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.
NATURAL FOUR: Can This Be Real (Curtom CR 1990).
Produced & co-penned by Leroy Hutson, the occasional Impression, this cool Soul Vocal Group slowie has been around for several months and is now finally breaking through as big as its cleverly arranged lazy undertow and bitingly sharp vocalese have always warranted it should. With some lovely languid brass before and after the dreamily swaying body of the plopping backing, and those soulful, soulful voices, it’s a guaranteed gem of its genre!
DIANA ROSS: Last Time I Saw Him (Motown M 1278F).
The title track of her new American LP, and doubtless due out here after “All Of My Life” (unissued in America), Diana’s newie has her sounding like the Lulu Lawrie of old . . . but with rather less Soul than Lulu, if anything. It’s a pure Pop comes-and-goes slow thumper with gay banjos and razzamatazz brass band noises mixed down into the bright but ploddingly pedestrian backing, which ends up by smacking somewhat of Dawn’s rag-rock approach too, while the Divine Di even graduates from Lulu to a vaudevillian Fanny Brice / Mae West declamatory ending. While all this has every sort of “crossover potential” for MoR / Pop audiences, Soul fans may be surprised at the authenticity of her flipside reading of Marvin Gaye’s “Save The Children” . . . it’s more of an eye-opener than the equally versatile topside, in fact.
NEIL SEDAKA: A Little Lovin’; Lightning Ridge (Polydor 2058434).
“A little lovin’ goes a long, long way” is the message knocked out by Neil to a real rockin’ backing, laid down by the Section on this power-packed reminder of the chubby one’s Rock ‘n Roll roots. This should join Roy Wood’s re-creations in the Charts, no sweat. Whooo!! Carole King-type slow flip. PICK OF THE WEEK.
ARETHA FRANKLIN: Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do); If You Don’t Think (Atlantic K 10399).
Helped no end by its well-tried “I’m gonna knock on your door, tap on your window pane” formula, this delightfully arranged little trip-along slow swayer finds Aretha in a far Poppier mood than usual, and is yet another of the many hit-worthy singles this week. Dead slow delicate flip. MoR/R&B PICK.
CHERRIE VANGELDER SMITH: Goodbye Guitarman; A Day Will Come (Atlantic K 10331).
Forget all other pretenders – here comes Suzi Quatro Number 2!! Singing, to a great thumpalong disco beat, the sad story of a chiclet balled and bereft by a superstar on the make, she sounds just as strong as Suzi’s current re-vamp of “A Night At Daddy Gee’s”. Melanie-esque slow flip. (Of Belgian/Dutch origin, I suspect). POP PICK.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END: Funky Nassau (Pts 1 & 2) (Atlantic K 10021).
A disco classic for the last two years, despite it’s just missing the Charts the first time out, here’s that compulsively sunny dancer yet again – and with an excellent chance now of lightening our mid-winter gloom. My travelling friends report that Nassau, hone of the rich, is still far from funky . . . so cheer up! R&B PICK.
THE STAPLE SINGERS: Respect Yourself; You’re Gonna Make Me Cry (Stax 2025068).
Out again to greet them here in place of their current rather tedious “If You’re Ready” US hit, this influential 1971 disco classic – a gradually accelerating intensely-sung chunky funker – might just do as well as its successor (“I’ll Take You There”) did. Hope so. R&B PICK.
AL WILSON: Show And Tell; Listen To Me (Bell 1330).
I closed my original review of this Johnny Mathis sings Philly-type lazy semi-slowie with the words, “The sounds like a hit” . . . and indeed it still does, for having in the interim topped the US Charts it’s out again. Oh, and in fact Johnny Mathis DID record it too, just before Al!! Noisy beat flip. R&B/POP/MoR PICK.
BARBRA STREISAND: The Way We Were; What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life? (CBS 1915).
From the smash American flick of the same name co-starring Barbie and Bobby Redford (and about which I know nothing), this dead – but DEAD – slow meandering theme song is poised to top the US Charts. If “Solitaire” can do It, then maybe this will break through here too eventually. Older but similar flip. Beautifully sung but bloody boring. EASY PICK.
