September 29, 1973: Jackson 5, Ray Price, The Ovations, The Allman Brothers Band, Stevie Wonder

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”

September 22, 1973: The Soul Children, The Temprees, Cheech Y Chong, Carl Carlton, Marvelettes

Straight from the States

THE SOUL CHILDREN: Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing; Poem On The School House Door (Stax STA 0170).
After several successful but to my mind disappointing singles, the two guys/two gals Soul Children have come up with a genuine 100 per cent Super Soul goodie. Their topside treatment of the Lou Rawls oldie is hoarsely hollered and funkily gritty: however, it’s the flipside dead slowie about a trip the group made back to their childhood stamping ground which is the real gas. The trip turned out to be one of those ill-fated ventures of a type which should have been foreseen, proving as it did only how much time changes things and how sad as well as happy memories are always liable for revival. The nostalgic scene is set by first one of the guys and then the two girls each in turn telling a part of the story, in a pure Gospel style, before suddenly the other guy comes crashing in with a passionate screaming intensity which lifts the tune up another notch. You see, there had been a custom back at their old school for all the graduates to leave behind them a token by which to be remembered, and he has just remembered what he left – not a trophy, an honorary record or a citation like the others, but . . . you guessed! . . . a love poem on the school house door. What’s so aroused him, though, is that the poem was spurned by its intended recipient – and he had written two copies, one on the school house door and one imbedded deep down in his heart. The latter is still there, and he proceeds to soul it to us all one time. This incredibly exciting slab of gut-wrenching soulfulness has finally returned the group to the sort of form that was so impressive on “The Sweeter He Is”, four years ago. Obviously, it is a must for all Deep Soul lovers.

THE TEMPREES: Love’s Maze (We Produce XPA 1811).
Recorded with Soul Group Freaks only in mind, this dreamy Sweet Soul slowie is one of those obscure exquisite beauties which are unfortunately far too Deep to be Pop over here. It features each of the three guys in the group alternating on lead, their switchovers sometimes being almost discordant – and hence exaggeratedly Soulful. The hand-clapping sparsely-backed easy-beat flip, “Wrap Me In Love“, is just as nice. Those who dig will dig, muchly!

CHEECH Y CHONG: Basketball Jones (Featuring Tyrone Shoelaces) (Ode 66038).
Remember the Brighter Side Of Darkness, the schoolboy Soul Vocal Group who recently had a US smash with “Love Jones“? Well, “head” humourists Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin, the Chinese and Chicano comedians, have now made this spoof near-copy of that hit! Young Tyrone wails away that he’s got a basketball jones – ever since he was a little baby he’s always been dribbling, in fact he was the baddest dribbler in the neighbourhood! – and he gets everyone to sing along with him to the monotonous slow melody, just like the Beatles did on such classics as “All You Need Is Love” and “Hey Jude”. The result is more good-humoured than humorous . . . and a US hit. Continue reading “September 22, 1973: The Soul Children, The Temprees, Cheech Y Chong, Carl Carlton, Marvelettes”

September 1, 1973: Ultra High Frequency, The Independents, Eddie Kendricks, The Moments, The Chi-Lites

Straight from the States

ULTRA HIGH FREQUENCY: We’re On The Right Track (Wand).
Wooo-wooo! goes the whistle, clank-clank chug-chug choo-choo-puffa goes the sound-effects-with-rhythm intro. How do I know that I’m listening to a British hit, when it has only just started to pick up dee-jay support in America? Well, for starters, it’s another Philly Sound dancer . . . PLUS, Norman Harris and Stan Watson produced it, with more than a hint of the O’Jays in the group’s harmonies and delivery, and with an eye on the sound effects from their earlier success, “Armed And Extremely Dangerous.” But basically, I know because it’s such a treat for dancing feet – and even has a backing-track instrumental flip for dancers Up North.

THE INDEPENDENTS: Baby I’ve Been Missing You (Wand).
Currently big and getting bigger, both R&B and Pop, the Indies’ newie is another of those exquisite Sweet Soul slowies which they do so well. There’s a touch of the Chi-Lites about the piano and strings intro, over which one of those apologetic gentle sexy raps leads into the main title phrase chorus, which features the chick of the group up front (in fact, she takes some of the key lines on her wailing lonesome ownsome). Yeah!

EDDIE KENDRICKS: Keep On Truckin’ (Parts 1 & 2). (Tamla).
The ex-Temptation is hitting hard R&B and Pop with his latest, uncharacteristic, modern funk rhythm number, which features some great tinkling cool vibes work amongst the bongos and wah-wah that carry on truckin’ even when the rest of the drums and synthesizer backing drops away. Actually, so many different instrumental changes occur during the course of the tune that to list them would be a drag. Eddie himself, through in fine voice, seems to play second fiddle to the ultra-rhythmic instrumental track. Dancers WILL DIG! Incidentally DAVID RUFFIN, the other main ex-Temptation, has another Bobby (Dells) Miller-penned/produced slowie, the truly Soulful, self-derogatory “Common Man” (Motown). Continue reading “September 1, 1973: Ultra High Frequency, The Independents, Eddie Kendricks, The Moments, The Chi-Lites”