April 27, 1974: Jim Stafford, Skip McHoney & The Casuals, The Eleventh Hour, Tower Of Power, Charlie Rich

Stateside newies

JIM STAFFORD: My Girl Bill (MGM M 14718).
I’m convinced . . . Jim Stafford really IS the most original, and possibly the most important, new star to emerge in recent years! For his third hit, he has made one of the funniest, most misleading, yet ultimately simplest singles ever. To a madly perky lightweight old-fashioned backing he spins a silly tale of such ambiguosity that everyone who hears it is bound to believe it’s really about what they think it’s about, a pederastic love affair. Worded with economically urbane wit, the first two verses are an incredible come-on, as Bill walks Jim home, then goes inside for a drink instead of standing by the door (“what would the neighbours think?”), then, as with shaking hand William takes his glass of wine, and his eyes meet Jim’s, they sit on the couch and face their love man to man. A cooing girlie group meanwhile has been doing a Temptations bit on “my girl, my girl” during the “my girl Bill” chorus, which is the key to the whole situation . . . for, with justa slight shift of emphasis, it suddenly changes from being a simple hymn to “my girl Bill” into a discussion about a third, and female, party. Yes, you see, “she’s MY girl, Bill, and you’re gonna have to find another, Bill”. Poor Bill has been passed over for Jim by the girl they both love! Collapse of salivating sensation seekers everywhere! And as I said, this is not just darned clever, it’s also impossibly catchy and bound to do well here. In America, it’s at 56 with a bullet in its second week on the Hot 100.

SKIP McHONEY & THE CASUALS: Your Funny Moods (DC International DCI 5003).
YA-HOOO! I know my tastes may have broadened disconcertingly for some time since the time in ’64 when Tony Secunda nicknamed me Doctor Soul, but – to paraphrase – you can indeed take the boy from Soul, yet you can’t take Soul from the boy, once it’s there. Which means that my biggest gut-reaction buzzes still come from hearing Soulful expressions in song, usually of a somewhat specialist nature. Bearing this in mind, believe me when I say that – goodness knows why – this far from perfect yawing and creaking slowie hits me as the spine-tinglingest slab of pure deep Soul I’ve heard and gotten off on so far this year. These guys HAD to get this record out of their systems, and they did just that at DB Sound Studios, Sliver Springs, Maryland . . . yeah, it’s the REAL thing. If you’re a solid Soul freak and want your mind messed up but good, want to slip and drift along in suspended animation amidst lapping waves of bitter-sweet emotion, want to forget everything and get LOST for an hour or two, then try to find this record (it hasn’t been a hit, yet) and play it over and over again like I’ve just had to do. (So that’s why your copy’s late again! – Production Ed.)

THE ELEVENTH HOUR: So Good (20th Century TC 2076).
Produced and co-penned by a re-activated Bob Crewe, arranged and conducted by Charlie Calello – so is it any wonder that these guys sound like the Four Seasons? I wonder who they are. With a squeaky lead voice, chanted back-up (which includes chix), and a sparsely arranged simple slow clomp beat, it’s straight out of the good old ‘60s and sounds like something the Newbeats might have done a decade or so ago. It’s not a hit so far, but should do well Up North if ever issued here. Continue reading “April 27, 1974: Jim Stafford, Skip McHoney & The Casuals, The Eleventh Hour, Tower Of Power, Charlie Rich”

April 20, 1974: Five Man Electrical Band, Leon Haywood, The Jackson 5, Deodato/Airto, Kathi McDonald

Stateside newies

FIVE MAN ELECTRICAL BAND: Werewolf (Polydor PD 14221).
This group, originally from currently trendy Canada, scored first a while ago with their great American Teen anthem, “Signs”, which unfortunately meant absolutely nothing here. Neither did a strange record by another group, the Buoys, who sang a bubblegum beater about a guy called “Timothy”, which, on a very close hearing, proved to be about cannibalism – Tim got eaten by his fellow survivors in a mine cave-in. The link between that record and this is purely my own hunch that “Werewolf” is likely to follow “Timothy” in selling by word-of-mouth: however, that theory already has two strikes against it. “Timothy”, which outwardly gave away no secrets about its real subject, took a great many months to finally reach smash hit status, while “Werewolf” begins with the advantage of its self-explanatory title (which doesn’t actually appear during the song itself) and is already slowly but surely climbing the Chart (up six to 71 during its fourth week). So, what’s it all about? Well, in a way it’s an alternative story about that (don’t be a hero) Billy, whose Mama has misgivings about her son’s nocturnal activity. “There’s something weird about Billy, his bed wasn’t slept in at all last night,” worries Mama, but Papa blusters that he’s probably out sowing his wild oats, “and that’s all right.” “Uh-huh”, counters Mum, ‘cos she knows that the farmer down the road lost a few of his sheep last night, and she saw her Billy on the hill just howlin’ at the moon. Ooo-err! Not wanting to spoil your fun when eventually you hear the record yourselves, I’ll just add that Papa gets his little silver bell melted down in a single silver bullet, and Billy ends up like his heroic namesake. Two things further need saying though, in case you start to equate this musically with the other “Billy” record. Yes, this is a story song (and a darned sight more interesting, too), but it is treated with a chunky, jerky, rumbling backing which leaps into life on the chorus and is a long way removed from pappy Pop, and the story itself is unfolded so sinisterly that it seems a pity that the over-obvious title has to dot the “i”. Hmmmm, maybe Billy ate Timothy? It’s a thought!

