October 27, 1973: Muddy Waters, Three Degrees, Wilbert Harrison, Steve Miller Band, The Osmonds

Stateside newies

MUDDY WATERS: Can’t Get No Grindin’ (What’s The Matter With The Meal); Garbage Man (Chess CH 2143).
The Blues singer who launched a thousand careers, Muddy Waters was at the height of his own career during the mid-‘50s in America and during the early-‘60s in Britain, the latter being the period when he influenced every so-called “R&B”-er from the Rolling Stones on down. He’s still admired of course, mainly as the leader of a legendarily tight Blues band, but with the passing of the white Blues boom his name is heard much less frequently. All that could change now! This, the title track from his latest US LP, finds Muddy in good voice, his extremely tight band in superbly tight and concise form, and the addition of a Ray Charles-ish electric piano in amongst the more traditional instrumentation: so what’s different? The intensely pounding power, that’s what! Under, over and right through everything there’s an unremitting gut-shaking booming bass the likes of which you’ve never heard, cutting through that is the spiky acidity of the electric piano and a spurt of obligatory mouth harp, while in amongst it all the dry-sounding guitars chink and scrub away to produce an important counterpoint to the dominating bass. Add Muddy’s bouncy voice with some good-time call-and-answer response from the group, and the overall result is spelt E-X-C-I-T-E-M-E-N-T! It’s all so simple and yet so right. Few if any other recording stars could produce so much from so little, which is where the master with all his years of experience wins over his more famous pupils. Muddy Waters don’t wash cleaner than clean, but do have that miracle ingredient!

THREE DEGREES: Dirty Ol’ Man (Philadelphia International ZS7 3534).
The Three Degrees are the girlie group who succeeded the Chantels with producer and sometime singer (“Some Other Guy”), Richie Barrett. Under his guidance they hit on several occasions, most notably with their rap-introed revival of the Chantels’ “Maybe” about three years ago, and with their early Sweet Soul “Gee Baby” in 1965: also, they were the night club group who appeared on screen in “The French Connection” (so THAT’S who they were!). Anyway, the girls have now returned to their Philadelphia roots, signing on with Gamble & Huff as producers / penners for their first single on Philadelphia International (they did actually have one single on G&H’s Neptune label a while ago). While perfectly good, the fairly typical Philly Sound clopping rhythm-propelled result is a bit of a disappointment, using as it does the girls’ sweetly pure and wailing voices less for their own sake than as a usefully shrill vocal instrument with which to pierce the blanketing musical instrumentation. However, it’s probably the right approach to give the girls a First Choice-type British hit when the record comes out here next month.

American Singles

WILBERT HARRISON: Get It While You Can; Amen (Action ACT 4613).
The “Kansas City”, “Let’s Work Together” man – or rather, one man band – is back on the re-designed Action label with the news that he’s your Soul Food man . . . get it while you can! Sounding unique as always, he’s amalgamated African/Caribbean-ish Creole street calls with intricately picked guitar, vibrantly quavering harmonica, tricksy shuffling rhythm and bouncy booming bass to produce a fascinatingly funky musical texture which IS the record, the song itself being no more than the ingredients of a New Orleans menu itemized with all the genial good humour of a Creole Judge Dread. Gourmets, cognoscenti and dancers who use their hips more than their feet will be awarding this tasty gumbo at least four rosettes and three forks! Preaching-introed Gospel flip. PICK OF THE WEEK.

STEVE MILLER BAND: The Joker; Something To Believe In (Capitol CL 15765).
“Some people call me the space cowboy”, says Steve, who adds that others call him the gangster of love, or even Maurice . . . “wup-woo!” catcalls the great yowling the sporadic subdued outbursts of which tie in with the gently throbbing backing land lazy vocals to make this languid slowie (title track of Steve’s new LP) reminiscent of J.J. Cale. The lovely flip is even gentler. I call him child of the future. MUSIC PICK.

THE OSMONDS: Let Me In; One Way Ticket To Anywhere (MGM 2006321).
“Lovin’ you could be so easy” confesses yearningly earnest Donny over a classy string section before his rick-voiced brothers and a full-blooded orchestral surge come swelling up behind him to turn this meatily-treated turgid slowie from “The Plan” into the boys’ most seriously acclaimed single to date. It has to be said that both sides were written AND produced within the family, which is more than can be said of many a rocker’s work. And the angels sing . . . with a raucous romping stomping flip and personal appearance to create fan frenzy, it’s gotta be a PICK TO CLICK!

CLINT HOLMES: Playground In My Mind; There’s No Future In My Future (Epic EPC 1514).
When it first came out here a few months ago I warned you that this kiddie korus-supported former US smash (sometimes known as “My Name Is Michael”) had a Dawn-like appeal, so following its apathetic acceptance by the Beeb, I’m not surprised to see it reissued in time for Xmas and commercial radio. “By The Time I Get To Spanish Harlem” flip. MoR PICK.

MICHAEL MURPHEY: Cosmic Cowboy (EMI 2035).
Although Michael wrote this Country-Folk-Rock admission about what he, and half of Marin Country, would like to be, his own bland version is easily equalled by the more textured treatment of the NITTY GRITTY DIRT BAND (UA UP 35560), who sound as if they’ve already lived the life.

