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.

SAMI JO: Tell Me A Lie (MGM South S 7029).
Here’s a rarity – a slowie by a chick who’s clearly from the Country yet who’s selling more copies Pop/MoR than C&W. Incidentally, Elvis seems to be doing the opposite: he’s gone Top 10 Country (both sides are billed back-to-back), and is having his biggest success in that market for some time.

Other jottings from the Country Chart are that PETERS & LEE are in it with “Welcome Home” (wha-a-a-a-t? I hear you exclaim!), and BUCK OWENS has adapted Dr. Hook’s “Rolling Stone” to “On The Cover Of The Music City News” (Capitol 3841). Shucks!

American Singles

Pick of the week

HENRY GROSS: Simone; Fly Away (A&M AMS 7102).
Deceptively, Henry starts out all delicate and tinkling before suddenly slipping into a totally unexpected burst of falsetto, and he then proceeds to beef up the accelerating slowie both vocally and musically in a number of ear-pleasing ways. Do listen closely to all the lovely little things that make up the overall texture of this delight – some great acid guitar work is but one cunningly disguised ingredient. The result is like San Francisco at its romantic prettiest, yet with wider appeal than that suggests. Troubadour flip.

CHARLIE RICH: Behind Closed Doors (Epic EPC 1539).
Hinting at all the naughty sexy things that he and his lady friend get up to behind closed doors, Charlie’s in the unusual position of having the record in which his current hit was the follow-up re-issued while his hit is still at its peak – but this is because panic-stricken Epic have seen that an imminent RCA oldie has done better than their own official follow-up in America. Anyway, it’s the classically simple Country slowie which brought him his renewed Pop prominence, and it ought to appeal to all those most beautiful girls (who, with their fellas, can learn something about Country stars by seeing that brilliant movie, “Payday”). KEYHOLE PEEK.

ANN PEEBLES: I Can’t Stand The Rain (London HLU 10428).
Never higher than 38, but in the US Charts for nearly half a year, making it one of the all-time sleepers, this unusual slow chugger is out again amidst a fanfare of publicity and big-name endorsement. As I see I said before, it’s indeed moody and magnificent, with a great electronically plopping rhythm figure ahead of Willie Mitchell’s usual comfortable backing and Miss Peebles’ incredibly Soulful slinky enunciation – and it’s this latter which is of especial note, as on the word “rain” she does a sort of subdued yodel that, together with the plopping intro, is what the record’s all about. SOUL PICK.

JOHNNY AND THE HURRICANES: Red River Rock; Sheba; Reveille Rock; Beatnick Fly (UA REM 401).
Leading volume in a quartet of EPs (yes, EPs – selling at 66p) that UA have issued under the “Remember” title, this has three hits and one flip from the late ‘50s/early ‘60s Pop-Rock instrumentalists. What’s more, they’re in unenhanced MONO! (The rest of the series only uses stereo when it’s real, too.) Surfing dragsters can go to JAN & DEAN: Surf City; Honolulu Lulu; Dead Man’s Curve; Little Old Lady From Pasadena (REM 402), Gospel-Soul fans for GARNETT MIMMS: Cry Baby; For Your Precious Love; I’ll Take Good Care Of You; It Was Easier To Hurt Her (REM 403), and piece-rate seamstresses for P.J. PROBY: Hold Me; Together; Maria; Somewhere (REM 404) . . . the last one’s track order being particularly appropriate! NOSTALGICATPIX.

J. FRANK WILSON (& The Cavaliers): Last Kiss; Carla (London HLU 10442).
One of the great tasteless records, this sick death disc from the top of the US Charts in 1964 has been out again for some time presumably to answer the current US hit revival by Canadian group, Wednesday . . . except that Wednesday, who have been Charted there for 18 months, still have not come out over here! The “Last Kiss” album’s cover was a classic, portraying J. Frank actually giving his last kiss to his baby as she lay propped against a tree beside their car wreck! Orchestral instrumental flip. SICK PICK.

LAMONT DOZIER: Trying To Hold On To My Woman; We Don’t Want Nobody To Come Between Us (Probe PRO 618).
The renegade D of H-D-H, Lamont has gone solo with a Soul smash that’s a beaut. A yearning, swaying, lurching slowie, it tugs at heart-strings as he croaks and wails his tale of woe. On the flip he’s stone gon’, rapping to his woman before the tempo ups and the Four Tops format begins. SOUL PICK.

LIMMIE & FAMILY COOKIN’: A Walking Miracle (Avco 6015027).
Having heard it properly now, I reckon that this really is kinda good. They’ve completely changed the feather-light concept of the Essex original, giving the song an emphasized back beat and a bulkier backing which makes it even stronger (the Essex version was nice as it was, but the song never was as good as its forerunner, “Easier Said Than Done”. This is the first by Limmie I’ve actually liked, to tell the truth. POP PICK.

THE MONTCLAIRS: Make Up For Lost Time; How Can One Man Live (Contempo CS 2008).
The “Happy Feet” guys have sweetened with age and now dish up this lovely sugary slowie that puts them in the Philly class. However, mouth-watering though it be for Soul Vocal Group freax, it may be a bit deep and hookless for Pop pickers . . . so SGF’s, do your duty! Dead slow and even deeper flip. SOUL PICK.

TEMPTATIONS: I Need You; Hey Girl (I Like Your Style) (Tamla Motown TMG 887).
Although America gets the heavenly “Heavenly” from “1990”, we get another track, this lightly wailing, well done but somewhat disjointed slow-starting rhythm patterer – it may be too disjointed and complex to do well, too. The flip, a recent US hit we missed, is a better bet to my mind – it’s a simply gorgeous shimmering slowie, with a heavy Donnie Elbert influence in the tootling sax and lengthy note-holding which will endear it to Jamaicans and sexy smoochers everywhere! FLIPSIDE PICK.


Contempo have some Soul goodies out – THE MASAI get into a funky instrumental brass ‘n bongos groove on “Across The Tracks (Pts 1 & 2)” (CS 2007), while much the same formula, plus vocals, crops up on THE SPUNKY ONION’s “Cookie Man (Pts 1 & 2)” (CS 2006).

THE ARMADA ORCHESTRA revive the San Remo Strings idea with their disco-aimed backing-track version of the Detroit Emeralds’ “Do Me Right” (CS 2003), but FONTELLA BASS in trying to emulate “Rescue Me” fails to live up to the title of “Now That I’ve Found A Good Thing” (CS 2004).

From the current US R&B Chart, ECSTASY, PASSION AND PAIN (obviously Ohio Players fans!) are a girlie group who romp through “I Wouldn’t Give You Up” (Pye 7N 25641).

In a more stolid fashion, THE PERSUADERS lament that “Some Guys Have All The Luck” (Atlantic K 10404), and indeed it’s not their best!

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