November 24, 1973: Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Loggins & Messina, The Dells, Executive Suite, Gamble & Huff interview

Stateside newies

AL GREEN: Livin’ For You (Hi 2257).
A mixture of silky sweetness and braying brass characterizes the latest relaxing softly thumping slowie from America’s number one seller of singles. Penned by Al with just producer Willie Mitchell, it’s a lovely mushily enveloping sound, coated with sugary strings and cooing chix. Thought for the day: singles-wise sales-wise, Al Green is to America what Gary Glitter is to Britain . . . and that about sums up the two nations’ current differences of opinion.

ARETHA FRANKLIN: Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do); If You Don’t Think (Atlantic 45-2995).
With an approach that is more appealingly Pop than usual, Aretha tackles this Stevie Wonder co-penned slinkily propelled lurching semi-slowie amidst a delightful setting of Arif Mardin-arranged ingenuity. “I’m gonna rap on your door, tap on your window pane” sings the chix-echoed Lady Soul to a rapping, tapping rhythm – and everything else conspires to plop, tootle or soar in delicious counterpoint. This one should have good chances in Britain. The dead slow flip finds Miss Franklin singing the blues back in church, with spine-tingling effect.

LOGGINS & MESSINA: My Music (Columbia 4-45952).
Kings of American radio format, Jim and Kenny here sound like Simon & Garfunkel impersonating Van Morrison singing “Little Bitty Pretty One”! For all that, there’s also a commendable amount of 1950s spirit in their performance, with a hint of the Everly Brothers impersonating the Kalin Twins singing “Baby Driver” . . . which brings us back to where we came in! There’s some fine brass work too, and indeed if I didn’t like the overall result you wouldn’t find it mentioned at all. Oh, and there’s even a sneaky snippet of ska! Continue reading “November 24, 1973: Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Loggins & Messina, The Dells, Executive Suite, Gamble & Huff interview”

November 17, 1973: The Fatback Band, Lyn Collins, Tony Orlando & Dawn, Mark/Almond, The Chi-Lites

Stateside newies

THE FATBACK BAND: Njia (Nija) Walk (Street Walk) (Perception PS 540).
They give you enough choices, but this is generally referred to as “Street Walk”! Now that Kool & The Gang’s “Funky Stuff” is finally out here, the position it held as most-imported Street Funk single is taken by this leapingly alive rhythm-jumping follow-up to “Street Dance” . . . even though this has not done spectacularly well on America’s R&B Chart, where it certainly deserved to do better. Propelled by a watery wah-wah wukka-wukka-ing amidst an extremely tight, clearly defined buoyant bouncy bass with some Latin percussion and the odd burst of brass, it’s basically an instrumental with jive-talk interpolations and chanting. Interestingly there’s even a mention of Bertha Butt (you know, one of the Butt Sisters), whose name has strayed from the Jimmy Castor Bunch’s old “Troglodyte (Cave Man)”, an early example of the sort of sound which has been developed into Street Funk.

Surprisingly, “Street Walk” is NOT a “Parrty” record: for the epitome of “Parrty” you’re going to need the James Brown-penned/arranged/produced:

LYN COLLINS (THE FEMALE PREACHER): We Want To Parrty, Parrty, Parrty (People PE 630), which from its “Hey you, blow your whistle!” intro to its inane “Parrty, Parrty, Parrty” chant is about as apt a summary of the new genre’s clichés as you’re likely to find.

TONY ORLANDO and DAWN: Who’s In The Strawberry Patch With Sally (Bell 45424).
Despite a vintage-looking title like that, this new Rag-Rock bouncer from the “Dawn’s New Ragtime Follies” LP is yet another Levine & Brown-penned number. Like that last one, it’s slow starting; unlike all the others, it really is almost pure Vaudeville, even if not strictly Ragtime. It’s great fun and commendably authentic, and probably too specialist in appeal to be a big hit. Continue reading “November 17, 1973: The Fatback Band, Lyn Collins, Tony Orlando & Dawn, Mark/Almond, The Chi-Lites”

November 10, 1973: J. Hines & The Fellows, James Brown, The Intruders, The O’ Jays, Holland-Dozier

