July 7, 1973: Al Green, Johnnie Taylor, The Invitations, Tom T. Hall, Betty Wright

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

AL GREEN: Here I Am (Come And Take Me) (Hi).
Willie Mitchell’s well-oiled backing eases into its usual satisfying groove with a solidly thumping slow drum beat, and Al “Crown Prince Of Soul” Green slips and slides all over the slick surface in his usual satisfying style.

Okay, so nothing else is new, and this pulled-from-the-album cut is not the tailored-for-Britain single which we were promised by Willie when he was here, but it is a four minute and ten second example of an extremely sophisticated singer’s highly personal art.

Al Green’s individual style is indeed an art, of the most avant garde variety. From the basis of a dependably rock-steady backing, he uses words less for their storytelling qualities than for their sound, which he twists into abstract patterns just as an instrumental soloist might restructure a melody in a jazz setting.

This single is by far the most abstract of Green’s career to date, and, if issued here, will probably prove to be his least accessible to British ears.

However, if it does well (as it is bound to do) in America, will it pave the way for him to experiment with some wordless scat singing in place of a song on his next single?

JOHNNIE TAYLOR: I Believe In You (You Believe In Me) (Stax).
One of the hottest hits at the moment, both R & B and Pop, the “Who’s Making Love” man’s latest is a delicately-starting silky slow thumper, taken from his accurately-titled “Taylored In Silk” album.

The gentle backing has some nicely unusual melodic shifts, and contains some odd flute and strings sounds which make me imagine them coming echoing down an eerily remote Scottish glen – why, I don’t know, but that’s my mental image.

Rather like Al Green’s music, here it’s the sound rather than the song that matters, although – not to discredit the ex-Soul Stirrer – the sound in this instance owes more to the overall backing than to Johnnie’s voice.

THE INVITATIONS: They Say The Girl’s Crazy (Silver Blue).
Hallelujah! Remember the Invitations, of “What’s Wrong With My Baby” fame? They toured here as the Fabulous Bloggs Brothers or some such back in the late ’60s, and cut their two Sandy Linzer & Denny Randell-penned/produced goodies (yes, “Hallelujah” was the other) back in ’65.

Now they reappear on, surprisingly, a melodic mid-tempo plopper which would not have sounded unusual even back then, yet which is hanging on and battling ever higher up the R & B Charts of today.

Surprisingly, too, it began by being but the flip side of their more adventurous reworking of “For Your Precious Love” – at least you get a double-sided beaut for your money.

And guess who’s arranging/co-producing them now – none other than Philly’s own Bobby Martin! Stand by for its English issue.

American Singles

TOM T. HALL: Ravishing Ruby; That’s How I Got To Memphis (Mercury 6052327).
Currently Top Three Country, and climbing, Tom T.’s Mexicali bouncer has Tijuana Brass and an appealing sun-kissed lilt which might just make it break on through over here, where Easy Listening bouncers of Country origin have been known to click. Mournful flip. C&W PICK.

BETTY WRIGHT: Clean Up Woman; It’s Hard To Stop (Doing Something When It’s Good To You) (Atlantic K10335).
Here’s that expertly meshed Malaco pattern slow funker from last year which John Peel has so whole-heartedly supported since its release. Now re-issued, with Miss Wright’s latest (and less interesting, in comparison) US R&B hit on the flip, it’s waiting for people to pay more attention to it than last time. Will they? R&B PICK.

JORGE BEN: Taj-Mahal; Domingo (Philips 6049103).
Starting with a snappy acoustic 12-string and a foot-tapping pulse, this delightfully becomes all unexpectedly an outasite infectious chugger which might loosely be likened to Paul McCartney singing Stevie Wonder singing Marvin Gaye singing gibberish variations on the words “taja-ma-haal, de derr de de derr” and making fruity vocal trombone noises. What a gas! The gentleman responsible for all this good-natured fun evidently comes from Brazil, where it was recorded, and to which the more straightforward McCartney-sings-Feliciano flip bears a closer relation. Invest in some happiness and support me in making this the RECORD OF THE WEEK.

BOBBY (BORIS) PICKETT AND THE CRYPT-KICKERS: Monster Mash; Monster’s Mash Party (London HLU 10320).
Exactly why this silly record is one of my all-time faves I couldn’t tell you, but I do know that I love it dearly. Presumably it was in response to Edgar Winter’s success with “Frankenstein” that some American disc-jockey had the idea of pulling it from the vaults in which it had rested since 1962, when it first topped the US Chart. In fact it was Milwaukee’s WOKY which was the first major radio station to programme the record like a new hit, and now that is exactly what the record is – steadily climbing the US Charts, a common occurrence for an oldie here but almost unheard of there. It was re-issued here only three years ago, funnily enough. Anyway, if you don’t know it, be prepared to hear Bobby doing a Boris Karloff impersonation backed up by a cooing and chanting dead-pan girlie group on the interesting tale of how Frankenstein pieced together a new dance sensation, a graveyard smash. The sound effects workout on the flip is possibly even crazier and just as good. POP PICK.

