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!

EARTH, WIND & FIRE: Mighty Mighty (Columbia 4-46007).
This Sly-cum-War-type violent chanted stomper isn’t from their superb “Head To The Sky” (which I implore you to try), so they must have a new LP in the pipeline. Street-Funk Party dancers will dig!

To continue rapidly through more traditional Soul Vocal Group goodies, THE TEMPTATIONS in America have pulled the beautiful and aptly named “Heavenly” slowie (c/w a 6:15 edit of “Zoom”) from their “1990” album, whereas here we get “I Need You”; “Heavenly” (Gordy G 7135F) will be an ear-opener if, like me, you hadn’t bothered to hear the album yet – they actually get to sing the whole thing, and it’s back in their pretty old-style bag despite Norman Whitfield’s having penned it!

THE MAIN INGREDIENT are earning bigger bucks Pop than R&B with their crystal-clear sweetish rumbling slow reading of “Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely” (RCA ABPO 0205), which Ronnie Dyson, Blue Magic and Marlena Shaw have etched before them, whereas the TAVARES brothers are in the reverse situation with another “Lovely” slowie, the emptily plodding but impassioned “That’s The Sound That Lonely Makes” (Capitol 3794).

As previously noted, THE PERSUADERS are rivalling Gladys Knight with Jim Weatherly’s “Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me” (Atco 45-6956): this time the Ray Price Country crooner becomes a subduedly soulful yet smooth slowie which I prefer to the Pips’.

Title track from their new LP, THE NEW BIRTH’s “It’s Been A Long Time” (RCA ABP0 0185) – to my mind, it’s the best of this bunch.

American Singles

HARRY CHAPIN: WOLD (Elektra K 12133).
Here’s that great sad, sad tale about the disillusioned and ageing morning DJ at WOLD, who has to sound bright and breezy despite his doubts and worries. As it happens, radio station WOLD exists! It’s in Marion, Virginia – but no morning DJ is actually there as the music is automated and comes syndicated from Los Angeles, where Chris Lane earns the title (yet hardly qualifies within the spirit of Harry’s song!) by putting together the C&W show that’s heard. This beautiful record is long (5:15), slow and about a somewhat specialist US-slanted subject: nevertheless, it’s already been voted a “People’s Choice” on London’s own Capital Radio, and obviously it MUST appeal to the readers of a paper with a name like ours! PICK OF THE WEEK.

SOUNDTRACK: Theme From “Enter The Dragon” (Warner Bros K 16333).
Not only the late Bruce Lee’s charismatic association makes this Lalo Schifrin-created instrumental a Chart possibility – there’s fashionable synthesizer, wah-wah and snikkety cymbal rhythm in amongst all the bloodcurdling yells, Chinese gongs and Eastern promise, and it’s danceable (pity about the inconclusive end, though). Armchair addicts of telly’s “Kung Fu” should note that some particularly incidental music and philosophizing dialogue from it has been packaged on single too, with “Caine’s Theme” as the A-side (Warner Bros K 16369). KUNG FU KICK.

JIM STAFFORD: Spiders & Snakes; Undecided (MGM 3006374).
In a good-humoured friendly voice, talented Jim sings to a bouncy yowling guitar rhythm about a bashful schoolboy’s reaction to the little town flirt’s come-hither advances . . . spiders and snakes down the front of her dress are NOT what she wanted! Yes, it’s mildly dirty and lots of fun, while the brilliant B-side banjo Blues (?!) should give Howling Wolf hysterics! SLAP STICK.

MARTHA REEVES: Power Of Love; Stand By Me (MCA 125).
Ironically, with this, her reading of his old Gamble & Huff-produced hit, on Capital Radio’s “People’s Choice” Martha beat JOE SIMON’s own newie, the boring electric sitar-backed semi-slow “River” (Polydor 2006390). The ex-Vandella herself is produced by fashionable Richard Perry with horns arranged by James Taylor . . . by James WHO???!! As might be expected, it sounds good but too clean to be funky, while on the sparser wah-wah flip (not the oldie) Martha phrases more like a female Joe than she does on top. R&B PICK.

