Straight from the States
DIANA ROSS & MARVIN GAYE: You’re A Special Part Of Me; I’m Falling In Love With You (Motown M 1280F).
Mary Wells, Kim Weston, Tammi Terrell, and now Diana Ross, the latest distaff partner for Marvin Gaye. With the teaming of two such superstars the electricity might have been expected to crackle, but unfortunately the result is somewhat disappointing. Marvin, who in recent years has pioneered a new and highly personal approach to Soul singing, is on these duets reduced to the musical level of his less subtle partner, and spends most of the time providing background support for the piercingly pitched tones of Miss Ross (whose contribution will admittedly ensure that these tunes come over well on car radios). The Berry Gordy-produced A-side is a clumsy, lurching, jerky, thudding and thundering slowie which returns poor Marvin right back to his days with the late Miss Terrell. Luckily the Margaret Gordy-penned and co-produced flip side is more sympathetic in every way: a slushier, slower, simpler and prettier song altogether, it even has some appealing word-play that would have been worthy of Smokey Robinson eight years ago. In addition, Marvin manages to get closer to the microphone than Diana on this side. If this review seems particularly biased against Diana Ross, then her many fans need not get up in arms because it must also surely tell them that they (and maybe they alone!) are going to love this record.
MARIE OSMOND: Paper Roses; Least Of All You (MGM K 14609).
When Anita Bryant recorded this pathos-filled sentimental thump-along Easy Listening Country lilter in her stentorian “Two-Way Family Favourites” tones, who’da guessed that one day her performance would be bested by that of a mere slip of a girl, the teenaged sister of the most famous male group in the World? Who’da guessed that this young girl, with such an illustrious Pop (with a capital “P”) family, would in fact aim herself at the Country Charts? Who’da guessed that she would be produced by none other than top Country star, the “Southern Gentleman,” Sonny James? Who’da guessed the result would be similar to the Anita Bryant version, but gentler and a whole, whole lot better? And, after all that, who’da guessed that Marie Osmond would come across as an entirely convincing Country singer? True, on the Sonny James & Carole Smith-penned slow flip she is successful in sounding just like her brother, Donny – uncannily like him – but that just means that at long last half the male population of the World can re-direct their lust in a healthier direction. Hey, Marie, you-all can sing at my barn dance, any time you want!
ELVIS PRESLEY: Raised On Rock; For Ol’ Times Sake (RCA APBO 0088).
After seeing a title like that, all El’s old faithful frustrated fans can be forgiven for getting a bad case of slobbering at the mouth. Trouble is, neither El nor the song deliver the goods. Penned by Mark James, the latter has some interesting lyrics which do indeed hark back to a vaguely Presley-ish past, only to be rendered by the old groaner in a tremulous whinny over a scudding rhythm that bears no relation to Rock past or present.
BLOODSTONE: Never Let You Go; You Know We’ve Learned (Decca F 13454).
From the same beautiful album that brought you “Natural High” comes this easy-flowing mellow doodling electric keyboard-backed gently swaying bitch of a beaut, which suddenly explodes into a frenzy of piercing falsetto whoops and cries. Super Soul! The faster flip has a jiggly rhythm beneath the surface smoothness of those great voices. These guys can sing. R&B PICK.
THE PERSUASIONS: Good Old Acappella; You Must Believe Me (MCA MUS 1222).
To begin with: A Cappella, often mis-spelt, means singing without instrumental music, and was made famous by American street-corner harmony groups who used to be seen on city sidewalks standing with their heads close together in a tight circle giving out with those sweet harmonies. A good and available example (other than this record) occurs during the excellent “Let The Good Times Roll” movie when Fred Parris & The Five Satins sing “I’ll Be Seeing You”. The black Persuasions (the style itself is multi-racial) emphasize their Gospel leanings with their choice of the old Impressions flip, and fill both sides with an impassioned yet cool vocal mix that is underpinned by the constantly booming “bom bom bom bomp-be bomp bom” of the bass voice. MUSIC PICK.
100 PROOF: Never My Love; Since You Been Gone (Hot Wax HWX 120).
The Addrisi Bros-penned old Association slowie gets a laboured reading by what was once a great Soul Vocal Group, who now don’t even seem to claim to be “Aged In Soul”. The slow Motown-ish flip is a bit better.
TODD RUNDGREN: We Gotta Get You A Woman; Couldn’t I Just Tell You (Bearsville K 15509).
Two or so years ago, at the time that it was a slow but steady-climbing US sleeper, I said about this that it was a quintessential Pop single: today, I’m not sure if it’s aged well enough for that description to apply still. Borrowing elements from Laura Nyro and the Four Seasons, studio whizz-kidd Todd fashioned a choppy lurcher that is full of high-flying joy and, above all, great production technique . . . if only it had come out here at the time, its overall sound would have made more sense. Otherwise, it remains extremely good. MUSIC PICK.
EDDIE KENDRICKS: Keep On Truckin’ (Parts 1 & 2) (Tamla Motown TMG 873).
The ex-Temptation has forsaken his melodious slow style for this ever-changing herky-jerky Stevie Wonder-type modern funk rhythm number . . . and is having a monster smash as a result. Although I suggested both parts be on just one long side of the single, Motown decided that they’d prefer you to buy the album for the whole glorious thing: certainly, deejays are gonna haveta get two copies of the single so’s they can run both parts together. This leaves the Temptations’ own boring brittle drawn-out funkers at the starter’s gate! R&B PICK.
