March 30, 1974: The New Birth, Jackie Moore, Bill Amesbury, Sami Jo, Henry Gross

Stateside newies

THE NEW BIRTH: It’s Been A Long Time (RCA ABP0 0185).
Just to finish off last week’s truncated review: this, the title track from the Harvey Fuqua-created group’s new LP, starts out with the lead-singing guy sounding resignedly cool over the chix-helped slowly swaying backing, before he then very subtly turns on the heat and almost imperceptibly increases the intensity while a Hugh Masekela-pitched trumpet trills in the distance. It’s a real slow burner that’s full of raw power! Yeah!

Other Soul Vocal Group goodies (some of which have been out for a while, I must confess) include THE DRAMATICS’ lovely languid “And I Panicked” (Volt VOA 4105), on which they gradually get all tore up in that slightly Al Green-backed-by-the Temptations way but only after a dreamy flute intro, THE DELFONICS’ sprightly William Hart-penned “I Told You So” (Philly Groove PG 182), a fast plopping rhythm dancer (for a change – and it’s one that suits them), THE TEMPREES’ synthetically busy smooth stomp treatment of the old “At Last” (We Produce XPA 1812), and THE FANTASTIC FOUR’s return (with their old ‘60s sound) on the Al Kent-produced churning “I’m Falling In Love (I Feel Good All Over)” (Eastbound E 620), which for my own dancing taste is a bit too leadenly “medium” in tempo.

JACKIE MOORE: Both Ends Against The Middle (Atlantic 45-2989).
I’ve been meaning to mention this Tony Bell (brother of Thom)-arranged dancer for ages: now several others have taken it up in print, and I’ll just concur that it is absolutely MADE for Great Britain . . . if it came out here on single it would be a practically guaranteed smash. Miss Moore and her backing chix wail away mightily, yet it’s the irresistible rhythm that sells the song (OK, the beat is more Northern than London, but that does seem to be where the hits come from, huh?).

BILL AMESBURY: Virginia (Touch Me Like You Do) (Casablanca NEB 0001).
As the number suggests, this Canadian master-purchase (yet another Maple Leaf hit for the US) is the first single on the unusually decorative new label that graces the records of Neil Bogart’s latest venture. Bogart left Buddah Records to set up Casablanca as a completely commercial label which would only handle records that could be promoted with full effect in the ever more claustrophobic world of American radio, and his entire executive staff is made up of top promotion men. Sensible, of course . . . but even so, welcome to the wonderful world of music, ’74. (On which note, let it be recorded that last week, Wurlitzer stopped making juke boxes). Anyway, Bill Amesbury makes a spirited noise with much Trini Lopez-style clapping and crowd noises behind a frantically strumming tinny guitar (and some banjo for that authentic goodtimey touch), reminding me the while of what Neil Diamond might have sounded like at a hootenanny. And, indeed, it’s gradually climbing the Chart. Continue reading “March 30, 1974: The New Birth, Jackie Moore, Bill Amesbury, Sami Jo, Henry Gross”

March 23, 1974: Grand Funk, James Brown, Lyn Collins, Earth Wind & Fire, The Temptations

Stateside newies

GRAND FUNK: The Locomotion (Grand Funk/Capitol 3840).
After the gold-pressed excess of “We’re An American Band”, the fearsome foursome have gone back to boring black wax (but with a new red, white and blue label design) for their Todd Rundgren-produced stab at Little Eva’s Goffin & King-penned classic. Although in giving it an echoing hand-clap beat, ragged chanting back-up and a screeching guitar break they have lost the original’s flowing dynamics, they have still kept it simple like a single should be – and the result must rank with their old “Footstompin’ Music” as their most successfully single-minded effort to date. In fact, had Little Eva not hit here again so recently, it could have been the one to break them in Britain.

JAMES BROWN: The Payback (Polydor PD 14223).
The Hit Man’s latest two-part sparsely arranged funker (title track of his new US LP) seems to be about the need for revenge when wrong has been done one . . . a disturbing topic (if I read it right), made all the more so by some occasional drily-interjected declarations by another voice (presumably Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker or Danny Ray) that “This is for Chicago” (and Atlanta, Los Angeles), “This record is strong!” (and “too much!”), “This is solid funk”, “This jam is for the people”, “This is for everybody” and “Two bits for New York!” Do these exclamations relate to the lyrics, or are they, as seems most likely, merely to cover several bases and ensure strong sales in the cities named? Equally enigmatic is the paper sleeve’s surreal painting (doubtless the same as the album’s), which depicts two pairs of disembodied hands exchanging folded banknotes, a naked lady greeting a man in a doorway, a leafless tree and the looming head of James Brown wearing a hat on which, through the shape of a cloud, is written “We got a right to the tree of life”. Kinda cryptic, but the music’s much as before!

