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!

THE THREE DEGREES: Year Of Decision (Philadelphia International ZS7 3539).
With their “Dirty Ol’ Man” yet to make it here as big as it did on the Continent, those gorgeous gals Faye, Sheila and Valerie (who are still managed by Richie “Some Other Guy” Barrett) are scoring again Stateside with a Norman Harris-arranged Gamble & Huff Philly bouncer which – look at the title! – really ought to be rushed out here. Say, did you know that Jeremy Thorpe is only six years older than Elvis? Makes ya think, don’t it?! Presley for Prexy.

THE JAMES GANG: Must Be Love (Atco 45-6953).
Joe Walsh’s old gang have been hanging around the bottom half of the Hot 100 for some time now with this angry heavy sputterer, which I keep meaning to write about. It’s interesting mainly on account of its obvious influences: amidst a straightforward commendably mellow heavy framework they have inserted direct cribs from Jimi Hendrix, Elvis (the old Sun echo), and Sly Stone (the wah-wah vocal). It’s a clever little platter.

JERRY LEE LEWIS: I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (Mercury 73452).
You may have caught the rare early Presley version of this old song which I played last Saturday on Capital at 3.57 pm – and if you didn’t, you’re not likely to hear it again! Anyway, what makes Jerry Lee’s C&W hit revival interesting, over and above his smoothly hustling treatment of it, is that it was produced by Stan Kesler, who co-wrote the song w-a-a-y back.


American Singles

Pick of the week

LATIMORE: Stormy Monday; There’s No End (President PT 415).
Remember Ramsey Lewis (“The In Crowd”, “Wade In The Water”), and the good, good, finger-snappin’, “whooo!”-inducing feeling that his jazzy piano-playing and rock-steady rhythm can create? Well, Charles Latimore has given that sort of treatment, plus a smoky vocal and some punctuating harmonica (or is it melodica?), to this old Blues standard . . . and the result’s a gas! It’s from Florida’s T.K. Productions, now at last with an outlet here for their high class R&B on President. Nice old-fashioned Brook Benton-y ballad flip, sold with strangulated Soul.

BILL HALEY AND HIS COMETS: (We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock; Shake, Rattle And Roll (MCA 128).
What more can be said about this, which for many of us started it all? To think that it was written as a novelty foxtrot . . . Crazy, Man, Crazy! ROCK ‘N ROLL PICK.

DON DOWNING: Dream World (People PEO 108).
Produced by Tony Bongiovi, Meco Monardo & Jay Ellis for Fred Frank Enterprises . . . do you detect an air of desperation about those names as they frantically work to keep the good thing they’ve got going? They’re certainly taking no chances, as in place of the intricacies of “Lonely Days” they’ve given Don a straightforward buoyant thumpalong beat that’s indeed easier if less rewarding for Pop pickers. R&B PICK.

THE DELLS: I Miss You; Don’t Make Me A Storyteller (Chess 6145029).
The mark of a true sleeper – this amazingly rich arrangement has been hanging around the middle of the US Charts for ages while its subtle quality gradually sinks in. Basically a huskily-sung creamy clomper, it’s absolutely MADE by the strings and things, which need to be heard LOUD on good speakers. Equally good slinky slow sweet flip. R&B PICK.

GWEN McCRAE: For Your Love; Your Love (President PT 413).
With an intimate rap intro, Gwen gives the 1958 Ed Townsend slowie a 1973 “Let’s Get It On” treatment – and, of course, Ed co-made that too, though this is all the work of the Betty Wright crowd from Florida. Er, in other words, this is a great lurching Soul slowie with a funky flip! SOUL PICK.

DIANA ROSS & MARVIN GAYE: You Are Everything; Include Me In Your Life (Tamla Motown TMG 890).
A big advance on their initial offering, this Gaye 3 – Ross 2 reading of the Stylistics’ super-sweet slowie is much more hit-worthy, while the flip is so cosy it could be called “Include Me In Your Bed”! SMOOCH PICK.

