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.

DAWN featuring Tony Orlando: It Only Hurts When I Try To Smile (Bell 45,450).
As predicted, with regret, in the column, “Who’s In The Strawberry Patch With Sally” did not do well in this country. Now Dawn stay slow all the way through the record for their new Levine & Brown-penned outing, a melancholy meandering swayer with lavishly orchestrated plonks, tinkles, plinks, and swooshes. Trouble is, when they feel THAT glum – I mean, they say it only hurts when they try to smile, whereas most people use that expression after they’ve actually managed to get as far as laughing! – yes, when they’re THAT glum, it does rather rub off. Frown, frown, grimace, groan.

LEON RUSSELL: If I Were A Carpenter (Shelter SR 10210).
And finally, in this Easter Week, a word from our sponsor . . . here depicted on the paper sleeve with arms outstretched in a smiling posture of benediction, clad the while in striped Holy Land robes girded with a length of rope, and with a man-size cross resting on its side in front of him. Yes folks, Leon Russell slipped into Christmas and now sends you Easter Greetings, hoping you’ll forgive him for a surfeit of recorded “live” music. Will he be raised and live again? America’s student population count their silver and wait. Oh, and the star of the show does Tim Hardin’s allegorical set of questions to a jauntily bouncy beat, adding “And if I was a Rock star, would you be my groupie” before panting lewdly on out. Did I hear thunder?

American Singles

Pick of the week

THE OSMONDS: I Can’t Stop; Flower Music (MCA 129).
Here’s a chance for Osmonds fans to prove how devoted they are . . . by putting this old 1960’s waxing into the Charts now! It must have been recorded during their extreme youth, since (a) it isn’t on MGM, their label for at least four years, and (b) the tell-tale “flower power” flip’s Monkees-tinged Mamas and Papas sound even infiltrates onto the perky comes-and-goes bubble gum plug side. To their credit, they actually sing the complex harmonies and intertwining vocal parts with a great deal more skill and general appeal than they exhibit on their own more recent material. Frankly, I am impressed, and like these a lot. Oh, and if Donny’s in there at all, he must be the one making occasional yelps like the junior Jimmy he was then!

GEORGE JONES: One Of These Days (Epic EPC 2198).
“Mr. Tammy Wynette” (actually, he was a Country star long before she’d even started), George moseys through this gently rumpty-tumpty jogger without really grabbing much attention. It’s a pity that the married couple’s latest hit hasn’t come out here, as it’s a gas called “(We’re Not) The Jet Set” . . . (“we’re the Chevrolet set”!).

STAN FARLOW: I’m A Truck (Emerald MDS 1172).
Canadian Stan sings deep, dark and chocolatey in the guise of a trans-Continental heavy goods vehicle about how there wouldn’t be no truck drivers if it wasn’t for us trucks. If you’re at all interested in the mystique of “the road” or the fashionable machismo of truck-driving, this Johnny Cash / Tex Williams-type jaunty bouncer packs plenty of amusing detail into its clever concept. PIC-UP TRUCK.

RAY LYNAM: Second Hand Flowers (Country CTY 109).
Recorded in Nashville by the British label, Ray sounds mighty fine with the full smoothly thumping yet “empty” treatment, which lets the important fiddle and steel shine through without ever sounding loud. Very satisfying. C&W PICK.

LARRY CUNNINGHAM: This Time Of The Year (Country CTY 110).
Ireland’s own Jim Reeves went to Nashville for the authentic sound, complete with sexily slithering steel, of this echoing “empty” sound modern slowie, which is in that ever-popular waltz tempo. Not quite Charlie Rich in emotional impact, but jolly nice even so. C&W PICK.

TAMMY WYNETTE: Stand By Your Man; Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad (Epic EPC 7137).
Reviewers can always tell that Easter’s coming when the Country “product” starts thudding in! Why can’t it be spread out through the year instead of lumped together just for the Wembley C&W Fest? Anyway, for at least the third time, here’s yet another reactivation of this great Country classic, a call to female chauvinist sows to be dutiful to their menfolk, sold with a choke in her throat and a sob in her heart by the queen of the Country chicks. This could do for the fellas what Charlie Rich has done for the gals. Stirring stuff, and dig the surging steel! “Baby I Don’t Care” bits spice the even more dutiful bouncy flip. C&W PICK.

