February 23, 1974: Jimmy Osmond, Sister Janet Mead, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Inez Foxx, The Staple Singers.

Stateside newies

JIMMY OSMOND: Give Me A Good Old Mammy Song; I’m Gonna Knock On Your Door (MGM K 14687 – that’s in America only, so far).
“Hey mums and dads, kids and grads, gather roun’ – ‘cos Jimmy’s BACK . . . in YO’ town!” Yeah, what all those frantic American dee-jays would have been shouting in the good old days: trouble is, they’re all long gone, as is the vulgar kind of music that fitted their format. Hence the Osmonds, Cassidy, Cooper, and all our home-grown noisy Popsters do better here, where Boss Radio reigns, than in the cooled-out States. Admittedly, Little Jimmy O’s “Long Haired Lover From Liverpool” was a medium-sized hitlet in America a great many months before it broke through here, but since then he’s done nothing here. In fact, his Neil Reid-covering “Mother Of Mine” B-side was the original plug-side then, and right now his newie (due out here soon) is the other way up in America, where it is obviously hoped that the Levine & Brown-penned “Mammy Song” will echo that team’s success with Dawn (who, as it certainly sounds, possibly have already recorded this). Just as I dug “Liverpool” originally, I must confess to enjoying this frantic banjo-jangling romp, complete with an Al Jolson-aping sincere recitation insert! Anyway, the British A-side is going to be Jimmy’s similar to the original version of little (at that time) Eddie Hodges’ 1961 US hit, penned by leading Presley hit-mongers of the era, publisher Aaron Schroeder & Sid Wayne, who used that same “I’m gonna knock on your door, ring on your bell, tap on your window too” set of words that have taken Aretha Franklin into our Chart right now. The song’s a gimmicky chugger (less power-packed and noisy than the consequently still stronger Hodges cut) which doubtless will be gracing our airwaves for months to come. Over and out!

SISTER JANET MEAD (SISTER OF MERCY): The Lord’s Prayer (A&M 1491, due out here imminently on A&M AMS 7103).
Gawd strewth . . . following in the footsteps of those other great Australian songbirds, Helen Reddy and Olivia Newton John (let alone – and very applicable here – Judith Durham), and in the noble tradition of such overnight classics as “The Americans”, “Ballad Of The Green Berets” and “My Old Man’s A Dustman”, here’s – hold it, quit shovin’! – an Aussie nun – get in line there! – singing ever so sweetly to a buzzing and rumbling jog-beat Rock backing a generation-bridging – hey, let that cripple through there! – version of “The Lord’s Prayer (Our Father)” – have money ready! – which has already sold over two million copies in the last ten minutes. Say, did you ever know that it was penned by one Arnold Strals? And published by Rondor Music? Oh well, maybe they’re gonna give their royalties to the Australian flood victims, or somethin’ like that.

GLADYS KNIGHT AND THE PIPS: Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me (Buddah BDA 403).
Briefly back to sanity! Also hitting for Soul Vocal Group the Persuaders, this Jim Weatherly-penned slowie is the number that I was exhorting easy-listening readers to buy when out here by Country crooner Ray Price a few months back. Our Glad does it lovely, too, in a cryingly Soulful voice over thumping and twanging backing and subdued sing-along Pips. Continue reading “February 23, 1974: Jimmy Osmond, Sister Janet Mead, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Inez Foxx, The Staple Singers.”

February 16, 1974: Dickie Goodman, Spinners, Black Heat, Fred Wesley & The J.B.’s, Cooker

Stateside newies

DICKIE GOODMAN: Energy Crisis ’74 (Rainy Wednesday RW 206).
The latest pastiche from the man who brought you “Flying Saucer” in ’56 and “Super Fly Meets Shaft” in ’73 is this typical mixture of “radio interviewer” questions and pertinent answers snipped from actual Pop hits of the moment. Thus the President is heard to answer questions concerning the current energy crisis in the voices of Helen Reddy, Brownsville Station, Stevie Wonder (very clever that one: “How much gas will motorists be allowed?” – “Just enough for the city”), Wings, and John Lennon. Other participants are Steve Miller, Elton John, Todd Rundgren, Ringo Starr, Charlie Rich, and the Carpenters. As the President (Helen Reddy) keeps saying when asked for a statement, “Leave me alone, leave me alone”!

SPINNERS: Mighty Love, Parts 1 & 2 (Atlantic 45-3006).
As by now you should have come to expect, the Spinners (Detroit variety) are yet again arranged / conducted / produced / created and toilet trained by Thom Bell . . . who, to my mind, is losing his touch, or else just becoming too predictable by half in his approach. There is nothing in this yelpingly-sung matt drums-propelled cooing chugger to warrant its being spread over two sides of a single. It sounds as if Thom and the lead singer (the rest seem to have been replaced by girls again) have been listening hard to Al Green and then applying what they’ve learnt to a Philly framework.

