Straight from the States
JACKSON 5: Get It Together (Motown M 1277F).
It has to be faced: the Jacksons are in trouble, with falling record sales not only here but also in America. Whatever happened – to the Transylvania Twist? – no, sorry, that was meant to come out as, whatever happened to their supposedly fanatical following? The powers behind them at Motown have obviously been concerned by the problem, otherwise why else would this, their latest hit, show label credits for as many as five writers, producer Hal Davis end executive producer Berry Gordy among them? The result is indeed a hit, and the healthiest-looking one that the boys have had for some time. It’s also a good record, having a herky-jerky choppy rhythm structure with jagged sax and strings behind it, a repetitive synthesised bass-line through it, and jittery frantic vocal work from Michael and his brothers slotted in between it. This dominating rhythm track has, of course, the effect of making the whole thing less a song than a sound . . .and as sounds are notoriously difficult to break with melody-loving British audiences, the release here of the “Skywriter” LP track instead of “Get It Together” was possibly a wise decision on the part of Tamla Motown. Except that “Skywriter” doesn’t seem to have done much, either. As I was saying, the Jacksons are in trouble.
RAY PRICE: You’re The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me (Columbia 4-45889).
On looking through some back issues of RM the other day, I discovered that when I originally reviewed Ray Price’s hit Country version of “For The Good Times” I actually recommended it to Perry Como fans! How’s that for a prophecy? Ray has a voice that is slap bang in that Perry Como-styled Easy Listening groove, and by rights he should be just as popular – even if you yourselves aren’t into that sort of thing, do at least tell your mums and dads about him. His latest American hit is streaking to the top of the Country Charts and is also climbing Pop, where in fact its totally un-Country straight Easy Listening sound rightly belongs. Another of those Jim Weatherly-penned slowies, it reminds me of nothing so much as Rod McKuen’s Frank Sinatra-sung “Love’s Been Good To Me.” Expect Val Doonican to cover it any day.
THE OVATIONS: Having A Party – Medley (MGM K 14623).
When the Memphis-recorded Ovations first broke through in the mid-‘60s singing “It’s Wonderful To Be In Love” on Goldwax, the voice of their lead singer, Louis Williams, was obviously modelled on that of the late Sam Cooke, whose cool Gospel-style has had such an influence on so many Soul singers. After a period when nothing much has been heard from them, the Ovations are back in the R&B Charts with – guess what? – an unabashed tribute to Sam Cooke and the songs which he made famous in the early ‘60s. Recorded live (and it really does sound as if the enthusiastic audience was there at the time, even if only in the studio), Louis and the group, augmented by some girls, satisfy the requests which they evidently keep getting for Sam Cooke songs by running together over an infectious easy-paced clap beat such Cooke favourites as “Having A Party,” “Twisting The Night Away,” “Wonderful World,” “Meet Me At Mary’s Place,” “Soothe Me,” and “Amen” (the last two admittedly are less readily identified with Cooke), all moulded to the basic “Having A Party” tune and backing. Apart from its natural appeal for Sam Cooke (and Ovations) fans, this record is also notable because it is one of the few in existence which accurately captures the feel of a black singer in front of a black audience. Continue reading “September 29, 1973: Jackson 5, Ray Price, The Ovations, The Allman Brothers Band, Stevie Wonder”