KEVIN JOHNSON: Rock ‘N Roll (I Gave You The Best Years Of My Life); There’s Nothing I’d Rather Do (Mainstream MSS 304).
We-ell . . . not Rock ‘n Roll maybe, but certainly Aussie-recorded Kev seems to have given ’em to ’60s group Pop, even if he does sing about all in a Mac Davis/Bobby Goldsboro groaning comes-&-goes style, that surely owes much of its inspiration also to Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away”. Like a comprehensible “American Pie”, this tells an interesting enough auto-biographical story to sneak up on Britain and hit big. Perry Como sings Country-type slow flip. MoR/POP PICK.
DON COVAY: Bad Mouthing; I Was Checkin’ Out, She Was Checkin’ In (Mercury 6052388).
Good though this beaty Soul squawker is, with a piano line like Allen Toussaint’s on Benny Spellman’s oldies, all Soul Freaks will be getting it for the dead slow bitter-sweet US smash flip. How Don found out the hard way who was makin’ love with his old lady, while he was out makin’ love. Better yet, they’ll be getting both on the “Super Dude” album, which is a must. SOUL PICK.
WAR: Me And Baby Brother; In Your Eyes (UA UP 35623).
When Dave Simmonds played this great Parrty-beat funky chanter on the radio last year, it – to my surprise – got my mother doing a fine ‘n fancy hipshake around the kitchen table and yelling “Now this is real African”!! Well, although admittedly she did spend some of her youth in Angola, if my mum can be hit like that, this MUST have Pop appeal!! Melodic Moog-spiced inventive flip, excellent too. R&B PICK.
THE DRIFTERS: I’m Free (For The Rest Of Your Life); Say Goodbye To Angelina (Bell 1339).
With New York arranger Bert de Coteaux creating an authentic setting for their latest Cookaway ballad, the Drifters drone away with telling effect, on a title that to my mind implies a threat. Gay Dawn-type flip (older fans will understand!!). SOUL/POP PICK.
THE WHISPERS: A Mother For My Children; What More Can A Girl Ask For? (Janus 6146023).
How about FATHER for her children (read the titles!!) Anyway, out fast enough to curb import sales, this currently climbing R&B hit Philly Sound mid-tempo dancer has an imaginatively arranged achingly-sung slow flipside beauty, too, and was produced by Messrs. Sigler, Baker, Harris & Young for Gamble-Huff Productions, Inc. Good enough pedigree for ya, huh!!? Watch ‘em wail hit-wards. R&B PICK.
THE DOOBIE BROTHERS: Listen To The Music; Toulouse Street (Warner Bros K 16208).
In town tonight, the Bros say nothing on this, their re-issued first US hit, that was not stated in a similarly simple jittery-rhythm singalong style by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition on the earlier “Heed The Call”. Why no re-issue of their incredibly punchy “Long Train Runnin’” instead? For all that, I hope it breaks them through here. Gentle album title track flip. POP PICK.
PHILLIP MITCHELL: Ain’t No Love In My Life; Turning Over The Ground (London HLU 10444).
As acrobatic vocally as he proved himself physically on Al Green’s first visit here, Phil’s now producing himself for Al’s Hi label, tenderly wailing and crooning this oddly bubbling and thwacking slowie, with a sense of style that only betrays outside influence on the slightly more Green/Redding flip. SOUL PICK.
PAUL WILLIAMS: Inspiration; What Would They Say (A&M AMS 7095).
“Doing his Harry Nilsson impersonation”, to quote Kenny Everett on Capital Radio’s unbeatable breakfast-time “Kenny & Cash Show” – and indeed that’s how Paul sounds on this delightfully campy (and beautifully arranged) ragtime-y romper, full of woozy slurring and fruity brass. EASY PICK.
One thought on “February 2, 1974: Jim Stafford, Tom T. Hall, Lamont Dozier, Natural Four, Diana Ross”
So many releases this week that would go on to become classics. I live the understated review of Barbra Sreisand’s Way We Were whicj has gone on to become a real pop standard recorded hundreds of times and a staple of so many TV variety shows!