BLACK HEAT: No Time To Burn (Atlantic 45-2987).
Best R&B record of the week, produced by Joel Dorn and arranged by the group themselves, this slow burner of a hunky-chunky funker is full of searing synthesizer phasing, a rattling and booming ambiguous rhythm pattern, chanting back-up singing and a keening hollered and strained lead vocal line intertwined amidst all the other choppy noises. If you hadn’t guessed from my tortuous verbiage, I kinda like it! Continue reading “February 16, 1974: Dickie Goodman, Spinners, Black Heat, Fred Wesley & The J.B.’s, Cooker”

February 9, 1974: Gordon Sinclair, Terry Jacks, DeFranco Family, Rick Derringer, Sam Dees

Stateside newies

GORDON SINCLAIR: The Americans (A Canadian’s Opinion) (Avco AV 4628).
After going into great detail a couple of weeks ago about this Canadian’s “go it alone” call to Americans, and especially about Byron MacGregor’s best selling of the three hit versions (the other is by Tex Ritter), I now have heard properly this, the actual original version by the aged veteran Canadian broadcaster, television performer and political commentator who wrote and read his editorializing words over his own influential Toronto radio station CFRB on June 5th last year . . . and I must say that I prefer it. Instead of the deadpan radio announcer’s delivery of MacGregor, Sinclair speaks as if he really means and believes what he is saying, making in the process his politically potent opinions and observations far more palatable. When he says “And I was there – I saw that”, he sounds for real, unlike MacGregor, who only sounds risibly like Wink Martindale. Unlike the MacGregor version’s backing of “America The Beautiful”, Sinclair is supported on his reading by “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic” (and, at 4:40, takes nearly a minute longer to say the same words). As I reported before, Phonogram have the rights to both versions but do not so far plan to release either here. Having changed my mind slightly about their commercial appeal here, I now side with Capital Radio’s Tim Rice (who played a snatch of this very record on his US Hot 100 show last Saturday afternoon – all thanks to the RRM!), and think that, if label politics allow it, a back-to-back single of both versions would be viable. Anyway, look out for MacGregor, who’s now recorded “The British” and “God Save The Queen”! Really!

TERRY JACKS: Seasons In The Sun (Bell 52-432).
Another Canadian, Susan’s brother Terry of Poppy Family fame, is also leapfrogging up the US Hot 100 with this slowly chugging Pop treatment of a Rod McKuen-translated Jacques Brel song . . . in fact Terry, who arranged and produced himself (clever lad!), is moving so fast that Rod’s own rush-released reading has already been pipped at the post.

DeFRANCO FAMILY Featuring TONY DeFRANCO: Abra-Ca-Dabra (20th Century TC 2070).
In its first year of reactivation the Russ Regan-run 20th Century (Fox) label has chalked up nine golds (mainly due to Barry White) and one platinum award, the latter for this new ‘teen heart-throb’s singing family’s first hit, “Heartbeat – It’s A Lovebeat”. Little Tony’s newie, full of freaky synthetic effects, squeaky singing and choppy rhythms, is moving steadily enough to end up gold too, at least. Remember, the Osmonds took a surprisingly long time to take off here, so be warned! Incidentally, while on the topic, I’d just like to say how impressed I am by young Ricky Wilde’s current B-side, “Cassette Blues”. He’s like a mini Mick Jagger! Continue reading “February 9, 1974: Gordon Sinclair, Terry Jacks, DeFranco Family, Rick Derringer, Sam Dees”

February 2, 1974: Jim Stafford, Tom T. Hall, Lamont Dozier, Natural Four, Diana Ross

Stateside newies

JIM STAFFORD: Spiders & Snakes (MGM K 14648).
Jim’s previous US hit, “Swamp Witch” – and especially the flipside ageing Rocker’s geriatric “Nifty ‘Fifties Blues” lament – made me suspect that he could be an amusingly original talent, and now my suspicions are confirmed. His new Top Ten smash is a cheekily silly ditty, exaggeratedly enunciated in a chocolatey Country voice to a clucking wah-wah guitar, about a naïve schoolboy’s communication breakdown with the little town flirt . . . y’see, his idea of fun is to slip creepy crawlies down the front of her dress, while she has something else in mind! However, again it’s the flip which really brings home his sense of bizarre humour: it’s a banjo blues, with the odd equally exaggerated vocal that climaxes in the best blues tradition with these emotional words – “Came home the other night, talkin’ to you alone, and you told me he was a nudist . . . who came in to use the ‘phone, ooohh!” Like I said, he’s original and he’s amusing!

TOM T. HALL: I Love (Mercury 73436).
Hottest Country hit of the moment, getting Charlie Rich-type Pop attention, is Tom T.’s self-penned sugary slowie in the “Little Green Apples” / “Honey” mould. He loves little baby ducks, old pick-up trucks, slow moving trains, and rain . . . oh yes, and he loves yew tew. Being vocally more in the Jim Reeves style than in the modern Rich / Twitty sound, he’s even likely to hit here too. Er, sorry, I mean – “tew”.

LAMONT DOZIER: Trying To Hold On To My Woman (ABC 11407).
Lamont is indeed the Dozier from between the two Hollands, now split completely from his old partners and their Invictus label. Considering his past creative successes, it’s maybe surprising to find that his first solo smash is co-penned and produced by McKinley Jackson and not by Lamont himself . . . although this may of course be because of contractual obligations to his past publishers. Anyway, he should worry, as this lazily-lurching emotionally-chorded heart-tugging pure Soul slowie is not only a perfect vehicle for his agonized wailing but also a huge hit, both R&B and Pop. Continue reading “February 2, 1974: Jim Stafford, Tom T. Hall, Lamont Dozier, Natural Four, Diana Ross”