ISLEY BROTHERS: Tell Me It’s Just A Rumour Baby; Save Me From This Misery (Tamla Motown TMG 877).
I suppose it was a foregone conclusion that as soon as the Isleys managed to get some modern material away here, Motown would hustle out an old band bang banger. Surely the very fact that the Isleys DID get “That Lady” away is enough to prove that we’ve finally outgrown this 1967 stomp stuff, good though it always was? I do hope so.

SISTER SLEDGE: Mama Never Told Me; Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye) (Atlantic K 103765).
Produced by Philly’s “Young Professionals” (Messrs. Taylor, Hurtt & Tony Bell), these Michael Jackson-pitched squeaky chicks’ “shoobydooby” slow jiggler is completely eclipsed by their superb mature lush reading of the famous flip, which makes up for in loveliness what it loses to Gladys Knight in intensity. At a satisfying 4.25, it clocks in as my favourite version and rates an Easy-type R&B PICK.

BILLY PRESTON: Space Race (A&M AMS 7084).
There’s Capital Radio doing its best to make “Will It Go Round In Circles” a hit with two-hourly plugs (only Sergio Mendes seem to get more plays than Billy on London’s tuned-in station), and here’s Billy with his latest US hit humpy-bumpy instrumental, full of “wee-wee” synthesizer and Uncle Tom tedium. It’s funny how Capital’s talk shows (Marsha Hunt, Sarah Ward) are better than LBC’s . . .  and better than their own music!

ANDY WILLIAMS: Solitaire; My Love (CBS 1824).
“The suave socialite of Rock ‘n’ Roll,’ as a 1957 fan mag described 26-year-old Andy at the time of his first “Butterfly” hit, has self-consciously returned to a type of “contemporary” music again. “Of course, the stuff I do isn’t all-out Rock ‘n’ Roll . . . sort of a mild version” is what he said then and could repeat today, about this oh-so-careful mooing reading of Nell Sedaka’s ever-so-lovely slow plodder. McCartney’s candyfloss flip seems to be howled by a constipated coyote. His fans will love it and hate me! MoR PICK.

DIONNE WARWICKE: (I’m) Just Being Myself; I Think You Need Love (Warner Bros K 16327).
Some time after its US success we now get this instrumental-introed rattling and thumping delicate Holland-Dozier-Holland medium beater which, lovely though it is, is but the B-side here to the more complex, muddled, directionless “Think”, a comes-&-goes lurching slowie “adapted” from Dionne’s “Just Being Myself”-titled album. Despite this craziness, hopefully news of the good side will get out, as it’s an R&B PICK.

DENISE LA SALLE: Trapped By A Thing Called Love; I’m Over You (Westbound 6146105).
Can she do it this time around? Denise swept up the US Charts a couple of years back with this smoothly chunky medium-slow slinky beater, which Willie Mitchell produced in his usual professionally funky style. However, it’s Denise’s record through and through: she wrote it, and she phrases it with consummate skill, weaving all over the rhythm. Mmmm! Sombre slow flip. R&B PICK.

CHICAGO: Just You ‘N’ Me: Critic’s Choice (CBS 1819).
Ooh! Really nice fruity resonant snarling bras accompanies the pretty blue-eyed singing on this easy-plopping- then-jazzy lilter . . . yeah! As for the notorious catty slow flip . . . miaow! And two points, Mr Lamm: (a) not every performer is gifted with a genuine talent to amuse as though by divine right (b) many non-musician critics have had plenty of practice listening to more records of more types of music than you’ve ever heard, and know damned well when something’s lacking. Anyway, why the paranoia?

JOHN STEWART: Armstrong; Lady And The Outlaw (RCA 2422).
Deep-voiced John, ex-Kingston Trio, who I once saw sing for Bobby Kennedy at a street rally just off Broadway, is now doing a Johnny Cash on this gentle tinkler about lunarnaut Armstrong. He’s all serious at the start of the faster flip, solemnly intoning about how an outlaw “wishes that the girl in his arms . . .” “Was a man!” cuts in another voice. Yuk, yuk, yuk.

Hamilton’s disco pick

LYNSEY DE PAUL: Won’t Somebody Dance With Me (MAM 109)
Spike Jones’ None But The Lonely Heart meets You’re A Lady meets Twiggy! Smooch, and so’s the Sylvia-ish flip.

PAUL McCARTNEY & WINGS: Helen Wheels (Apple R 5993)
Hi, Hi, Hi! Ballsy get-it-on Pop.

WILD ANGELS: Clap Your Hands And Stamp Your Feet (Decca F 13456)
Hard-grinding noisy Pop, sounds like a smash.

SUZI QUATRO: Daytona Demon (Rak 161)
Expendable Pop.

THE JAMES BOYS: Hello Hello (Penny Farthing PEN 816)

MAX BYGRAVES: Party Singalong Part 2 (Medley: She’s A Lassie From Lancashire/When Irish Eyes Are Smiling/I Belong to Glasgow/Any Old Iron) (EMI 2076)
Ultra-jolly Easy, marred by phoney stereo echo.

SISTER SLEDGE: Neither One Of Us (Atlantic K 10375)

INNOCENCE: (After Midnight) When The Boys Talk About The Girls (Bus Stop BUS 1011)
Late ‘50s-style ‘teen slowie.

IMCA MARINA: Y Viva Espana; LOS DIABLOS: Mi Talisman (Columba DB 9016)
Gay Spanish hits for holidaymakers (“Viva” has hit everywhere in Europe).

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