BARRETT STRONG: Stand Up And Cheer For The Preacher (Epic EPC 1778).
Barrett would be famous forever if for no other reason than that it was he who had the original hit with “Money” in 1960, on Anna Gordy’s Anna label. As it is, he has re-emerged in recent years as a powerful writer closely associated with Norman Whitfield’s productions. Now completely away from his Motown ties, he’s out on his own again . . . and regrettably the result, as evidenced by this wukka-wukka monotony, is less than awe-inspiring. (Instrumental version on the flip).
THE NEW CACTUS BAND: Daddy Ain’t Gone (Atlantic K 10360).
Bogert and Appice having joined ranks with Generous Jeffrey (please don’t sue, I know it ain’t true! ), the old Cactus group has changed name as well as personnel, and come up with this medium-heavy chant-along rhythm-chatterer which exhibits some sense of dynamics without being terribly exciting.
THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND: Ramblin’ Man; Pony Boy (Capricorn K 17513).
GAAAAAHH! To beat the deadline and bring you fax and info about this single before it was released, last week I reviewed an American pressing – raving, in the process, about the great guitar jam that made up the last part of that particular 4:58 cut. Now, wouldn’t you know, I see that the British pressing is only 3:36, and that – yes – it’s the guitar jam that has been sacrificed. BOOOOOO! Let alone, WHY? At least the flip remains at 5:50. Get the album instead. BUMMER OF THE SUMMER.
MAJOR LANCE: Dark And Lonely; My Girl (Contempo CR 26).
The Billy Butler slowie that he did before gets done again, this time with a sympathetic Gerry Shury strings arrangement and added gentleness from Major. “Live at the Torch” flip.
TOWER OF POWER: You’re Still A Young Man; Skating On Thin Ice (Warner Bros. K 16211).
Instead of ToP’s current US single, Warners have – sensibly – re-issued this exquisitely soulful dead slowie from last year. It’s a performance that has really endured (I loved it then and still get just as big an emotional charge from it now), so that it must stand a chance this time of snaring satisfied Bloodstone fans – although nothing like “Natural High”, it has that sort of atmosphere. Real cool! ICE PICK.
LOU ZERATO: Louie – Parts I & II (Atlantic K 10363).
The pseudonymous Mr. Zerato, whose true identity is known only to producer Joel Dorn, must have had a disturbing childhood if this intriguing oddity is as autobiographical as it seems. Singing “straight” he tells us in the third person about a city-reared little boy, and in an “inner mind” electronically-treated voice that’s right out of Ruben and The Jets’ “Later That Night” he drags up first-person psychiatrist couch reminiscences, all to a monotonous chugging rhythm backing. While doubtless of limited Pop appeal, it’s sure an interesting record. PICK OF THE WEEK.
FREDDIE CANNON: Way Down Yonder In New Orleans; Tallahassee Lassie (Bradleys BRAD 309).
Despite their eagerness to issue nebulous luncheon invitations to the Press, Messrs. Bradleys (who come to you thru Pye) seem keener on getting their records to the Beeb, who have had this re-release for two weeks already. As this review is thus of the old Top Rank pressings, I hope that nothing drastic has happened to the masters since 1959! Back then, the powerfully driving “Way Down Yonder” used to fascinate me as its booming bass drum passages used to make my Dansette vibrate off the table . . . almost! “Tallahassee” always struck me as being rather messy and boring. Anyway, these are two old favourites from a great Philadelphia singer who has recently been much maligned by certain writers, who would insist on thinking of him as a Rock’n Roll singer. Big Beat, yes – and there’s plenty of that in these grooves. OLDIE PICK.
WINK MARTINDALE: Deck Of Cards; Just A Closer Walk With Me (Dot 109).
Possibly the very first single to be a British hit twice, years apart, this morally uplifting recitation is a classic for all times, and is now out again to combat another new upstart of a cover version. It’s almost sacrilege to think that someone else – especially someone with a complete lack of humour – could even conceive of singing it after Wink. The new version doesn’t even contain that all-important final admission, “And friends, the story is true: I know, I was that soldier”. Talkalongawink, and make this the hit version, again! OLDIE PICK.
Hamilton’s disco pick
RAY MARTIN & HIS ORCHESTRA: Eye Level (Decca F 13453).
SIX bloody times I had to play this last Friday alone! At least this version, while similar to the hit, is more danceable. For fun, try following it with this sequence:
JOHNNY KEATING: Theme From Z-Cars (Piccadilly 7N 35032, deleted)
JOE LOSS: The Maigret Theme (HMV POP 995, deleted)
JOHN BARRY SEVEN: The James Bond Theme (Columbia DB 4898, deleted?)
and DUANE EDDY: (Dance With The) Guitar Man (RCA 1316, deleted? ).
It’s a good way back into REAL music!
STATUS QUO: Roll Over Lay Down, A Reason For Living, etc (LP “Hello!” Vertigo 6360098) . . . and don’t forget to Boogie!
FREDDIE CANNON: Way Down Yonder In New Orleans (Bradleys BRAD 309). Classic Oldie.
MANUEL & THE MUSIC OF THE MOUNTAINS: Celebration (EMI 2068). Conga-type. Easy Listening, actually rather good with “Eye Level”.
EDDIE KENDRICKS: Keep On Truckin’ (Tamla Motown TMG 873) R&B.