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).
THE MOMENTS: Gotta Find A Way (Stang).
Ma men, the Moments, have been a bit hit-less lately, but all that’s changed now. Although Sylvia, as such, only penned/produced the Gospelish flip, “Sweeter As The Days Go By,” she is actually heard in a key role on the hit side. You see the wailing falsetto Sweet Soul slowie starts out with the sound of echoing running feet, muttered “I gotta find a way,” and the airport loudspeaker announcement (courtesy of Sylvia), “Attention, ladies and gentlemen! Flight Two-Fourteen is now boarding at Gate Twelve, for New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Atlanta and Miami.” Hmmm, seems I’ve heard that before (and I don’t mean when flying with Eastern): It’s almost the Night Train’s itinerary in reverse. All aboard!
THE CHI-LITES: Stoned Out Of My Mind (Brunswick).
Following their flirtations with Bluegrass-Soul, the ‘Lites are back on the hit trail with this buoyantly thumping light beater, which features a small-voiced husky lead backed up by the echoing harmonies of the group on the title line. Dare I suggest that it sounds like a tentative confrontation between their Chicago Sound and today’s hit Philly Sound? Yes! And that’s why it might stand a chance of success here when British release time comes.
CONWAY TWITTY: You’ve Never Been This Far Before (MCA).
Country-singing Conway (who is still best remembered in Britain for his Rock ‘n Roll era “It’s Only Make Believe” Elvis impersonation) is a huge, and very very good C&W star these days. His latest hit is causing quite a fuss too. Although pretty inexplicit by most people’s standards, it’s kinda near the knuckle for a Country record: its tale is one of an older (or, at least, more experienced) man who has won the girl he fancies from a younger (or, at least, less forceful) man. Now he’s holding her tight and wondering what she’s thinking about her impending new experience, because, you see, he can tell that she’s never been this far before . . . “pom pom pom” (as the backing voices keep going, throughout). Uh-oh, now his trembling fingers are touching forbidden places – disgusting, but go on Conway, tell us more! Pant, pant! Pom pom pom!
MARVIN GAYE: Let’s Get It On; I Wish It Would Rain (Tamla Motown TMG 868).
Poised to top US Pop as it has R&B, Marv’s new Ed Townsend-penned two-million-plus seller is yet another new direction for the Soul superstar. A gradually intensifying slow plodder that weaves its way with plaintive wailing and clanking blues guitar through an intricate thudding rhythm structure, it sounds like a cross between Marvin’s early ’60s and early ’70s – but as it misses out completely his British hit-filled late ’60s, what will the fans make of it here? Maybe they’ll prefer the straightforward Temptations flip. PICK OF THE WEEK.
LOU REED: Satellite Of Love; Vicious (RCA 2318).
Not re-released, just turned over and reactivated following spontaneous Beeb plugging, Lou’s most recent official release pairs the melancholy piano-backed slowie and the searing lisped pounder from “Transformer”. Amazing how familiarity breeds acceptance, innit? Now I dig him mightily! MUSIC PICK.
PAUL SIMON: Loves Me Like A Rock; Learn How To Fall (CBS 1700).
With super-smooth pure Gospel harmony support from the legendary Dixie Hummingbirds behind him, not-so-tall Paul almost loses his cool and gets quite het up near the end of this patented “Baby Driver”-type bouncer. Its Chart appeal may be more obscure than that of the attractive clomper-beat bouncer on the flip, though. POP PICK.
LINK WRAY: Lawdy Miss Claudy (Polydor 2066352).
When Lloyd Price wrote this classic R&B tune in 1952, he spelt it “Clawdy”, as did Elvis Presley when he turned his 1956 version into my all-time favourite record. Still, and all, let’s not quibble with Link “Rumble” Wray, who comes crashing in dramatically after a solo piano intro, and proceeds to rip skulls off with an unexpected blast of supposedly steel guitar amidst the chugging rhythm before bowing out with a virtuoso rambling electric guitar run. Hooo! For sheer impact and drive, this has to be another PICK OF THE WEEK.
STEVE FELDMAN: Waitin’ For The Day To Come; Crystal Dawn (Mooncrest MOON 11).
Produced by the Jerome brothers, Bill & Steve, these two slowies are sorta blue-eyed Sweet Soul, and rather nice.
JACKIE MOORE: Sweet Charlie Babe; If (Atlantic K 10355).
Still striding upwards Pop but slipping R&B, Stateside, Miss Moore’s latest is a chunky smooth beater with gritty wailing and appeal aplenty for British R&B fans. “If it wasn’t for this, and wasn’t for that, it could be a better world, yeah” are the sentiments flipside.
BILL WITHERS: Ain’t No Sunshine; Harlem; Grandma’s Hands (A&M AMS 7080).
