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!
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”