Stateside newies

J. HINES & THE FELLOWS: Camelot Time (De Luxe 150).
Last week’s copy cut off kind of abruptly (‘cos I wrote too much!), just as I was about to refer to this as being influenced by the early 1966/7 sound of the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, the originators of Street-Funk. It is indeed a dance-step record, although it bears no relation to the “Parrty” (sic) craze that is currently prevalent. Produced by the delightfully-yclept Gingerbread Doughboy, this is a bass-heavy chinking guitar-led pounding instrumental that’s funky in a dated yet thoroughly satisfying sense. The newie by James Brown is for Party People, however –

JAMES BROWN: Stoned To The Bone (Part 1); Stoned To The Bone (Some More) (Polydor PD 14210).
Although we in Britain never even got to hear his great “Sexy Sexy Sexy”, America has this fine ‘n funky (if fairly typico) dancer as a follow-up while we have to wallow in “Woman”, which has yet to be released Stateside. Hey, how long before the streets of London are filled with roistering throngs inanely chanting “Parrty, Parrty, Parrty!”?

THE INTRUDERS: I Wanna Know Your Name; Hang On In There (Gamble ZS7 2508).
The mighty Intruders are back on the US Charts with 5:49 of sheer beauty! The sexy studs who started the thing called the Philly Sound with writers/producers Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff in the mid-60s have reverted to a super-slow romantic ballad style, complete with doodling piano-backed long monologue rap, on this lush ‘n lovely Norman Harris arrangement. It’s sorta like Billy Paul singing Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes, as in atmosphere it’s similar to the latters’ slowies but without their vocal astringency. The ‘Truders keep it all mellow, while flipside they churn and chunk it up a bit on a Bobby Martin-arranged gentle clopper. Continue reading “November 10, 1973: J. Hines & The Fellows, James Brown, The Intruders, The O’ Jays, Holland-Dozier”

November 3, 1973: Johnnie Taylor, Latimore, The Dramatics, Tavares, The Persuaders

Stateside newies

JOHNNIE TAYLOR: Cheaper To Keep Her (Stax STA 0176).
To follow up Johnnie’s blockbuster “I Believe In You” slowie, this Bobby Bland-type sparsely-backed steady-sockin’ smooth blues by ex-Falcon (Sir) Mack Rice could not be a more unexpected (and refreshing) change of approach. “I Believe” was itself a change from the hard-hitting “Jody” dancers with which Johnnie has been identified since ‘68’s “Who’s Making Love”, but in fact he began his secular singing career after leaving the Soul Stirrers gospel group (where he had taken over lead when Sam Cooke left the group) by singing just the sort of Bland-ish blues that this “Taylored In Silk” track represents.

Interestingly enough, Johnnie is not alone in the R&B Charts with this style now, thanks to a similar treatment by the Steve Alaimo-produced Charles Latimore of an old Earl Hines-Billy Eckstine number made famous in a fuller version by T-Bone Walker during the ‘40s:

LATIMORE: Stormy Monday (Glades 1716).
Using just his surname now, Latimore (who I once met with Brad Shapiro at Atlanta airport, en route from Miami to Muscle Shoals!) is preceded by a coolly knocking Ramsey Lewis-ish jazzy piano-and-rhythm intro before he breaks into a restrained but raw reading of the song’s main verse, punctuated at length by an equally “dry” harmonica. As I said, this reversion to the old-style sophisticated Soul-Blues is an unexpected and refreshing change. Could it become a trend?

THE DRAMATICS: Fell For You (Volt VOA 4099).
Storming up the R&B Charts, this Tony Hester-penned/produced “A Dramatic Experience”-culled slowie is less dramatic than lovely. Starting with staccato brass and tinkling noises, it eases vocally from a soulful Temptations sound into some epiglottic contortions after the manner of Al Green, the Memphis King: however, even while the lead gets Memphis, the group stay Detroit. The result is extremely relaxing and awfully pretty, as is that of the other hot Soul Vocal Group slowie: Continue reading “November 3, 1973: Johnnie Taylor, Latimore, The Dramatics, Tavares, The Persuaders”