Good value for Bill Withers and Jose Feliciano fans: Bill’s first, and still greatest, hit is paired with his first single release on one side of a maxi that’s flipped by a “live” version of another of his early hits. At least the amusing long rap intro to “Hands” is the closest to Soul that the fella’s got . . . not that James Taylor isn’t capable of similar.
LIZA MINNELLI: I Believe In Music; Where Is The Love (CBS 1711).
From the number of requests that I get at Easy Listening-type gigs for Liza’s version of “Oh Babe, What Would You Say“, I’d have thought it would be a hit single. However, we get her jaunty version of this Mac Davis song instead, and for the first time I like the tune’s treatment – a bit theatrical, mind you, but nice. Not so nice noisy overkill of the Flack & Hathaway flip.
GLEN CAMPBELL: Bring Back My Yesterday (Capitol CL 15761).
Strange but true: Glen’s latest C&W hit is his treatment of ace Soul groaner Barry White’s new British single! Yes, the ex-Beach Boy sings the pretty slowie with better hit prospects than its originator, too – of course, if you remember, I did compare Barry’s version to a Max Bygraves singalong session played at 16 rpm, and that description is even more apt now. MoR PICK.
JOHNNY GRIFFITH, INC: Grand Central Shuttle (RCA 2386).
Some months back this nervy beat wukka-wukka instrumental did quite well R&B, maybe because it made ideal talk-over material before the news on radio stations, and hence got played a lot.
PERCY SLEDGE: Sunshine; Unchanging Love (Atlantic K 10358).
Percy meets the Philly Sound on this pleasant girlie group-supported slowie, which deserved to do better than it did in America. The old-fashioned and catchily arranged good flip is maddeningly reminiscent of something else. Surprisingly worth hearing.
TOMMIE YOUNG: She Don’t Have To See You (To See Through You); That’s All A Part Of Loving Him (Contempo CR 23).
Miss Young is much less in the Aretha Franklin bag of her new slowie, which is almost unworthy of the dollops of Soul and artistry spread on top of it. Faster flip, with flute, and better A-side prospects.
LOOKING GLASS: Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne (Epic EPC 1657).
Regular readers will know my devotion to Boffalongo’s “Dancing In The Moonlight“, the Classics IV and other melodic blue-eyed white vocal groups of that ilk. Looking Glass’s monster US hit, “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)“, was smack dab in the middle of that branch of my taste, and as their similar newie has more of Eliot Lurie’s great voice and added Latin rhythm (oh, I’m a sucker ’bout that Latin rhythm!), I love it just as much. Highly PERSONAL PICK.
PRETTY PURDIE: Day Dreaming; Good Livin’ (Good Lovin’) (Philips 6073-708).
Drummer Bernard Purdie chatters and thumps away behind the sax and piano led instrumental treatment of Aretha’s pretty ditty, and does a bit more to earn his star billing on arranger Horace Ott’s sparser flipside beater. Pleasant background listening.
ANN PEEBLES: I Can’t Stand The Rain; I’ve Been There Before (London HLU 10428).
Moody and magnificent, with some great electronic and organ effects which complement Miss Peebles’ slinky enunciation, this slow chugger is unusual enough to claim attention from quite a few ears. The Soul slows up and burns even more on the Carla Thomas-ish flip. R&B PICK.
LLOYD PRICE: Trying To Slip (Away); They Get Down (GSF GSZ 11).
GSF’s R&B A&R chief is doing well in the wake of a “Slip(ping) Away” title trend with this nervy jiggling rhythm number, which doesn’t go much anyplace. The same unremitting monotonous rhythm is on the long instrumental intro-ed flip.
TONY BENNETT: My Love; Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) (Philips 6006326).
Danger! Aging crooner at work! About the only thing that can be said about his painful experience is that Mr. Benedetto shows up once and for all the incredible vacuous vapidity of the Wings song. As for the “swinging” big band styling of Georgie Porgie’s flip . . . go back to San Francisco, Antonio, it suits you better! He did a better job of “Something” in 1970, although even then his voice was showing the strain from which it now suffers.
CHER: Half-Breed; Melody (MCA MUS 1215).
With a title like that you just know that this is gonna have them Injun drums, and – sho nuff – Cher don’t disappoint. There’s even some subdued “Running Bear”-type chanting in the background. In short, every predictable stop has been pulled in an all-out attempt at a Pop hit . . . which it may yet become. There’s a good Easy Listening slow flip, too.
SHIRLEY ELLIS: The Clapping Song; The Nitty Gritty (MCA MU 1213).
My pet hate but the audience’s delight back in the old days of dee-jaying down at the “Scene” club, this 1965 urchin’s roundelay with its irritating street game directions is still extremely popular and well-remembered. Despite its dated sound, it might happen again. The Beatles dug the ’63 flip when they were on “Juke Box Jury”.