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!

RICK DERRINGER: Rock And Roll, Hoochie Koo (Blue Sky ZS7 2751).
Ma man of the moment! Although he’s got a different release out here (see “Singles–American” elsewhere), Rick’s hitting Stateside with this aggressively searing and rumbling reading of the hard rock tune he originally wrote for and did with Albino Johnny Winter. My, but he IS good! A guitar wizard, a true star!

SAM DEES: So Tied Up; Signed Miss Heroin (Atlantic 45-2991).
My favourite Soul sound of the moment, penned and produced by Sam himself at Birmingham, Alabama, this sadly slowly moving R&B hit (number 63 this week) couples an absolutely exquisite emotionally-sung lushly-arranged (by Ronnie Harris) pleading slowie with an equally well-conceived message slowie along the lines of Mister James Brown’s “King Heroin”. The guy can sing his heart out, the musicianship is great . . . what more do you need? Well, a woman or a man would help complete the plan – hallelujah!


American Singles

Pick of the week

BUDDY HOLLY: It Doesn’t Matter Anymore; True Love Ways; Brown Eyed Handsome Man (MCA 199).
Is it really fifteen years? How horribly old I suddenly feel! Joking aside, this maxi trio of the late Buddy’s posthumous 1959 smash Paul Anka-penned “whoops-a-daisy” piddly-patterer, his own strings and sax-backed tender slowie, and the Chuck Berry rocker that was his 1963 swan song (or was it?), marks the anniversary of the untimely death of the Dylan of his generation. Apart from the sound’s disturbingly swimmy re-mix, it’s a fitting memorial . . . but wouldn’t “That’ll Be The Day” have been an even better bet right now? PICK OF THE WEEK.

ISAAC HAYES: Joy (Pts 1 & 2) (Stax 2025220).
Currently losing ground to Barry White, who does the same thing but more so, ole big bum is fighting back with a return to the more blatantly erotic elements of his old intimate style. Much edited down from the title track of his new LP, this snikkety cymbal slowie is beautifully arranged but possibly (and this is sad) too close to the now more fashionable Shaftovani music of White to arouse other than specialist interest. As I used to say back in the days of “Walk On By”, do hear the album instead . . . especially if you’re into heavy breathing! MUSIC PICK.

JR. WALKER & THE ALL STARS: Don’t Blame The Children; Soul Clappin’ (Tamla Motown TMG 889).
Two US A-sides of recent years back-to-back, with on top a fairly routine stuttering sax, chanting chix and raucous vocal thumper, and flipside a grittier hunky-funky extra-fast instrumental for energetic 100 mph dancers. At least, I think these were A-sides.

DAVID ELLIOTT: Railway Line; Key West (Atlantic K 10366).
Fifteen years ago this guy would have been, after the fashion of the day, singing some puerile ‘teen ballad to “Jo-Ann”, “Cindy-Lou” or “Mary-Jane”: today he’s singing the modern equivalent, a real L-A-I-D back ever-so wistful Marin County Cowboy’s sugar-sweet nasal dirge. Both fashions are as contrived as hell, but I’ll still buy the former.

CURTIS KNIGHT ZEUS: The Devil Made Me Do It; Oh Rainbow (Dawn DNS 1049).
For once without Jimi Hendrix, Mr. Knight on his own manages to combine funk and freakout in a satisfyingly “black” way which should endear him more to R&B fans, even if the flip is a bit Buddy Miles-ish.

THE INDEPENDENTS: It’s All Over; Sara Lee (Pye 7N 25634).
More sexy slow Sweet Soul from this much-admired group, whose ever-growing stature was added to by this recent US R&B smash.

RICK DERRINGER: Teenage Love Affair; Joy Ride (Epic EPC 1984).
With a classic catalogue number, the ex-MCoy/Johnny Winter-backer debuts on a raunchy rhythm rocker that finds him vocally somewhat in the Sweet style . . . but like the Sweet with “class”, y’know? The class comes mainly from the great pounding guitar, bass and drums-created dynamic drive, which makes this very high quality Pop indeed. Breakneck instrumental flip. Yeah, this guy’s goo-ood! POP PICK.

FOUR TOPS: I Just Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind; Am I My Brother’s Keeper (Probe PRO 612).
Two more from “Main Street People”, and again both have that successful pseudo-Philly Sound. Hmmm . . . in fact, this is Tommy Vance’s pick to click, and as the words – unremarkable in themselves – do indeed appear to be very easily assimilated, he’s likely to be proved right. POP PICK.

CARPENTERS: Jambalaya (On The Bayou); Mr. Guder (A&M AMS 7098).
I can’t say that I subscribe to the current seemingly universal acclaim for everything Carpenter, although I’m still kinda keen on “Close To You”. Here, on a coupla old album trax, Karen is close to her sound then on the slightly clever-clever flip, but hasn’t enough fire in her belly to put across the Hank Williams topside with the sort of hell-raising authority which it deserves. Still, despite the wishy-washiness, it’s in the “Top Of The World” groove and her fans’ll love it. MoR PICK.

ELEPHANTS MEMORY: Tonight; Going To A Party (Polydor 20584282).
Everyone seems to have forgotten that, with an admittedly different line-up, this group had a past before they met John Lennon and became a “people’s band”. I for one remember and dig their five years old “Crossroads Of The Stepping Stones”, which probably makes me the jumbo of their name! I also dig this new sax-y chanted chugger, which has a pleasingly simple melody and an almost Cajun feel, and its equally good Fats Domino-ish flip.

GARFUNKEL: I Shall Sing; Feuilles-Oh/Do Space Men Pass Dead Souls On Their Way To The Moon (CBS 2013).
“Our Art”, as members of his family know him, here sounds carefree and gay on that delightfully skippy little ditty with the vaguely West Indian lilt and infectious bounce from his “Angel Clare” album. Flipside, to a toon by Johnny Bach, he sings in French and English an answer to the second-most-posed question about America’s brave lunarnauts. Please make the top a hit. POP PICK.

THE 5TH DIMENSION: (Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All; The River Witch (Bell 1223).
Almost a hit when first out two years ago, this catchy Tony Macaulay-penned slowie is still pretty enough to hit here now . . . even if it does sound a bit like a reject from “Hair” or “JC, My Buddy”. The flip is a ponderous BS&T-ish plodder theatrically sung by one of the guys in the group. MoR PICK.

NEIL DIAMOND: He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother; Chelsea Morning (MCA 103).
I’d better be nice about this or else some enraged female Diamond freak will ring me up again and spend another fruitless half-hour trying to convert me! Actually, three years ago at the time that his version of the Hollies’ hit came out in America (but not here), I still thought Neil was OK and even used to play it in preference to the Hollies. On Joni Mitchell’s flip, however, the delusions of adequacy show through more strongly. And miaow to you! MoR PICK.

GREGG ALLMAN: Midnight Rider; Multi-Coloured Lady (Capricorn K 17516).
Will he, won’t he, will he leave the group? Whatever, the late Duane’s brother Gregg has put out a nicely “Laid Back” solo LP from whence comes this lazy meanderer, sweetened by subliminal strings and brass and its more formally structured (and to my mind, less interesting) slow flip. “Rider” is in the J.J. Cale bag, with quietly yowling guitars, mournful vocal, mellow piano . . . you can almost hear the hound dogs calling! Allman’s alright. MUSIC PICK.

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