January 26, 1974: Byron MacGregor, Harry Chapin, Love Unlimited Orchestra, James Brown, Anne Murray

Stateside newies

BYRON MacGREGOR: Americans (Westbound W 222).
Occasionally, but with merciful infrequency, America’s “Silent Majority” latch onto some stirringly patriotic single which echoes or amplifies their own sentiments. In 1974, their growing belief in an isolationist policy for America has been fired and fuelled (with, I fear, regrettable results for us) by the editorializing words of a Canadian radio station owner, GORDON SINCLAIR (owner of Toronto’s CFRG-AM), a Canadian who thinks it’s time to speak up for the Americans’ unappreciated generosity to other nations. Looking back as far as the San Francisco earthquake and naming, amongst others, Britain as not having paid off even the interest on its remaining debts to the US, Sinclair has come up with examples such as these to present a biased tally on which he scores off America’s record of foreign aid and supposedly superior engineering technology against the World’s alleged ingratitude and – especially – its lack of reciprocal aid after America’s own natural and economic disasters.

First broadcast, then televised and now recorded, this outsider’s call for America to go it alone has been answered, not only by congratulatory letters from over ten thousand thankful Americans (John Wayne included), but also by at least two cover versions of Sinclair’s original rather sombre single (Avco 4628). The late TEX RITTER’s posthumously-released version (Capitol P 3814) is so far very much the also-ran in comparison with both Sinclair’s and the actual runaway best-selling version by BYRON MacGREGOR. Like Sinclair, MacGregor is also a Canadian broadcaster, being the news director of Windsor’s CKLW-AM/FM – and Windsor being just across the river (and border) from Detroit, is, like Toronto, within radio reach of many Americans. (Its position also helps to explain MacGregor’s perhaps unexpected appearance on the usually R&B-inclined but Detroit-based Westbound label).

Now, despite this big build-up, do not expect the actual record to be anything more than a curiosity: to begin with, it is a recitation, read in an irritatingly grating declamatory yet deadpan “radio” voice to an ever-grinding background of “America The Beautiful”. Some of the phraseology is indeed unintentionally amusing – “I was there, I saw it,” in particular, combines with the overall tone to be devastatingly reminiscent of Wink Martindale’s “Deck Of Cards” (which of course Tex Ritter also recorded) – but ultimately the naïve argument (basically sound though it may be) and its inflammatory style of presentation makes this a dangerously political record, of no musical interest and with no Pop appeal for this country.

Phonogram Records who handle both Westbound and Avco here and thus have the rights to both hit versions, are in a potentially embarrassing position yet to date have no immediate plans for the release of either. In fact, until and if Phonogram can scrape together enough precious polyvinyl to press the few thousand copies that they hope to be able to sell here of whichever becomes the biggest hit in America (a diplomatic way of saying MacGregor’s), the best way for curious South-Easterners to hear “Americans” is to tune in at two o’clock on Saturday afternoon to Tim Rice’s excellent US Hot 100 programme on Capital Radio – a programme to which all readers of this column should listen in any case. To quote the record, “Come on! Let’s hear it!”

HARRY CHAPIN: WOLD (Elektra EK 45874).
To stay with radio and broadcasters, this imaginatively-arranged and written slowie (the best yet from Chapin) is the bravely-smiling story of the aging “morning dee-jay at WOLD-D-D-d-d-d . . .”, who’s “feeling old at 45 going on 15” and having to wear a toupee and watch his voice, which drinking seems to age. As every single detail of the story appears to ring so true, it must have been written from close personal experience of disc-jockeys just like the one described . . . of which, in fact, there are a great many! Thoroughly recommended to all American and/or radio freax . . . and brave dee-jays!

American Singles

LOVE UNLIMITED ORCHESTRA: Love’s Theme; Sweet Moments (Pye 7N 25635).
Here it is, that gloriously glutinous sickly sweet instrumental smash from America which has been played non-stop in discos and on radio since before Xmas! Swirling squeaky strings, snickety cymbals and an undertow of wukka-wukka wah-wah make this a cloying joy to the ears.

