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:

TAVARES: Check It Out (Capitol 3674).
On this old Friends Of Distinction hit (revived too in Britain by the Real Thing), brothers Perry, Lee, Arthur, Feliciano and Antonio Tavares have stretched out and sweetened up the tempo so much that the song now makes a good substitute for Mandrax, it’s that somnolent! Also causing some kinda fuss in the same field is a semi-slowie:

THE PERSUADERS: Some Guys Have All The Luck (Atco 45-6943).
Produced by “The Young Professionals” with Leroy Butler and Bill Patterson, it’s to my mind not a patch on the ‘Suaders’ past product, being a bit like a slowed down “Ghetto Child”. Far more impressive is a solo outing:

GENERAL CROOK: The Best Years Of My Life (Wand WND 11260).
A dreamy strings, Wes Montgomery-ish guitar and gently rattling thump-backed dead slowie, it’s a beautifully atmospheric setting for the General’s yearning, hurting, straining soulfulness.

MANDRILL: Mango Meat (Polydor PD 14200).
Currently one of the hottest Street-Funk imports, this chorus-supported instrumental begins with beat-less Latin percussion before panting into choppy-rhythm wukka-wukka comes-and-goes braying Brass Rock which strikes me as lacking not only continuity but also drive and excitement: still, it’s popular with a certain type of dancer, a type that likes to think before they point their feet. Allied to Street Funk is the new dance sensation that’s swept New York and now the nation: Parrty (sic), typified by MACEO AND THE MACKS’ “Parrty” (People PE 624), KOOL & THE GANG’s “Funky Stuff” (De-Lite DEP 557), and by another:

K.C. & THE SUNSHINE JUNKANOO BAND: Blow Your Whistle (T.K. 1001).
As its title suggests, this chant-along party-sounds bass-driven dancer is filled on command with madly blowing whistles, aping the whistle on the Kool & The Gang record. The originators of Street Funk arguably were the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band during the latter ‘60s: while they now back Bill Withers, their legacy is left in the hands of their erstwhile leader:

CHARLES WRIGHT: (Well I’m) Doin’ What Cums Naturally (Parts 1 & 2) (ABC/Dunhill D 4364).
This is a hoarsely-sung good-time bouncer which must tie in with the Party craze, unlike another record influenced by their earliest 1966/7 sound.

[Editor’s Note: As James explains in his next column, his copy was cut off at this point, as he’d written too much!]


American Singles

LOU CHRISTIE: Beyond The Blue Horizon; Hey You Cajun (CTI CTS 4002).
Lou Christie singing Country & Western on a Jazz label? Well, two faces has he, so why not? In fact, this revival of an oldie the chord changes of which you are sure to know even if you’ve never heard the words is likely to do for Lou what “The More I See You” did for Chris Montez – break him big with the Easy Listeners. Reminiscent a bit of Mama Cass’s “Dream A Little Dream Of Me”, it begins with Lou quietly singing along behind the slickly slithering steel guitar before his Nilsson-esque voice joins the gently thumping bass and clippety-clop rhythm in the foreground (prod/arr. by Tony Romeo). Sure, it’s as corny as hell, but my it’s nice! Despite what another music paper’s “Book Of Rock” keeps repeating, the Cajuns referred to on the fiddlin’ flipside chant are NOT an Indian tribe, they’re the French/American patois-speaking inhabitants of Louisiana (Cajun being their way of saying “Acadian”, as part of the state is called Acadia). So there! PICK OF THE WEEK.

THE JACKSON 5: Get It Together; Touch (Tamla Motown TMG 878).
So, now it is out here, and following the success of the Isleys’ “That Lady” it could do even better than its herky-jerky jittery tunelessness at first forecast. The rhythm is all, with the boys making no concessions to melody-lovers on this their most mature single to date. However, there’s melody a-plenty on their lovely reading of the Supremes flip. It’s not really a make or break situation, but the fans’ reaction is going to be interesting to watch, as the J5 badly need a proper hit. R&B PICK.

