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.

TOWER OF POWER: Time Will Tell (Warner Bros WB 7796).
From their new “Back To Oakland” set, TOP have pulled this gorgeously slushy waltz, which features the full big band schmaltz treatment behind the soulful lead voice . . . except that the schmaltz gets thrown a bit by the tempo going into jazzy double time and the Ray Charles hints get thoroughly squashed by a sense of flash and cynical skill! Almost as good as their great “You’re Still A Young Man”. First week in the Charts, at 80 R&B and 93 Pop.

CHARLIE RICH: A Very Special Love Song (Epic 5-11091).
Now sliding down the Charts after a long time up them, Charlie’s official follow-up to “The Most Beautiful Girl” (not to be confused with an initially more successful – and to my mind, better – old RCA offering), this Billy Sherrill & Norro Wilson-penned slowie seems to have less of a hook than his two British hits, and thus proves how big a star Charlie has suddenly become.


American Singles

Pick of the week

BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE: Blue Collar; Let It Ride (Mercury 6052605).
It’s be fair to Phonogram week: last week I slagged them off for hiding this 6:05 masterpiece away on a B-side, thus preventing me from making it the Pick Of The Week it deserved to be, as I only found it there too late. So, et voila! Complete with a photo of Randy (ex-Guess Who) Bachman above it, here’s the coolly plopping and yowling Steely Dan-styled lightly Latin-Rock spaced-out beauty at the top of the heap. Now go out and buy it!

BILL DEAL & THE RHONDELS: I’ve Been Hurt; BOBBY FULLER FOUR: I Fought The Law (MGM 2006422).
The 1969 follow-up to their even better “May I”, this is the somewhat Ska-ish bouncy beat hit version of the Tams tune which Guy Darrell took to belated fame here last year. Try and find “May I” because that really is a disco classic: meanwhile, this is a good introduction to the Rhondels’ infectious (and, at the time, enterprisingly different) sound. Both sides here are intended to plug two different new volumes in Polydor’s excellent “Carats” oldies LP series. The late Bobby Fuller had a Buddy Holly sound on his Sonny (Crickets) Curtis-penned 1966 hit beater, and even scored also with Buddy’s own “Love’s Made A Fool Of You” before dying young. OLDIES PICK.

ISLEY BROTHERS: Summer Breeze (Pts 1 & 2) (Epic EPC 2244)
From “3+3”, the Brothers’ buzzing fuzz-tone spiced reading of the Seals & Crofts US hit was the Peoples’ Choice this Monday on Capital. How will it do at the final voting on Friday? It’s a pleasant languid slowie, but apart from the acidic guitar yowl that comprises the instrumental flip, it seems less remarkable than their last two hits.

THREE DOG NIGHT: The Show Must Go On (Probe PRO 620).
When Leo Sayer’s version went out as a single in America, it had steam organ circus music arbitrarily tacked on in front: the Dogs do the same thing but integrate the intro most effectively, adding sound effects during their more bouncy treatment of the main body too. But can it happen twice? Methinks not, as the Sayer original – brilliant though it was – did pall disturbingly soon after its initial impact.

TINA & MOMMY: No Charge (Epic EPC 2313).
Oh bliss! Tammy Wynette and her little girl doing Melba Montgomery’s current US Country/Pop hit, a cloyingly sweet and icky case of juvenile blackmail being met by Mummy’s self-sacrifice, so that Tina’s monetary demands get cancelled by Tammy’s having had to care for her. Debts paid in full, no charge to either party. In fact it’s the flip that’s number 60 with a bullet in the Country Chart this week, and – if you can stand it! – that’s by TINA & DADDY (George Jones) and called “The Telephone Call”. Yes, Tina relays Daddy’s message of love to Mummy, who’s under the drier, and puts them on the road to D-I-V-O-R-C-E by getting it all wrong. Pure bliss! HEE-HAW PICK.

ASHFORD & SIMPSON: Have You Ever Tried It (Warner Bros K 16373).
Valerie & Nick, who I remember seeing singing at the Apollo exactly ten years ago this week (my first time there: Joe Tex, Wilson Pickett, the Contours and Rufus Thomas were on the bill too, if I remember right!) . . . so don’t believe the bullshit they put out about never having sung before when they started up again during their Diana Ross tunesmithing period.  Anyroad, they’re at it again, with some of my favourite lightly Latin rhythms and a lazy electric piano providing the framework. It could get further, but ‘sawful nice even so. SOUL PICK.

SARAH VAUGHAN: I Need You More (Than Ever Now); Do Away With April (Mainstream MSS 305).
Popular Jazz thrush slumming it on a lovely Rosemary McCoy co-penned lush Soul semi-slowie. This being reminiscence week, I remember being a human mike stand during a Rosemary McCoy, Ray Scott and Ronald Mosely demo session. Aren’t you glad you aren’t boring old me? Sorry, but it’s ten years ago this Thursday since I went to work in New York, and I’m feeling a bit sad and self-indulgent. Say, wanna hear about me and Sam Cooke? Little Richard? James Brown? Esquerita? Dee Dee Sharp? Freddie Cannon? Burgess Meredith? Les McCann? etc, etc? (Sigh) I knew them all. BUT, there’s no time like the present, and I cannot understand why anyone should want to do away with April, even if it does remind Miss Vaughan of a love that went wrong on the equally nice and slower flip. SOUL PICK.

THE DIAMONDS: Little Darlin’ (Mercury 6052612).
Copied both then and now (the Kalin Twins’ “When”, Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock”), this castanets-introed white Doo Wop Rocker from exactly seventeen years ago (thinks: jeezus, 1957 . . . THAT long ago?!) was itself a cover version of Maurice Williams and the Gladiolas’ black original, the flip to which in any case was rather better (and will doubtless crop up on Capital Radio’s Cruising show ere long). Anyway – deep breath – it’s now the Chart-contending plug-side of a maxi of tracks from the great “American Graffiti” flick, the others being . . . wait for it! . . . THE BIG BOPPER’s “Chantilly Lace” and THE PLATTERS’ “The Great Pretender”. Excellent value, as all nostalgicats can tell, and there’s no Wolfman Jack chat on these, either. Also cashing in on the “Graffiti” boom is a single of THE BEACH BOYS’ “All Summer Long” and “Surfin’ Safari” (Capitol CL 15781), the two tracks which for diverse reasons were left off the British edition of the soundtrack album: the former, an anachronistic inclusion in the film, has an unnaturally “bright” sound here, and the flip sounds a bit phoney too. The Diamonds seem a serious Chart threat, and a POP PICK.

OLYMPIC RUNNERS: Do It Over; Put The Music Where Your Mouth Is (London HLU 10455).
The cream of Britain’s soul sessioneers (I suspect), produced by Mike Vernon, masquerading here as the Barnes 117 Church Road Rhythm Band while spreadin’ honey on a couple of datedly funky instrumentals which would have been a gas in ’67. What’s happening?

THE SAPPHIRES: The Slow Fizz; Our Love Is Everywhere (Probe PRO 609) and PATTI AUSTIN: Music To My Heart; Love ‘Em And Leave ‘Em Kind Of Love (Probe PRO 608).
Two in-demand bang bang bang Northern dancers, “Slow Fizz” especially being much sought for years. Both have everyone’s favourite bass lines, simple lyrics and chanting chix. The Sapphires were actually rather good given the chance, which they do indeed get on the gently bossa-nova-ish flip, one of Kenny Gamble’s earlier co-penning/arranging efforts from his days with producer Jerry Ross.

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