LEON HAYWOOD: Keep It In The Family (20th Century TC 2065).
Up six places to 58 Pop but falling from 11 to 15 R&B without making the Soul Top Ten as expected, Leon “Mellow Moonlight” Haywood has returned to hitdom with a straight copy of the Staple Singers’ formula, complete with their distinctive bass-boosted lurching rhythm and a male version of the Mavis Staples wheezing croak. Nothing to get excited about . . . unless you’re a sucker for the Staples, of course.

THE JACKSON 5: Dancing Machine (Motown M 1286F).
Funnily enough, after their strenuous and somewhat contrived attempts to regain their former Chart prominence, the Jacksons have done just that with this unpretentious little album track from their “Get It Together” LP (released here some months ago). It’s currently at 13 with a bullet in the Pop Top 20, and rising at 8 R&B, thus being their biggest hit in a long time. The cut’s nothing special, just a mildly innocuous “get down” jittery funker with choppy lyrics and a brassy instrumental break: however, it’s in the groove so far as “boogie” dancers are concerned. Continue reading “April 20, 1974: Five Man Electrical Band, Leon Haywood, The Jackson 5, Deodato/Airto, Kathi McDonald”

April 13, 1974: Bill Haley And His Comets, Chicago, The Guess Who, Dawn, Leon Russell

Stateside newies

BILL HALEY AND HIS COMETS: (We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock (MCA 60025).
It’s interesting, as well as nostalgic, to note that in America the new Chart-climbing issue of this twenty-year-old classic still has its original coupling on the B-side, “Thirteen Women (And Only One Man In Town)”. Not only that, but it also retains the quaint description on the label, “Fox Trot, Vocal Chorus by Bill Haley!” An addition, however (and apart from the modern rainbow-on-black MCA label design), is the information: “Originally released as Decca 29124 on 5-10-54” . . . which translated into Queen’s English was 10th May 1954 (the Americans put their day and month figures the other way round, you see). Twenty years on from the actual recording date this week, and still going strong! It’s the string bass that does it, so it’s a pity that all Bill’s more modern Comets have used the less percussive electric variety.

CHICAGO: (I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long; Byblos (Columbia 4-46020).
Chicago keep getting slagged by the critics, and indeed sometimes their music is vacuous enough to deserve it, but they are still capable of creating some damn nice noise. Their current US hit is kinda pretty-pretty, with effete high-flying harmonies straining over the slow strings (or synthesized strings – you can’t tell these days) and the burnished brass: it gets grittier as it goes along, ending with growling throats and threatening rumblings. As it happens, though, the point of this review is to hip you to the exquisitely beautiful flipside Latin lilter. Regular readers may know my predilection for those lovely Latin rhythms, and here the pretty acoustic guitar twiddles away like a jazz samba over plopping and tapping beats like a cooled-out Steely Dan while the lead voice is deadpan and huskily mannered, the whole becoming the quintessence of my particular taste. So, I’m happy, at least!

THE GUESS WHO: Star Baby (RCA ABP0 0217).
Burton Cummings and the Canadians can deliver the goods when they want, too: this time, they want. Their new fast-rising hit is an all-out stomper with frantic piano rocking, drums thrashing, and over all, leaping and flying guitars behind the slick ‘n’ easy lyrics. Continue reading “April 13, 1974: Bill Haley And His Comets, Chicago, The Guess Who, Dawn, Leon Russell”

April 6, 1974: Maria Muldaur, Herbie Hancock, J. Kelly & The Premiers, Billy Joel, Charlie Rich

Stateside newies

MARIA MULDAUR: Midnight At The Oasis (Reprise REP 1183).
“You won’t need no camel, honey, when I take you for a ride,” warbles the winsome Miss Muldaur, a dark-haired houri given to flashing her navel in the long grass. Imagine an American version of Linda Lewis singing amidst the living definition of “good music” – everything exquisitely exquisite and just “so”, with some bleached-out jazzy guitar doing the minimum needed to be a delight – and you might start to grasp the rudiments. She’s certainly a lady what takes her time, this came out five months ago and has only now made the 50.

HERBIE HANCOCK: Chameleon (Columbia 4-46002).
Jazzman Herbie having forsaken his cerebral pursuits, he’s now funking about with the best of them, creating choppy rhythms and laying down throbbing bass notes or squeaky weazlings on synthetic keyboards. The result’s a funky gas, with a whole lot more to commend it than the similar synthesizing of such as Billy Preston. No. 50 R&B/83 Pop.

J. KELLY AND THE PREMIERS: She Calls Me Baby (Roadshow 7005).
With more than a touch of the “Ooo baby babies” about not only the slow tune but also Jay’s tensile quavering Smokey-isms, this pretty little Soul smoocher starts out after a lovely instrumental intro by bringing on a Sylvia sound-alike to do the sexily imploring “baby! baby! baby!” bits. Jay probably digs Eddie Holman too, by the sound of it. 51 R&B after 10 weeks, and rising. Continue reading “April 6, 1974: Maria Muldaur, Herbie Hancock, J. Kelly & The Premiers, Billy Joel, Charlie Rich”