DON McLEAN: Mountains Of Mourne; Bill Cheatham – Old Joe Clarke (UA UP 35607).
It’s back to the “Vincent” stillness for Don’s ever-so-lovely reading of this hoary old bitter-sweet Irish air, a cinch for the dewy-eyed maiden market and sentimentalists everywhere. Plinky-plunky instrumental flip. MoR PICK.

MARILYN MONROE: I Wanna Be Loved By You; Runnin’ Wild; I’m Thru With Love (UA UP 35601).
Even if you’re too young to remember the late MM, or were too immature to understand her appeal at the time (myself, I was a BB man), you’ve been given plenty of opportunity by the media recently to catch up. These three trax (she was an occasional vocalist) are the songs she sang with an all-girls band in the classic “Some Like It Hot” fun-fest flick, which was set in the ‘20s. The famous topsie stays close to the original Helen Kane version from that era, as Marilyn “Boop-a-Doops” away in an ingenuously sexy little girl voice, but the short ‘n brassy and smooth ‘n dreamy flipside pair are somewhat later in sound. This could be a hit all over again. EASY PICK.

BOBBY HARRIS: Sticky, Sticky; Mr Success (London HLM 10435).
The topside might just as well be re-titled “Hang On Sticky”, penned as it was by Bert Berns as a conscious return to his earlier “Sloopy”. What is of real interest is the great Sam Cooke-type flipside slowie, which has been a favourite of mine ever since it first came out on the Shout label in 1967 (or whenever). Listen especially to the part where Bobby says, “See the little boy with her, he don’t know me. That’s my kid, but I could never tell him” . . . and hear some completely credible, one hundred per cent, gut-wrenching S-O-U-L. It hurts! SOUL PICK.

NINO TEMPO & 5TH AVE. SAX: Sister James; Clair De Lune (In Jazz) (A&M AMS 7089).
Back on his April Stevens-less “Girl Can’t Help It” ownsome, Nino Tempo has come up with a truly magnificent Crusaders-type instrumental-with-chorus whomping stomping honker which has danced its “Put It Where You Want It” way Into America’s Pop AND R&B Charts. Now this one really IS for the disco crowd, and the nice strict-tempo flip will be good for Creed Taylor fans too. FUNK PICK.

MICK AUDSLEY: Mr Landlord; The Commissioner, He Come (Sonet SON 2035).
Although since first writing this review I’ve heard that it’s British, the record sounds American enough to be good! One of those fidgety-rhythm, multi- racked, vaguely Simon & Garfunkel-ish numbers so beloved of America’s (and now Capital’s) radio programmers, it’s made so good by the mixture of the vocal harmony tones with the delightful backing of electric piano, braying Brass-Rock accents and Afro-Latin percussion. Pity the flip’s like Elton John’s “plantation” phase. MUSIC PICK.

THE INCREDIBLE BONGO BAND: Bongo Rock; Bongolia (MGM 2006161).
Preston Epps originally recorded this bongo rocker on the Original Sound label at the same time as Sandy Nelson was letting there be drums: he subsequently updated it with the addition of a jazzy flute into the superior “Bongo Rock 1965”. Now, presumably by someone else, we get a 1973 version which is slightly less frantic and features the addition of a trumpet fanfare. It’s good basic stuff which might do well if discos dig it and Jo King doesn’t get there first. Uh, and guess what the US follow-up is –  “Let There Be Drums!

DIANA ROSS & MARVIN GAYE: You’re A Special Part Of Me; I’m Falling In Love With You (Tamla Motown TMG 879).
This lurching slowie is dominated by Diana, for whom it seems to have been structured, and for whose fans it will have the greatest appeal. The sweeter flip is far more sympathetic and gives Marvin a bigger part to play. A Ross-type POP PICK.