GLEN CAMPBELL: London (I’m Comin’ To See You) (Capitol CL 15776).
Crafty Campbell! With one little alteration, his latest US hit has been changed from “Houston” to “London”, all ready for his up-coming visit! “San Francisco” also gets switched to “Durham County”, but the lurching slowie’s original home town remains most apt as the tune is kinda like that of its Texas neighbour, “Galveston”. EASY PICK.

MIRACLES: Don’t Let It End (‘Til You Let It Begin); I Wanna Be With You (Tamla Motown TMG 891).
Baltimore-bred William “Billy” Griffin (23) now leads Detroit’s Miracles following Smokey Robinson’s split, which makes all the more poignant the forlorn yet hopeful bitter-sweet lyrics heard amidst the subtly lovely Sweet Soul arrangement here. It’s a real grow-on-you slowie, with woodwinds and things making it extremely pretty, so give it a chance to sink in. Bill’s voice is light and airy like Smokey’s, but less distinctive, so that the similarly sweet flip is a bit Delfonicky. SUGAR SHACK.

TONY BENNETT: All That Love Went To Waste (Philips 6006372).
Love ain’t the only thing, either. Tony remains a classy crooner, but he’s been floundering amidst indifferent material too long for his own good. Here, the toon’s fine but the words are awful. Whatta waste!

BLOODSTONE: Outside Woman (Decca F 13493).
With twanging sitar and drily emotional singing, this very soulful slowie is a pastiche of the Bluenotes, Stylistics, Chi-Lites and – where have I heard that chuckle before? – yeah, the Manhattans! Oh, you can include the Intruders and lots more too, but you should get the picture by now . . . High Class Soul, more Deep than Sweet. Credit Britain’s Pip Williams for the tranquil and praiseworthily American arrangement: his name now joins Gerry Shury’s as a guarantee of goodness on UK Soul productions. Unfortunately the parent “Unreal” album is ponderous and sterile in comparison, so get the single. SOUL PICK.

CHUCK ARMSTRONG: Black Foxy Woman; God Bless The Children (Action ACT 4620).
Funkily fine & mellow message bouncer, Souled in a nicely understated way. Tyrone Davis feel on the Jimmy Holliday flip.

INEZ & CHARLIE FOXX: Mockingbird (UA UP 35657).
It hadta happen, huh? The label even reads “The original hit recording” . . . and it could have said that several times over. The Bird’s the word! STONE FOXX.

ORLEANS: If (Probe PRO 616).
Paul Simon-ish lively light leaper with modish “white reggae” trimmings by four multi-instrumentalists who do a good professionally glossy job.

LIMMIE & FAMILY COOKIN’: A Walkin’ Miracle (Avco 6105 027).
The group’s over here, the record was out last week, and we still haven’t had it – although I did hear it once some time ago, and it sounded good. Yeah, it’s the old 1963 US hit by the Essex, updated for today’s British Charts. POP PICK.

THE THREE DEGREES: Year Of Decision; A Woman Needs A Good Man (Phil. Int. PIR 2073).
They musta read last week’s RRM? Out in a rush, here’s the gals’ Gamble & Huff dancer that’s a timely call to citizens everywhere . . . not that they want you to decide anything very specific, just to open up your mind and get it together. As for the soulfully slow-starting flip, male chauvinist pig that I am, I say “And vice versa”! R&B PICK.

NEIL YOUNG: After The Gold Rush; Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Reprise K 14319).
Neil’s overdue revival and a reissue of GORDON LIGHTFOOT: If You Could Read My Mind (Reprise K 14069) lead off our krazy Kanadian Korner, which features otherwise new materials by my Kommonwealth subjects from the Dominion Of C: LIGHTHOUSE: Pretty Lady (Polydor 2006375), a melodic basher from drummer Skip Prokop’s big band Brass-Rockers, good for Ides Of March and Boffalongo fans (that’s me!): MOONQUAKE: Remember (London HL 10446), an amazingly-worded nostalgic look back at the fads of the last four years set to a Steely Dan rhythm, and rather good.

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