CHRISTOPHER CLOUD: Zip A Dee Doo Dah; Interpretation Of War (RCA 2381).
There’s an interesting casual, confident approach to this “Honky Tonk Woman”-tempo re-working of that old Walt Disney / Phil Spector classic. It’s certainly never been treated in a “modern” guitars and chanting style before, and the result, while maybe not quite there, is definitely worthy of attention.

THE MIGHTY MARVELOWS: In The Morning; I Do (Probe GFF 120).
While the tearaway breakneck falsetto “do do, do, do, do do, do do” flip will be the best-remembered side (from its performance live by Goldie and the Gingerbreads and others, if not from this original 1965 record), the slow old-fashioned Soul Vocal Group A-side will be the one to snare the Soul Vocal Group Freaks. Full of deep bass grumblings, cool Gospel harmonies, interchanging leads of different styles and an unobtrusive 1967 backing, it is a beauty . . . of admittedly specialist appeal. Strange, actually, that Probe didn’t make “I Do” the plug side. R & B PICK.

MELANIE: Seeds; Some Say (I Got Devil) (Neighbourhood NBH 8).
Melanie paying tribute to Sky Saxon? I think not, as this is just another slab of Safka whimsy, backed by humming, bongos and the odd bit of full choral support. Fine for fans, as the record reviewer’s cop-out joke goes.

DIANA ROSS: Touch Me In The Morning; Baby, It’s Love (Tamla Motown TMG 861).
The new, mature Miss Ross is heard on her new slow-starting then accelerating chorus, but otherwise still slow, US hit. Yes, the song’s structure is nothing new – it’s Diana’s voice which is different. Instead of rising to a reedy raucous shrillness when stretched on the climaxes, it remains at an easy-to-listen-to modulation – while at the same time being easily identified as hers. Your ears (and teeth) can rest in peace if, like me, you couldn’t stand her old shrill style! On the interestingly-constructed Marvin Gaye co-penned 1970 flip, she manages in retrospect to sound not at all unlike Sylvia, of “Pillow Talk” fame (with whom I’m doing a telephone interview soon – coo-er!). POP PICK.

JO JO GUNNE: Ready Freddy; Wait A Lifetime (Asylum AYM 518).
Ready, ready, Freddy, to rock and roll? Almost, except that the “Run, Run, Run” rockers get a bit too bogged down in their self-imposed heavy framework for the song to come leaping alive. Like the curate’s egg, good in parts. Bluesy plod beat flip with nice guitar is rather better.

SEALS & CROFTS: Diamond Girl; Wisdom (Warner Bros K16290).
Here’s a duo who sell millions of albums and singles in America, and who undeservedly mean absolutely nothing here. Their latest US hit starts with some slow plop beats, some keen harmonies, and winds up into a lightly clopping humming-backed lilter of great charm. Maybe it isn’t horrid enough for Radio One to play? Certainly, nothing could be more pleasant, pretty and downright “nice”.

THE CY COLEMAN CO-OP: The Theme From “The Heartbreak Kid”; Think Love (London HLU 10420).
From a very funny film – written by Mike Nichols, directed by the incomparable Elaine May and starring the lovely Cybill Shepherd – this male-led chix-chorus slowie has a feel similar to the two Carpenters tunes which are also featured, “Close To You” and, especially, “We’ve Only Just Begun”. (The latter gets a good run for its money in the film, as the hero figure undergoes not one, but two weddings during the course of the action!)

THE OHIO EXPRESS: Yummy Yummy Yummy; Chewy Chewy (Buddah 2011169).
Everyone must know those immortal lines “Yummy yummy yummy I got love in my tummy”, delivered in Reg Presley fashion over a chugging Spencer Davis rhythm. The style became known as Bubblegum, and here are two of its most toothsome titles for your double-delicious delectation. TOOTH PICK.

ROY BUCHANAN: The Messiah Will Come Again; Filthy Teddy (Polydor 2066344).
Easily the most requested tune at Roy’s British tour dates, on which his breathtaking fretboard dexterity was most applauded (and rightly), this slowly swaying soul-searer is a gem of guitar playing as well as incredibly moody. When you hear the pure ringing sustain and amazing scale-climbing run, remember that Roy does it all himself, his only mechanical aid being volume and tone control knobs which he deftly manipulates in the middle of doing the impossible. On the flip his approach is equally searing but grittier and more supported by the band. GUITAR PICK.

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