May 25, 1974: Steely Dan, The Monkees, Little Bo Pete & The 1974 Rock & Roll Janitors, Flesh Gordon And The Nude Hollywood Argyles, Ray Stevens

American Singles

Pick of the week

STEELY DAN: Rikki Don’t Lose That Number; Any Major Dude Will Tell You (Probe PRO 622).
Lead-off number on their great “Pretzel Logic” album, which is pure listening pleasure from beginning to end and really should be bought instead, this gradually unfurling mellow Latin lilter is too subtle for a single yet makes an ideal introduction to the group for the impecunious. Their harmony sound is just a killer on the slow flip. Dare I claim that “Pretzel Logic” is as complete and indefinably “right” as was “The Band”? MUSIC PICK.

THE MONKEES: I’m A Believer; Monkee’s Theme (Bell 1354).
Now that it’s hip to dig the Monkees, this could be a timely revival of their first and still biggest British smash from ’67. The Neil Diamond-penned hit side is surely familiar to all but the very youngest, while Boyce & Hart’s telly “Theme” – with its “Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees!” – makes a strong and welcome alternate title . . . no, I’m sorry, I mean alternate A-side. NOSTALGIA PICK.

LITTLE BO PETE & THE 1974 ROCK & ROLL JANITORS: Good Golly Miss Molly; Lucille (Surrey International SIT 5005).
Get over the jokey group name and you’ll find that these two old Little Richard rockers have been given powerhouse treatments about which anyone should feel proud. The beat don’t quit, nor does the excitement. Phew, once more round the room, James! DISCO PICK.

FLESH GORDON AND THE NUDE HOLLYWOOD ARGYLES: Superstreaker; Naked (Paramount PARA 3049).
With a group name like that you’d be right to expect a revamped version of “Alley Oop”: what you might NOT expect, though, is for it to be as good as it is. With lines like “Look up in the tree, it’s a sugar-cured ham!” – “No, it’s Superstreaker!”, it’s a veritable laffarama. Arranged by White Tornado, the whole thing smacks of Gary Paxton. It certainly cuts the Ray Stevens newie, to my mind. FUN PICK. Continue reading “May 25, 1974: Steely Dan, The Monkees, Little Bo Pete & The 1974 Rock & Roll Janitors, Flesh Gordon And The Nude Hollywood Argyles, Ray Stevens”

May 18, 1974: Aretha Franklin, Blue Magic, The Undisputed Truth, Sylvia, Four Tops

Stateside newies

ARETHA FRANKLIN: I’m In Love (Atlantic 45-2999).
R&B 1/Pop 24 – those are Aretha’s Chart positions this week with this imaginatively developing complex tour-de-force from her current number one R&B album, “Let Me In Your Life”, and, as this column seems to have been getting a bit Chart orientated of late, I thought it might be an idea to run down some of the other R&B hits that I haven’t gotten around to mentioning yet.

BLUE MAGIC: Sideshow (Atco 45-6961).
R&B 20/Pop 92, and bulleting up both Charts, the Sweet Soulsters’ newie opens with a distorted fairground barker’s voice exhorting “Hurry! Hurry! See the saddest show in town for only fifty cents!” before the slow soulful sweetness sets in. As a bonus, their Vince Montana-arranged version of “Just Don’t Wanna Be Lonely” is on the flip.

THE UNDISPUTED TRUTH: Help Yourself (Gordy G 7134F).
R&B 73/Pop 72, bulleted on both, Norman Whitfield’s proteges are in their usual surrogate Temptations role as they do an actually not bad Timmy Thomas rhythm “Psychedelic Shack” that doubtless will – if it hasn’t done so already – turn up on a future Tempts album. Southern dancers will dig. Continue reading “May 18, 1974: Aretha Franklin, Blue Magic, The Undisputed Truth, Sylvia, Four Tops”

May 11, 1974: Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods, Don Covay, William Bell, Bobbi Humphrey, Rufus Thomas

Stateside newies

BO DONALDSON AND THE HEYWOODS: Billy, Don’t Be A Hero (ABC 11435).
Currently winning the Chart race in America (up 19 to 38, as opposed to Paper Lace down 4 to 100), Bo and the boys very slightly speed up the tempo, use a somewhat perfunctory mechanical whistle instead of Lace’s irritating (delete according to taste) real thing, and – the only part that was half way decent about the original – they completely lose the soulful session-singing chick’s voice. So, the result must be pretty much like Paper Lace’s own “live” version. Now for some good music . . .