Mention must be made in the same breath too of the similar vocal smash by the man responsible for both – BARRY WHITE: Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up; Standing In The Shadows Of Love (Pye 7N 25633). Virtually the same me thing but with Isaac Hayes-style singing and heavy breathing, it is bound to join the “Theme” in our Charts and give Barry a double-headed success as in America. Oh, and the poor neglected girls from Love Unlimited even get a look in on the Four Tops flip! Continue reading “January 26, 1974: Byron MacGregor, Harry Chapin, Love Unlimited Orchestra, James Brown, Anne Murray”

January 19, 1974: Moments, Eddie Kendricks, Wilson Pickett, Kool And The Gang, Maceo & The Macks

Stateside newies

MOMENTS: Sexy Mama (Stang ST 5052).
Now these are ma MEN, ma MAIN men! The super-sexy sweet-singing Moments are simply STOMPING up the Charts, both Pop and R&B, with this exquisite slow squeaky lover’s lullaby, which combines the recent amorous approach of the co-penning/producing Sylvia and the current sexuality of Marvin Gaye . . . ooohh, err, mmmm, YEAH! Music to grope by! Hey mama, let’s get it on . . .

EDDIE KENDRICKS: Boogie Down (Tamla T54243F),

WILSON PICKETT: Soft Soul Boogie Woogie (RCA ABPO-0174),

KOOL AND THE GANG: Jungle Boogie (De-Lite DEP 559).

After its modish misuse by white musicians, the term “Boogie” has now reverted to the actual musical style’s originators – except that the new black application of the term is just as inaccurate. Far from being steaming boogie-woogie or get-it-on blues, Eddie’s brand-new hit is merely another coolly sung dry pulsator in the “Keep On Truckin’” mould, while the Wicked Pickett’s newie belies its intriguing title by being no more than another (albeit bouncier than usual) of his “goodgod, yawll” dancers. Kool And The Gang use the term in the most spirited way on their latest (and greatest?) “Parrty” hit, which offsets a “get down, get down” chant with a gruffly gobbling caveman voice that’s been lifted straight from that early example of the genre, the Jimmy Castor Bunch’s “Troglodyte”.

Meanwhile, via his latest creation for MACEO AND THE MACKS (People PE 631), Mister James Brown is content to call their honking, snorting, thumping and clapping instrumental Parrty piece by a Boogie-less “Soul Power ‘74” (“Part II” of which ends with some of Martin Luther King’s “I have been to the mountain top”). Call it what you will, but don’t forget to parrty! Continue reading “January 19, 1974: Moments, Eddie Kendricks, Wilson Pickett, Kool And The Gang, Maceo & The Macks”

January 12, 1974: Jim Croce, Merle Haggard, Joni Mitchell, Barry White, Bobby “Blue” Bland

Stateside newies

JIM CROCE: Time In A Bottle (ABC 11405).
Famed American radio programming and chart tipster Kal Rudman predicted, before it was even issued as a single, that this album-culled acoustic guitar roundelay would be one of the all-time Christmas hits – and, blow me, if the genius wasn’t right slap bang on the nail with the record reaching number one (where it stays still) exactly on Christmas week! The wistfully worded and sung spiralling slow tinkler is not at all Christmassy, in fact, but it has helped to kindle a massive interest in the tragically killed (in an aeroplane crash) 30-year-old Croce, who is now posthumously enjoying a Buddy Holly scaled vogue, with three albums up near the top of the chart too. It is a great shame that so few people in Britain latched on to his previous excellent US number ones, the jolly “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” and “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”. Maybe there’s hope now?

MERLE HAGGARD: If We Make It Through December (Capitol 3746).
The big Christmas hit at number one in the Country Chart, Merle’s self-penned song of hope is a gaily lilting “pom, te-pom, te-pom” jogalong bouncer that’s full of nasally-sung Easy Listening appeal. What with its story of factory lay-offs and biting cold, it would have been a good release here last month (or, with a slight re-write, right now!).

JONI MITCHELL: Raised On Robbery (Asylum AS 11029).
Now here’s one that really should be called “Raised On Rock”! Amazingly, winsome Joni has come up with a sputtering snarling angrily-backed modern rocker, the power of which not even her dulcet tones can diminish. One of the gases of the week! Continue reading “January 12, 1974: Jim Croce, Merle Haggard, Joni Mitchell, Barry White, Bobby “Blue” Bland”