WILSON PICKETT: I Can’t Stop; Down To My Last Heartbreak (President PT 322).
More fool I, during the Beatlemania days exactly ten years ago I was trying to turn people on to Wilson Pickett’s incredible “It’s Too Late” slowie! In my estimation the guy was at his height then, and I can never forget the impact he made as he shimmied onto the Apollo stage in a flurry of red singing this great Gospel-screaming dancer when I saw him for the first time in ‘64. Everything he did after that was an anticlimax for me, which is why I possibly rate this and its impassioned slow flip rather more than others may do. Dated though the music is, it remains full of some of the rawest Soul you’re ever likely to hear. SOUL PICK.

STAX MAXIS: Stax have repackaged some of their best 1968/9 hits on four triple-track maxis – a boon especially for impoverished deejays who missed, or mislaid, the original pressings! Although they have other qualities, I’ve tried to list ‘em in order of Disco Pick merit: –

JOHNNIE TAYLOR: Who’s Making Love; BOOKER T & THE MG’s: Soul Limbo; THE STAPLE SINGERS: The Ghetto (Stax 2025188)

RUFUS THOMAS: Do The Funky Chicken; WILLIAM BELL: Happy; BOOKER T & THE MG’s: Hang ‘Em High (Stax 2025187)

BOOKER T & THE MG’s: Time Is Tight; EDDIE FLOYD: Bring It On Home To Me; WILLIAM BELL & JUDY CLAY: My Baby Specializes (Stax 2025207)

WILLIAM BELL & JUDY CLAY: Private Number; BOOKER T & THE MG’s: Mrs Robinson; JOHNNIE TAYLOR: (I Wanna) Testify (Stax 2025186)

LANCE LeGAULT: Catch My Soul (Part 1) (RCA 2420).
Jack Good first used Louisianan LeGault as a replacement for Jerry Lee Lewis on a strike-postponed TV show, then starred him in both stage and now film versions of his rock-opera. This semi-slow title song is in the husky-voiced Swamp-Rock style popularized by its co-author, Tony Joe White. Flipside, SUSAN TYRRELL does a Mae West on the saucy “Tickle His Fancy”.

THE POINTER SISTERS: Yes We Can Can; Jada (Blue Thumb WIP 6171).
Clad in Little Miss Cornshucks ’40s drag, the Pointer Sisters (Vita, Violet and Virginia – or whatever they’re called!) come on like four black Bette Midlers and are currently wowing impressionable trendies Stateside – where amazingly their Mavis Staples take-off styling of Allen Toussaint’s Lee Dorsey oldie has conned its way right up the R&B Charts. As they also give out with cod Andrews Sisters stylings (viz the flip) and other such old-fashioned jazzy fun, I can’t be entirely agin them (Dan Hick’s Lickettes do it better though): it’s just that I wish they didn’t sound so smugly clever and theatrically shallow.

JEHOSOPHAT AND JONES: Stuttering Bum; In The Summertime (Philips 6006-345).
Sorry, but the song doesn’t quite fulfil your expectations! It’s an extremely silly Country bouncer in the “Tennessee Bird Walk” mould about a poor unfortunate bloke who is reduced to stuttering whenever he takes out a beautiful girl – and stutter he does, particularly over words beginning with “f”, “t” and “b”, so that “I stare at your great big b-b-b-b-“ turns out to be less of a boob than you might think. Still, it’s titillating even so! The gentler flipside duet is preceded by a lovely long conversation between its deep Country singers, along the lines of: “Oh, I love pigs!” “Sure does . . . all over town!” It’s a load of cobblers, and possibly even more amusing. SILLY P-P-P-PICK.