LYN COLLINS (THE FEMALE PREACHER): Don’t Make Me Over (People PE 633).
Starting with a “Sproinngg! Sproinngg!”, Lyn’s exquisite slow reading of Bacharach & David’s old Dionne Warwick hit gets interrupted by the voice from producer James Brown’s own newie, this time drily intoning “Burn, sister, burn!” – a bit unnecessarily, even if that is what she does! Continue reading “March 23, 1974: Grand Funk, James Brown, Lyn Collins, Earth Wind & Fire, The Temptations”

March 16, 1974: Guido Sarducci, MFSB, Blue Swede, The Trammps, Jimmy Osmond

Stateside newies

GUIDO SARDUCCI: A European (Speaks Up For The U.S.) (A&M 1504).
Hopefully this will be the final chapter in the continuing story of Gordon Sinclair, Byron MacGregor, Tex Ritter and “The Americans (A Canadian’s Opinion)” . . . certainly it’s the funniest. (Regular readers will know the story so far.) In a heavily laid-on Italian accent, S. Sarducci sends them all up something rotten, quoting in his own inimitable way the rabble-rousing catchphrases like “cam arrn, let’s-a hear eet” and “I was-a their, I sore eet” in connection with such topics as where else but in America can you get the same hamburger (and fries) thousands of miles apart, and where were the Canadians when those brave Chicago policemen had to beat up all those young people in 1968 all by themselves. “After this-a theeng is orl over, you should-a say ‘Nuts’ to Canada” lambasts Guido, before wading into the real clinchers which cannot be answered: “the only theeng the rest-a of the World ever gave America was the ‘flu” (you’ve heard of the Asian ‘Flu, but the Detroit ‘Flu?), and – the coup de grace – “when-a the United States had-a its Civil War, Vietnam didn’t even send-a one soldier”! Interestingly enough I see that the premise upon which Gordon Sinclair founded his original editorial was completely false – many nations actually offered money and help at the time of the San Francisco earthquake, but President Teddy Roosevelt rejected it to show that America, and especially the new Red Cross organisation, could cope with the problem on its own. And it was the US Red Cross’s bankruptcy last year which prompted Sinclair in the first place!

MFSB: TSOP (Philadelphia International ZS7 3540).
Depsite early rumours that MFSB stood for Mother-Effing Soul Band, it really stands for Mother Father Sister Brother (Gamble & Huff’s all-star house band), and “TSOP” means no more than “The Sound Of Philadelphia”. It also spells H-I-T, if not S-M-A-S-H . . . and I mean in Britain. From the schlerping “Love’s Theme” cymbals at the start to the Three Degrees’ chanting appearance at the end, this ultra-danceable instrumental clomper has every ingredient to please today’s disco-dancers, while Northern backing-track fans will be queuing for it ten deep! The San Remo Strings live! Bobby Martin arranged it, and the players include such as Norman Harris, Ronnie Baker, Don Renaldo and (probably) Leon Huff himself. GDAGWI!

BLUE SWEDE: Hooked On A Feeling (Capitol 3627, but out here imminently).
Rocketing up the US Chart, this Dutch-Swedish group’s rather reedy carbon-copy of Jonathan King’s distinctive 1971 treatment of the old B.J. Thomas hit has thrown Jo King (for once, NOT as in “You must be Jo King?”) into a much self-publicised pique. Joking aside (gerroff!) I actually admire young King, and collect his productions purely for their great throwaway B-sides, which are as good value as Phil Spector’s used to be. Thus, I’d like to bring your attention to his latest, “People Don’t Like Me” (flip to “Get Off My Cloud”, UK 61), in which to a home-recorded Dylan-esque guitar he rambles on without naming names about how not only Blue Swede but also Italy’s Titans have ripped off his original arrangements (the Titans did “Satisfaction”) without anyone crediting him. Of course, one could get picky and point out that on “Hooked On A Feeling” he himself pinched the Big Bopper’s “ooga-ooga-ooga-chukka” redskin chant from Johnny Preston’s “Running Bear”, but even so the lad is right. The whole thing smacks of the days back in the mid ‘50s when R&B record companies in America were campaigning for legislation to prevent better-established companies from making note for note cover versions with white artistes of their original arrangements. In particular, LaVern Baker springs to mind: she got onto her congressman after Georgia Gibbs had covered “Tweedle Dee” in 1955. Although much discussed, no legislation seems to have been passed to copyright original arrangements (other than in the case of those of traditional tunes in the Public Domain). If it were, it would obviously put paid to all those cheapo-cheapo “Top Pops” LPs, from a Continental one of which, I believe, this Blue Swede recording came . . . and, indeed, that type of LP has on several other occasions been the source of foreign hit versions that out-sold the originals abroad. Boo! It just isn’t British! Continue reading “March 16, 1974: Guido Sarducci, MFSB, Blue Swede, The Trammps, Jimmy Osmond”

March 9, 1974: Lawrence Payton, Johnnie Taylor, NRBQ, Three Degrees, James Gang

Stateside newies

LAWRENCE PAYTON: One Woman Man; Love Makes You Human (ABC/Dunhill D 4376).
Know the name? Yes, it’s the 4 Top . . . and his solo debut reveals him to be an accomplished romantic Soul balladeer, with slight stylistic traces of the modern Stevie Wonder in the pretty lyricism that surrounds him. Gil Askey has whipped up the most beautiful arrangement imaginable, languidly building from delicately jazzy electric keyboard, guitar and plopping rhythm, while flipside the soft beat is almost samba-ish. In fact, it’s the gorgeous musical setting that made me describe Payton as “accomplished” – he actually sounds a bit ill at ease, I now realise. Still, an instrumental album like this would be a treat!

