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!
JAMES BROWN: Stoned To The Bone; Sexy, Sexy, Sexy (Polydor 2066411)
. . . and abaht bleedin’ time we got “Sexy, Sexy, Sexy”, an’ all! One of Mister Brown’s most commercial (for Britain) and straightforward, yet ultra-funkily driving dancers, it’s here hidden away as the flip to “Part 1” of JB’s current huge US hit, a much more trickily funky burbler for our black bro’s to get down to. Ooh! R&B PICK.
ANNE MURRAY: Send A Little Love My Way; A Love Song (Capitol CL 15774).
Well, at last it’s out here – the lovely old fashioned little ditty from “Oklahoma Crude” – but only after composer Henry Mancini’s own version, and only as the official B-side to the more mundane Loggins & Messina “Love Song”. The latter is pleasant enough, in the Carpenters Sing Country style that seems set to typify MoR ’74, yet I’m still rooting for the flip! EASY PICK.
BOB DYLAN: A Fool Such As I; Lily Of The West (CBS 2006).
While the World waits with bated breath for Bobby’s new Island LP, CBS give us a Bryan Ferry-type compilation of Dylan Digs Oldies – the best of which, by repute, is this chunky rocked-up reading of the gentle old Hank Snow C&W hit which Elvis took to later and greater fame. Dylan always did want to be another Presley, and may play Las Vegas yet! POP PICK.
RAY GODFREY: Candy Clown; (Ooh Baby) I Want To Be Your Only Love (Mercury 6008003).
Picked up from Spring when Polydor poo-pooed It, this artlessly performed bang-banger (slightly re-jigged for Britain) is one of those “You’re Ready Now” high-pitched monotonous clompers which are so popular Up North. What with its backing-track-type instrumental flip by the Rae Fords, could Ray in fact be producer Raeford Gerald, of Joe Simon fame? Expect “Love On A Mountain Top” reaction. POP PICK.
LOGGINS & MESSINA: My Music; A Love Song (CBS 1888).
With their delicate original of Anne Murray’s newie on the flip, here the dynamic duo (kings of American radio) do their easy-rockin’ impersonation of Van Morrison impersonating Paul Simon singing a Rock ‘n Roll version of “Me And Julio”. And the result is indeed great for all radio formats! MUSIC PICK.
SUPREMES: I Guess I’ll Miss The Man; Over And Over (Tamla Motown TMG 884).
Singing a dull dirge/delightful ditty (delete according to taste) from the Motown- financed “Pippin” show, which has already closed In London despite Broadway success, here’s Jean Terrell and goodness knows who else. As their line-up crumbles, the act known as “The Supremes” need better than this to maintain our interest.
JUDY CHEEKS: Endlessly; Rockin’ Blues (UA UP 35612).
Protege of Ike Turner and daughter (I guess) of preacher Julius Cheeks, 19-year-old Judy emotes the Brook Benton oldie in competition with Ike’s distractingly sub-Spector backing and sadly loses. At least we get to hear the famous Turner guitar for a change . . . and to a fault! The flipside blues is an altogether happier mixture of the two, and of specialist interest.
CHER: Dark Lady; Two People Clinging To A Thread (MCA 101).
First single with the new EMI-distributed and American-designed rainbow-on-black label, Cher’s latest finds her back in “Bang Bang” territory – very much so, complete with gypsy fiddle and stamping “bang bang” feet. If familiarity, similarity and the passage of time combine right, she could have a hit hit. Carry on, Cossack!
BRENDA & THE TABULATIONS: Walk On In; I’m In Love (Epic EPC 1997).
As Epic report consistently and surprisingly (for Britain) good sales, almost reaching hit proportions on past occasions, for Brenda Payton and her Philadelphia fillies, there must be some chance that they’ll break through with this backbeat-emphasized shrill reading of the Carole King thumper. Trouble is, producer Van McCoy (who has a large faithful following) has been completely replaced by Gilda Woods, and the record ain’t as good as usual.
“KNEW IT,” so says our DJ and American singles reviewer James Hamilton, “they should have made number one last week with their fantastic disco single.” Yep, MUD HAVE MADE IT – their FIRST number one hit. It took them seven years before they broke BIG in ’73 and now they’re riding on the crest of a mighty wave. Les Gray, lead singer; Dave Mount, drummer; Rob Davis, lead guitarist and Ray Stiles, bass guitar and flute are a fine bunch. James Hamilton says: “I love their stage act” and having seen them down in Penzance in ordinary club surroundings I would add, “they work darn hard.” – Tony Jasper