DENNIS LINDE: Hello, I Am Your Heart; East St Louis Nights (Elektra K 12121).
And now for Bill McAllister and all at number 20, here’s one of those jiggling rhythm spiky but bland sounds of a Paul Simon type that American radio finds so useful, giving as it does an aura of modernity to an otherwise totally innocuous programme. It’s the sort of noise that Capital listeners had better get used to, as London’s tuned-in radio station is already peddling exactly this variety of muzak. In fact, the instrumental flip is a nice if slushy light slow blues, done with a trace of the Great Awakenings buzzing away behind the guitar / bass / piano / drums front line. While on the subject of American radio fodder, I may as well briefly mention SEALS & CROFTS’ pretty-pretty “We May Never Pass This Way Again” (Warner Bros. K 16326) and PAINTER’s angrier “West Coast Woman” (Elektra K 12124). Elektra, followed by Warners, are indeed the prime purveyors of this sort of safe material.

JOSH: Was A Sunny Day; Can You Feel It (Bell 1329).
Another for radio programmers, this pleasant reading of Paul Simon’s Jamaican-accented swaying slowie has, surprisingly, a completely unexpected Ramsey Lewis-type lively bossa-nova flip that’s really nice . . . but then it was produced by Rick Jarrard, who’s so successfully helping David Cassidy to grow up.


Hamilton’s disco pick

CARROLL GIBBONS: These Foolish Things, A Foggy Day, I’ll Get By, More (LP “The Carroll Gibbons Story” WRC SH 167/8)
Lovely easy nostalgia, “TFT” (yes, what Bryan Ferry’s done) had everyone whistling happily after I finished a dance with it!

MARILYN MONROE: I Wanna Be Loved By You (UA UP 35601) Easy.

LOU CHRISTIE: Beyond The Blue Horizon (CTI CTS 4002) Easy.

NINO TEMPO & 5TH AVE. SAX: Sister James (A&M AMS 7089) Funk.

DAVID ESSEX: Lamplight (CBS 1902)
Dr. John meets Leon Russell’s “Tight Rope”! Pop.

THE PEPPERS: Pepper Box (Spark SRL 1100)
Moog instrumental Continental hit, Pop.

2 thoughts on “November 3, 1973: Johnnie Taylor, Latimore, The Dramatics, Tavares, The Persuaders”

  1. A genre known as Street Funk? The “Parrty” dance craze that’s sweeping the nation? This is all news to me! … First mentions this week for Tavares and KC & The Sunshine Band (who were smart enough to swiftly junk the “Junkanoo”) … James’s copy of The Incredible Bongo Band’s fantastic double-sider is still in great shape, and I play both sides out from time to time, “Bongolia” having benefited from recent exposure on the Baby Driver soundtrack … and I’ve also got all of those Stax maxi reissues, which have proved very useful … It’s a bafflingly harsh review for the wonderful “Yes We Can Can”, but James does sometimes come down hard on much-loved acts, most notably Bill Withers (he LOATHED “Lean On Me”) and Roberta Flack … Then again, while much of the rest of the music press were showering the recently-launched Capital Radio with praise for the perceived hipness of its playlist, James rightly identifies and slams the growing penchant for West Coast AOR blandness (a few years later, John Peel would dub this “picnicking in Frampton-land”) … and finally, I find it hilarious that James seemingly has no idea that “Jehosophat And Jones”, far from being American, are actually a Two Ronnies spoof!

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  2. Big Jim Jehosaphat & Fatbelly Jones! A Two Ronnies classic! One of my fave routines of theirs, they also blacked up as a Supremes spoof & Kid Creole- Kid Coal Hole & the Monkey Nuts both of which are no longer broadcast for obvious reasons! All the disco records are now bubbling to the surface and the disco years are about to explode! Harsh review for the Pointer Sisters! Diana & Marvin eventually managed to score a hit as a duo- 3rd time lucky… Marvin’s chart career was stone cold in the UK at this point as was the Jackson 5’s. As usual you would struggle to hear most of these releases on BBC Radio 1 which had a shocking playlist policy throughout the 70s- very much anti American and def a preference for white pop/rock acts.

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