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 It sounds as if Thom and the lead singer (the rest seem to have been replaced by girls again) have been listening hard to Al Green and then applying what they’ve learnt to a Philly framework.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!

FRED WESLEY & THE J.B.’s: Same Beat – Parts 1, 2 & 3 (People PE 632).
“The J.B.’s . . . wow! Fantastic!” So intones with dry enthusiasm a “live” announcer’s voice that sounds like Danny Ray’s, and then on come the boys with another of Mister James Brown’s ace creations. It’s a straightforward “tinkety, bang” monotonous slow groover with guitar and rhythm to the fore over a doodling Brown organ and background chanted “I am somebody” sermon and a false fade finish (marking the start of “Part 3” – why do they do it?) long before the end of side two. ‘Tain’t nothing new, but devotees are gonna love it because it’s so reminiscent of Mister Brown’s great laid-back instrumental style circa 1965 on Smash.

COOKER: Try (Try To Fall In Love) (Scepter SCE 12388).
I’ve already been quoted on the radio as not liking this, so let me explain why. It’s a tinkling guitar and sawing strings-backed slowie, sung in an exaggerated voice that to my ears is as irritating at that of Dr. Hook, or Robin Gibb at his most self-indulgent. There is, however, no denying its ear-catching quality and Pop appeal . . . it’s just that those ears that it catches are going to be caught because they either love it or loathe it. I’m afraid that mine do the latter, as they always do with sort of noise. Still, it’s nice to see Scepter back with a hit on the Charts!


American Singles

Pick of the week

BOB DYLAN: On A Night Like This; Forever Young (Island WIP 6188).
How happy is this man? Having used “Folk” to find fame, the would-be Presley of his generation has been frustrated in his drive towards versatility by a combination of the public who made him and his own vocal limitations. This, the first single from his new label deal, finds him backed again by the Band, with whom he made his initial break away from the confines of “Folk”, and in a gaily bouncy groove: however, fine for fans though they be, neither it nor its mournful lurching flip contain any surprises other than a possibly renewed vigour. I personally prefer Ronnie Lane, but as it’s been so eagerly awaited this is obviously the headlining PICK OF THE WEEK.

TONY ORLANDO and DAWN: Who’s In The Strawberry Patch With Sally; Ukelele Man (Bell 1343).
Although from an album called “Dawn’s New Ragtime Follies”, this new Levine & Brown ditty is less Ragtime than 1920’s Razzamatazz . . . and I still can’t help fearing that it’s too authentically so to do all that well here. However, I have nothing but praise for it and hope I’m proved wrong. The less frantic flip is a paean to the performers of those days. MoR PICK.

BLACK OAK ARKANSAS: Jim Dandy; Red Hot Lovin’ (Atlantic K 10405).
Arkansas is pronounced “Arkinsaw”, if you didn’t know or have spent long winter nights poring over an atlas in search of a non-existent State! These lads from there make an energetic noise out of La Vern Baker’s 1957 hit, an amusing tale about a comic-cuts super-hero who’s always coming to the rescue, which followed her “Tweedlee Dee”. Still, as updatings go, ’tain’t that bad, and it’s a nice choice of material for hard rockers . . . I mean, they even scream about “red hot fuckin’” on the heavy flip! POP PICK.

AMERICA: Green Monkey; Rainbow Song (Warner Bros K 16348).
No, not the Garnell Cooper & The Kinfolks instrumental from ’63, this is more CSN&Y harmonized whining set to a buzzing guitar backup and dry drumming which gives me an uncontrollable urge to hear “Ohio” again. Ah, that was nice! . . . and so’s this, AND its quieter US hitside flipside. No put-down intended. Very nice, in fact!

THE ROLLING STONES: Brown Sugar; Bitch; Let It Rock (RS 19100).
This reissue of the original combination is the star attraction that heads a series of Luxembourg-plugged maxis on the Atlantic label. The only other Britishers in the set are YES: And You And I; Roundabout (Atlantic K 10407), which, being the unedited album cuts (total time 19.09), gives you a better deal than the US-released singles versions. Of the American maxis, some differ only slightly from the last lot put out by WEA in 72, so be warned. The Yanks are OTIS REDDING: (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay; I Can’t Turn You Loose; (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (K 10390), PERCY SLEDGE: When A Man Loves A Woman; My Special Prayer; Baby Help Me (K 10394), WILSON PICKETT: In The Midnight Hour; Land Of 1000 Dances; Funky Broadway (K 10389), SAM & DAVE: Hold On, I’m Comin’; Soul Man; I Thank You (K 10391), ARETHA FRANKLIN: Respect; I Say A Little Prayer; Rock Steady (no. unknown), THE COASTERS: Along Came Jones; Charlie Brown; Searchin’ (nu), THE DRIFTERS: Under The Boardwalk; Sweets For My Sweet; Save The Last Dance For Me (nu), and SONNY & CHER: I Got You Babe; What Now My Love; The Beat Goes On (K 10388).

DON GOODWIN: This Is Your Song; Help It Along (Polydor 2066-403).
After 28 family moves, this 18-year-old is now from the ski resort of Aspen, Colorado, and was spotted at a Las Vegas audition by Paul Anka, who penned and co-produced (with expatriate Briton, Johnny Harris) his first minor hit, this Pop slowie that steals its plucking strings figure straight out of Andy Williams’s old “Can’t Get Used To Using You”. Other than the fact that he sounds like a vibrantly healthy hunk of teenage fan fodder, I dunno why I bother to tell you all this, as it won’t be a hit here! I hope!

BILLY PRESTON: How Long Has The Train Been Gone; You’re So Unique (A&M AMS 7097).
Familiar title but noo toon as Billy apes that other Jack of all trades, Sammy Davis Jr., in a smoothly swinging impersonation of Nat “King” Cole. Delightfully anachronistic, in America it is but the flip to the more typical Preston pie that’s served up as our flip here. Yeah, despite myself, I like it! And remember, anyone who spots the occasional similarity to Ray Charles, who Ray started out by copying . . . Mr. Cole. MUSIC PICK.

JOE WALSH: Meadows; Book Ends (Probe PRO 611).
Two from “The More You Smoke, The Less Pissed You Get” (or whatever!), the top finds Joe of James Gang fame sounding like CSN&Y backed by The Who, sort of, while the slow flip is a more deliberate plodder.

BLUE MAGIC: Where Have You Been; Stop To Start (Atlantic K 10403).
The guys who were too good to appear on the same stage as Tina Turner are currently hitting in America with the delicate Sweet Soul slowie on the flip here, yet as it’s a good deal more sombre than the sparkling and tinkling faster A-side that we get, it was a smart move to flip it. Sweet Soul fans will love their wailing vocalese and the Norman Harris production, but Pop pickers may need more of a hook.

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

  1. I found the review of the Spinners Mighty Love rather short sighted. I liked it and it worked for me on the floor!

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  2. How I wish I could go back to 1974, meet my 13 yr old self and advise him of all the trials ahead and how to avoid them!

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    1. It’s odd timing, isn’t it – we were slap bang in the middle of the three-day-week then, and we’re in a new public crisis now. However, twelve year-old me was more excited about Slade, Mud, The Sweet, Suzi Quatro, Alvin Stardust, Mott The Hoople and Roxy Music than he was bothered about power cuts, whereas today’s chart pop isn’t coming close to fulfilling the same escapist role!

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