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!

JOHNNY MATHIS: Life Is A Song Worth Singing (Columbia 4-45975).
Having watched Al Wilson soar with “Show And Tell”, which he himself recorded not long before Al, Mister Mathis now seems determined to prove that his new work with maestro Thom Bell can indeed be called “R&B”. Strangely, though, his second Bell-made single is a drawn-out low-key pulsator with a flatulent arrangement that’s closer to Norman Whitfield’s Temptations style than to the Philly Sound.

In fact, the latter lot’s latest “1990” album-culled hit, THE TEMPTATIONS’ “Let Your Hair Down” (Gordy G 7133F), is the predictable result of an encounter between “Psychedelic Shack” and Timmy Thomas’s organ-attached Rhythm Box. Let’s get it off!

American Singles

ALICE COOPER: Teenage Lament ’74; Hard Hearted Alice (Warner Bros K 16345).
It’s good to find that, at least in the Gospel according to Alice, the traditional inarticulate teenage frustrations have remained unchanged during the last decade . . . but then, how long is it since Alice was a teenager too? In a more melodious mood than usual – in fact, sounding a bit like a slowed-down and prettied-up “Eighteen” – his first Chart assault of this new year truly deserves to become a Teenage Anthem ’74, and join the Rampage. Flipside, the Vamp of Crystal Palace is in a delicately then grittily building swooshing and wooshing ethereal groove.

JOHNNY NASH: Loving You; Gonna Open Up My Heart Again (CBS 1992).
Johnny hasn’t done much for me for years now, but at last, with a return to a more soulful style, he’s cut through so hard that this little burbling slowie has nagged its way into becoming one of my faves of the week! With incredible “wall of sound” synthetic guitar splurges and all sorts of instrumental tricks, it’s a pure delight. “That Lady” fans ought to dig, amongst others. MUSIC PICK.

SMOKEY ROBINSON: Just My Soul Responding; Sweet Harmony (Tamla Motown TMG 883).
Yes, this is that “Happy Birthday” introed track that’s been picking up so many radio plugs of late. With background support on gently pounding wardrums from Redskin group Xit, Smokey alternates his silky voice and the group’s chanting on an ambitious message slowie that he wrote with the Miracles’ long-time “other” member, guitarist Marv Tarplin. A distinctly unusual and catchy record which summons up all sorts of mental images as it unfolds, it’s an aural trip to be reckoned with, Chart-wise. The flip, a dead slow and delicate tribute to the Miracles, was Smokey’s first solo single after the split, in America. POP PICK.

MARVIN GAYE: Come Get To This; Distant Lover (Tamla Motown TMG 882).
Although “Let’s Get It On” did over the two (or was it three?) million mark in America, it practically bombed out completely here, where tastes are less subtle. Maybe this livelier though stylistically similar follow-up will do better, as it has several pluses going for it here: a good relaxed dance beat, some slippery Jr. Walker-style sax, and much more punch in the delivery. Marvin himself stays super-cool ‘n sensuous, natch, but with added bite to his jive. Hmmm, and the flipside luller seems designed with slow pokes in mind! R&B PICK.

THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND: Jessica; Come And Go Blues (Capricorn K 17517).
Judging from the number of requests for it, this joyous guitar instrumental from their “Brothers And Sisters” album must be the big one to put these superb musicians into our Charts. An adrenalin rush of soaring, leaping, beautifully meshing guitar lines and piano patterings, it’s about as good as you can get this side of heaven. The more mournful vocal flip is dedicated to my favourite reviewing phrase – except that it DOESN’T come and go! CHARGE OF THE WEEK.

AL GREEN: Livin’ For You; It Ain’t No Fun To Me (London HLU 10443),
Al and his producer, Willie Mitchell, let it be known that they were thinking of varying their approach for the British market when they were last here, yet the new single is the same as in America – and, this where it gets interesting, in America it is the slowest-selling Pop hit that Al has had! Admittedly, it’s been big R&B, but it hasn’t snared those all-important Pop buyers, yet. Indeed, why should it, for it presents the same mixture just as before, and before, and . . . That mixture’s nice and I love it, but now maybe Al and Willie will realize that a change has gotta come, sad though it may be for them. Grittier funk flip, possibly preferable here.

BOBBIE HOUSTON: I Want To Make It With You; (No flipside info available) (Action ACT 4622).
Produced by King Sporty, which looks Jamaican, this reading of the Bread oldie is pure one hundred per cent S-O-U-L, sung in a slightly Aretha Franklin-ish way by a chick who – make no mistakes – has a voice that’s all her own (and great with it). The backing is full of ultra-soulful chords, choppy rhythms and hollering femmes who provided a bumpy bed on which Bobbie bounces with traces of Claudine Clark, Esther Phillips and the aforementioned Aretha combined into a gut-tuggingly original approach. If only Action/B&C were giving reviewers B-side promo copies . . . I just gotta hear more of this girl! SOUL PICK.

DETROIT SPINNERS: Together We Can Make Such Sweet Music; Bad Bad Weather (Till You Come Home) (Tamla Motown TMG 871).
Originally due out (and reviewed) in September, this is the old Spinners track with substituted rhythm mixed in to give it that dully thumping modern Thom Bell sound. Thunder effects spice the churnalong flip.

NORTHERN J. CALLOWAY: Stop (If I’m Gonna Save Any Part Of My Love For You); Heart Of Stone (UA UP 35629).
Despite a clumsy title, this Horace Ott-arranged and co-produced jittery-rhythm slowie is a pleasant if muddled Pop-Soul ditty by a light-voiced bloke with girlie group support amongst the strings and horns. Bacharach could have done it better.

BROWNSVILLE STATION: Smokin’ In The Boys’ Room; Barefootin’ (Philips 6073834).
Last week I singled out for mention the genius of Kal Rudman for predicting America’s Christmas Chart-topper before it was even released (Jim Croce’s “Time In A Bottle”): this week I reckon that I myself deserve a pat on the back for my lengthy September review about this noisy rocker’s chances in the Teen Anthem stakes! The record has taken its time, but finally it’s up there poised to top the US Charts. Although much in the Alice Cooper style, the subject matter (or, at least, its terminology) is likely to hold it back here, unfortunately. Now, if Slade had done it . . . ! Robert Parker will never recognize the crashing guitar treatment of his flipside dancer! Despite my reservations, try these if you’re into noise and energy. POP PICK.

JONI MITCHELL: Raised On Robbery; Court And Spark (Asylum AYM 524).
Starting over synthetic keyboard rhythms like a bevy of Bette Midlers, multi-tracked Joni launches into a flighty yet distinctly earth-rooted raunch rocker that, to these ill-educated ears, is a refreshing change of style for the famous mistress of Folk. However, the wailing sax and pounding beat get discarded on the more predictable folksy flip. MUSIC PICK.

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