JOHNNIE TAYLOR: We’re Getting Careless With Our Love (Stax STA 0193).
Yet another hit from Johnnie’s “Taylored In Silk” album, this Soulfully-sung slowie has a thuddingly dominant beat, back-up chix, squeaky strings and hints of “Hot Buttered Soul” during the more spacious moments.

NRBQ: Get That Gasoline Blues (Kama Sutra KA 586).
One of several oil crisis hits, this nifty ‘50s blues finds NRBQ at last in the Charts along with all the other backwards-looking groups who followed them but beat them to hitdom. From their early “Stomp” and work with Carl Perkins, NRBQ have always combined the traditions of Rock ‘n Roll and early 60’s Pop with modern freakiness – thus, they now add some particularly effective woozy brass and a noisy guitar break to a Commander Cody-type good-time chanted strutter that’s 98 octane great. By the way, the gasoline-derived PVC from which discs are made is not only getting scarcer than hens’ teeth, it’s also lethal – over-exposure to the stuff can help cause Angiosarcoma, a rare but fatal liver cancer from which seven vinyl chloride workers have died so far. Record collectors, beware! Continue reading “March 9, 1974: Lawrence Payton, Johnnie Taylor, NRBQ, Three Degrees, James Gang”

March 2, 1974: Byron MacGregor, Terry Jacks, The Soul Children, Bobby Womack, The Intruders

Stateside newies

BYRON MacGREGOR: The British (unavailable anywhere).
Here it is – as previously exclusively reported – except that in fact, here it ISN’T! This is the Canadian star of “The Americans” doing the “British” version of his huge US hit, and no record company in Britain has the guts to release it! Phonogram have the first-refusal rights but are frightened of the obvious political implications. So, what is it that has got them and all the other companies to which it has been offered so scared? To the backing of “Land Of Hope And Glory”, dee-jay Byron proclaims in plummy tones that the three-day working week and all Britain’s other current problems have plunged the nation into more trouble than it’s ever seen: he then goes on to exhort “The British” with facts about how, by way of the Industrial Revolution, they once beat the World by being the first with every new advance . . . but reminds us that “The British don’t brag about anything – they don’t have to!” Then, after claiming “The British have never given up – and they won’t now”, he plunges into the collected quotes of Winston Churchill, using to telling effect in his argument “We shall fight on the beaches” and “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil and sweat”. No, this has not been a partly satirical broadcast on behalf of any party – it’s a heart-felt and immensely commercial call to the man in the street’s patriotism. If it had come out last week, it would have sold half-a-million, easy. Unfortunately, unless you tune in to Capital Radio at 2 o’clock this Saturday afternoon, when I hope to be able to play it on Tim Rice’s programme, you are now not likely to hear it. A pity, for as Byron concludes, “This is truly Britain’s finest hour!”

TERRY JACKS: Seasons In The Sun (out here on Bell 1344).
Well, there it is, sitting alongside at Number One! Now I discover that I have a 1964 recording of this Jacques Brel & Rod McKuen song on Capitol by the Kingston Trio, who did it in an echoing “Pop-Folk” style, using the original French “Adieu Francoise” unlike Terry’s Anglicised “Goodbye Michelle”.

Other odds & ends: that excellent Pop synthesizer instrumental from the Continent, THE PEPPERS’ “Pepper Box” (out here last October on Spark SRL 1100) is now in the R&B Chart; after all the “authentic” versions mentioned last week, I fear that the most immediately danceable version of “The Sting” is indeed by BOBBY CRUSH (out here on Philips 6006374); PAUL McCARTNEY & WINGS’ “Jet” is coupled in America by “Mamunia”, which leaves the way open for “Let Me Roll It” (our B-side) to be the follow-up; GRAND FUNK’s latest is – surprise, surprise! – Little Eva’s “The Loco-Motion” (Capitol 3840) . . . whatever will that be like?!

Oh, and in case you’ve forgotten, the mysterious MOCEDADES’ ever-rising “Eres Tu (Touch The Wind)” is a churning Spanish slowie by an Iberian Brotherhood Of Man which (I bet you HAVE forgotten!) came second in last year’s Eurovision contest (and out here on Bell 1303). Continue reading “March 2, 1974: Byron MacGregor, Terry Jacks, The Soul Children, Bobby Womack, The Intruders”