DON COVAY: It’s Better To Have (And Don’t Need) (Mercury 73469).
Ole “Super Dude” is back with a joyfully whomping, stomping, bouncy beat and a strong Gospel feel to his “you know, I can’t get no more . . . satisfaction” (the last word by a wailing Gospel group) new R&B hit, currently at 64 with a bullet. Mmmm, mmm!

WILLIAM BELL: Gettin’ What You Want (Losin’ What You Got) (Stax STA 0198).
With a similar sort of message to Don’s, William is another veteran Soulster doing well with his latest (at 60 R&B with a bulet). It’s a simply Soulful slowie, slinkily sold by Bill and some chix, which puts over another version of the old Jody story. Continue reading “May 11, 1974: Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods, Don Covay, William Bell, Bobbi Humphrey, Rufus Thomas”

May 4, 1974: William DeVaughn, The Joneses, Ultra High Frequency, The Chi-Lites, Graham Central Station

Stateside newies

WILLIAM DeVAUGHN: Be Thankful For What You Got (Pts 1 & 2) (Roxbury BRBO 0236).
Created by a whole host of unfamiliar names, this fast-rising R&B hit (up 11 to 14 this week) is like a cooled-out ‘70s-style “You Got What It Takes” not only in its idea but also in its lyrics – with one important exception. The “You” of the title, unlike in Marv Johnson’s earlier hit, relates to “you out there” rather than to a specific female “You”. Yes, it’s a message song to the brothers and sisters who may not drive a Cadillac – may not have a car at all – but who should be thankful for what little they do get. Taking his cue from another modern black singer of messages, William (who wrote it too) assumes a light Curtis Mayfield-type vocal delivery, yet gets backed in a way that relates to no-one else. There’s a solidly booming bouncy slow thud beat in amongst a gorgeous mixture of delicately-tapping bongos, drily scratching wah-wah, languorously chording organ, jazzily tinkering guitar, and beautifully underplayed vibes, all of which get breathing space on the basically instrumental backing-track-ish B-side, and all of which combine with William’s unhurriedly cool Mayfield vocal to create a compulsive “play it again” little platter. There’s a really strange sense of atmosphere about this one, and it’s a beaut.

THE JONESES: Hey Babe (Is The Getting Still Good?) (Pts 1 & 2) (Mercury  73458).
Hey, Soul Group Freaks! Remember the lovely vocal sounds made around 1967 by such groups as the Falcons, Intruders, Parliaments and others? An unusual harmony that related in a way to Gospel and Jazz, and which was accompanied by a distinctive happy but extremely “black” set of bouncy chords. A sound which never really did catch on in “white” Britain, and which in the States was biggest in the cities of the North-East. Well, stand back Freaks, here come the Joneses and boy, do they have that sound, but good! The delight of hearing those beautiful harmonies again is increased by the guys’ use of rumbling deep bass doo-wops in places, and by a snazzily snarling baritone sax in the joyfully happy backing. Now that the not dissimilar Intruders have finally broken through in Britain, the way may even be open for the Joneses too. In America, they’re currently at 40 on the R&B Chart after 8 weeks. Oh yeah, and if the vocals are too deep for Northern dancers, the flip’s a backing-track instrumental!

ULTRA HIGH FREQUENCY: Incompatible (Wand WND 11262).
UHF recently came chugging out of Philly City on the right tracks, if you remember, and now they’re back with a nicely traditional – if indistinctly defined – vocal group thumping shuffler which features much the same sort of vocalese as the previously described Joneses. Lots of vocal interplay, bass voices, complex harmonies and old-style Philly wup-woohing on the climaxes. There’s a driving beat amongst it all, but this may be one for the vocal fanciers more than for the dancers. Continue reading “May 4, 1974: William DeVaughn, The Joneses, Ultra High Frequency, The Chi-Lites, Graham Central Station”