DIANA TRASK: Behind Closed Doors (Ember EMBS 330).
Canny Ember have picked up Country-singing Diana from Dot, as they did originally Glen Campbell from Capitol, for this country. It’s tough luck that her soulful (at times) reading of this Kenny O’Dell slowie has to contend with Charlie Rich, as she does it well and with rather more emphasis. You may remember that she was last heard of here on single in the throes of committing suicide, on “The Last Person To See Me Alive” . . . a neglected sick classic!

TANYA TUCKER: Blood Red And Goin’ Down (CBS 1841).
Little Tanya Tucker gets a quaver in her voice as she tells about the bloodthirsty doings of her daddy while that Georgia sun was blood red and going down . . . yes, you guessed, her daddy kills her mother and the mother’s lover, and the blood soaks into the sawdust on the floor. Tomato juice, anyone?

THE OAK RIDGE BOYS: He’s Gonna Smile On Me (CBS 2196).
A dully churning slowie with more Pop than Country content.

BOBBY WRIGHT: Seasons In The Sun (Probe PRO 615).
The C&W hit version, and it sounds pretty painful in comparison.

JOE QUARTERMAIN & FREE SOUL: Thanks Dad (Pts. 1 & 2) (GSF GSZ 12).
Owing much to Mr. Wonder, Joe interpolates his choppy lyrics amidst a choogling synthesizer and smacking clap beat while various voices-off chip in the background. Working from a skeletal framework, they get one hell of a funky rhythm going, too. This picks up and glides like a well-oiled funkomatic. R&B PICK.

ELVIS PRESLEY: Shake, Rattle & Roll; Lawdy Miss Clawdy (RCA 49778).
No, not a new release – and not even generally available in Britain as it’s French – but as there are so few newies of note out this week I thought I’d just alert you to the amazing catalogue of Elvis singles (all in glossy full-colour stiff board sleeves) that RCA maintain in France. Fifty double-sided singles are listed on the sleeve, and I expect there are others too. They are being imported by, amongst others, the Broad Green Record Centre, 266 London Road, Croydon, Surrey CR0 2TH, and are worth getting for the cover pix alone! R ‘n’ R PICK.

COMMANDER CODY AND HIS LOST PLANET AIRMEN: Sister Sue; Mean Woman Blues (Paramount PARA 3046).
Sister Sue’s brother is obviously Farmer John, except that everyone from Don & Dewey through Carl & the Commanders to the Premiers has always been in love with his daughter and here the Airmen are in love with “you”. The guys get it on to bouncy bass, snorting sax and picky piano, yet make an unimpressive mess of the Elvis classic which I’ve listed as flip but which is in fact the plug side. They’re recorded too well – it’s too “clean”.

THE DELFONICS: I Told You So; Seventeen And In Love (Bell 1253).
The ‘Fonics return with a beat that might – just might – bring them back into favour on a specialist level, as it’s got those Philly Sound rhythms without being as straightforward. Mmmm, that’s good – found myself doing a little workout there! It’s certainly one for fingerpoppers. On the beautifully-titled flip they open with a hint of the Mothers’ “Live At The Fillmore” in their rap before lurching through an involved slowie. SOUL PICK.

EXECUTIVE SUITE: When The Fuel Runs Out (Cloud One HIT 1).
Optimistic catalogue number for a brand new label, what?! Still, thanks to this Young Professionals-produced Philly Sound dancer from the US Babylon label (and the R&B Charts), they could be proved right first time out. It’s to a topical subject, except that the idea is more along the lines of “I’ll keep you warm when the fuel runs out” than about ecological and economic disaster. A wailing stomping romp. R&B PICK.

LOUIS BOND: Tell Me When (Contempo CS 2005).
Al Green-style vocals over an interestingly insistent fusion of Reggae and R&B.

One thought on “April 13, 1974: Bill Haley And His Comets, Chicago, The Guess Who, Dawn, Leon Russell”

  1. Remembering that period in the 70s when Country music was a very niche market in the UK that did feature regularly on the mainstream charts and on radio with at least one massive country hit every year. 74 was Charlie Rich’s year. The 74 rerelease of Tammy Wynette’s Stand By Your Man ( released almost every year without success!) would fail but of course a year later clicked and became a No1 UK hit. Country was a small niche but country stars got a lot more TV coverage than any US Soul/R&B/Disco acts at that time…


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