JACK JONES: Wives And Lovers; The Impossible Dream; If You Go Away (MCA 118), AND: Fools In Love; Do Me Wrong, But Do Me (RCA ABPO 0220).
Discounting the dull B-side maxi trax, Jack’s 1963 reading of Bacharach & David’s “Wives & Lovers” jazz-waltz still has more relevance today than do most of the beastly noises he’s prone to make on telly: thus his brand new RCA coupling comes as welcome relief. The tinkling top-side lazy plopper with its sinuous melody and multi-tracking is lovely enough, but it’s the flipside funky cha-cha that’s the real ear-opener. Maybe I’m a sucker ‘bout them Latin rhythms, ‘cos this gets a MUSIC PICK!

JAMES WILLIAM GUERCIO: Tell Me; Prelude (CBS 1638).
Sung in fact by Chicago’s Terry Kath, here’s that interminable dirge – all 7:43 of it – which accompanied the final multi-hued desert vista in JWG’s curate’s egg of a movie, “Electra Glide In Blue”. The actually quite pretty instrumental flip sounds like Chicago with strings . . . and probably is.

JERRY GOLDSMITH / SOUNDTRACK: Theme From “Papillon” (EMI 2118).
Accordion and strings, with a touch of brass, wasting vinyl on a movie theme that Engelbert sings words to elsewhere.

BOBBY WOMACK: Lookin’ For A Love; Let It Hang Out (UA UP 35644).
An excellent whomping rhythm re-cut of gospel-throat Womack’s old Valentinos hit, featuring – as does the chugging Psyche-Soul throb-beat flip – his own tastefully talking guitar. Thoroughly recommended MUSIC PICK.

THE CHI-LITES: Homely Girl; I Never Had It So Good (Brunswick BR 9).
Eugene’s in the “Have You Seen Her” mould on this mildly risqué tale about an ugly duckling’s good points. Shimmering strings and a confidential rap distinguish the flipside bitter-sweet dead slowie, which is all about a divorce becoming final – and might have been a better A-side.

ELVIS PRESLEY: I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby; Take Good Care Of Her (RCA ABPO 0196).
Obviously El will succeed where several others have failed with this cheerful and extremely catchy Tony Joe White ditty – especially as it’s the pleasantest thing he’s done for ages. Vibrato emotion and a whistling-kettle chick make the 1961 Adam Wade flipside semi-slowie more mundane. MoR PICK.

THE RAN-DELLS: Martian Hop (London HLU 10450).
Unlike “Monster Mash”, this gibberish 1963 US hit is fairly unknown here, yet (and presumably this is the reason for its sudden reappearance now) its kiddie-pitched chipmunk voices – offset by rumbling doo-wop bass – are suitable for Wombles fans. I’ve always liked it, and even used to use the sound effects intro along with “Dr. Who” before “Silver Machine”! KIDDIE PICK.

AL DE LORY: Song From “M+A+S+H” (Capitol CL 15775).
Out again (and with the new-style US label design) no doubt to catch televiewers, this is the speeded-up piano treatment of “Suicide Is Painless” that I raved over in 1970. Time changes naught. EASY PICK.

MIKIS THEODORAKIS / SOUNDTRACK: Theme From “Serpico”; Honest Cop (Paramount PARA 3045).
Even Perry Como’s done a vocal version of this forthcoming flick’s funereal theme by the “Zorba’s Dance” Greek, which features the inevitable quivering bouzoukis . . . and a nicer lightly jazzy flip, arranged by CTI’s Bob James.

K.C. & THE SUNSHINE JUNKANOO BAND: Blow Your Whistle (Jay Boy BOY 80).
A disco smash for many months, this zany Party dancer is possibly the best of its type (along with War’s “Me And Baby Brother”), and it certainly deserves to do even better than the more stolid but similar “Funky Stuff”. Join Mr. Casey (K.C. – get it?) and blow those whistles! PARRTY PICK.

One thought on “March 9, 1974: Lawrence Payton, Johnnie Taylor, NRBQ, Three Degrees, James Gang”

  1. K.C. & The Sunshine Band arrive! The Don Downing track is produced by Tony Bongiovani and Meco Menardo who would go on to produce the first queen of disco Gloria Gaynor’s early disco hits. Bongiovani also happens to be the older cousin of… Jon Bon Jovi! A number of releases/references to the oil crisis of 1974 that gripped the world and hit the economy that year. The Three Degrees would break through with this release and later in the year become only the 2nd girl group to reach no1 in the UK- almost 10 years to the day after the Supremes hit top spot in 64.

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