avco 6105022).
The veteran Soulstress is a bit disappointing on this “Ow, but I feel alright” blatant bang bang banger. Still there’s them what likes an unoriginal bang bang bang beat to do things to, and this will suit them fine. The flip, sweetened with strings and given a Marvin Gaye Type of rhythm track, is a much nicer slowie, which could have, but didn’t, come from a movie. Ooh-ooh, there’s a recitation too. Another to turn over!

2 thoughts on “June 30, 1973: Bobby Womack, S.O.U.L., The Montclairs, Bill Withers, Don Covay”

  1. That S.O.U.L. tune is a wonderful discovery – I can’t stop playing it. Turns out that the vocal line was extensively sampled by Phats & Small on a track with the same name, which reached #15 on the UK charts in 2001 – so, after a fashion, it did eventually become a hit.

    A massive thumbs-up too for the Tyrone Davis – I share James’s enthusiasm for all of his work – and the Four Tops “I Can’t Quit Your Love”, which, despite the cold water poured on it here, is one of my absolute favourites of theirs.

    N.B. Al Downing’s next single, “I’ll Be Holding On” (1974), famously became the world’s first 12″ single (albeit not released commercially), courtesy of Tom Moulton, who also gave it arguably the first ever extended remix.

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  2. This really was the golden age of soul. A transitional period with the Philly Sound moving centre stage and the early disco vibe beginning to appear. Thanks to this great blog we get to see it all unfold in “real time” and with that fresh contemporary untainted eye of James Hamilton. Many of these records have gone on to become well loved classics. How exciting it must’ve been to hear them when they were first released and to experience the shift in style. I was only 12 in 1973 and had yet to really focus seriously on music- that would happen in early 1974 around my 13th birthday. This focus on the earlier years has proved fascinating!

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