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.

THE CHI-LITES: There Will Never Be Any Peace (Until God Is Seated At The Conference Table) (Brunswick B 55512).
Huh? That must be the most pessimistic title of all time, if you happen to be a realist! Eugene Record and the “Have You Seen Her” gang of fame actually did rather worse, Charts-wise, in America than they currently are doing here with their “Homely Girl”, despite a heavy push for the title from their record label, which may explain why they have now reverted to their slow style for this sweetly sung yet ultimately fairly empty message of faith.

GRAHAM CENTRAL STATION: Can You Handle It? (Warner WB 7782).
Highly touted, fashionably clad and musically modish, GCS are the group formed around ex-Family Stone bassist Larry Graham. I’m sure that their brand of instant black music sounds fine in the right circumstances, but it’s too contrived and pointless for my own taste. Here, they rip off the Tyrone Davis style on a typically Tyrone-ish medium tempo jogger, which gets sung in a mixture of Davis and Stone that seems stylistically forced.

American Singles

Pick of the week

JOSE FELICIANO: I Like What You Give; The Gypsy (RCA ABP0 0206).
Arranged and produced by himself with Steve Cropper, Jose’s version of the Nolan Porter choppy funker has – not surprisingly, seeing the ex-MG’s involvement – some chunky Memphis-style brass and a few Cropper guitar licks in amongst the intricately created jaunty rhythm. Jose’s voice is all over the place, weaving in and out of (and creating much of) the funk . . . he even does a Detroit Emeralds-style sexy sigh! On the flip, he and his guitar go in for some melodramatic phoney flamenco before turgid story-line slowie gets under way. How come Cher missed doing this one?

DR. JOHN: (Everybody Wanna Get Rich) Rite Away; Mos’ Scocious (Atlantic K 10445).
Uh uh, get down y’all, OOH! Yeach, the King of Gumbo Ya-Ya is back in a funky bag on a choogling polyrhythmic hunk of mumbo-jumbo, with express train chix and the odd bass thonk behind his gruff tongue-twisting and jittery jive. Every time I play his “Right Place Wrong Time” US hit at dances people wanna know what it is, so why don’t they latch on first time round this time? More easy greasy stuff on the strangely attractive flip. VOODOO PICK.

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART: Upon The My-O My; Magic Be (Virgin VS 110).
Now the Captain comes on like the Doctor (John, that is), with a sinisterly moody piece of gruffness, backed up though by an interestingly progressing blend of guitars, brass and flute. Just right for Virgin lovers! Slow and – had it risen beyond a monotone – almost pretty Alice In Wonderland flip. MUSIC PICK.

BILL WITHERS: The Same Love That Made Me Laugh; Make A Smile For Me (A&M AMS 7108).
Laughing, smiling, the café au lait Jim Croce does his Jose Feliciano impersonation to a smoothly thumping booming beat this time, and then puts on his reflective sad voice for the melancholy slow flip.

THE HUES CORPORATION: Freedom For The Stallion (RCA 2444).
A US hit some time before the initial vinyl crisis, the Hues Corp’s slowed-down treatment of the Allen Toussaint song is often referred to by others as sounding like the Friends Of Distinction. I disagree: I like the FoD and actively dislike this, mainly because (as with Tavares’ newie) it’s too carefully contrived. Back to Mono and some real freedom!

MICKY DOLENZ: Ooh! She’s Young; Love War (MGM 2006392).
The Monkee that married the girl from Top Of The Pops, in case you’ve forgotten or are too young to remember, Micky’s done a David Essex and written himself a Nilsson-esque little perky slow thumper which borrows from Dr. John and the Beatles’ “kiddie” songs. Enough names to confuse you? Despite the influences, it has a charm of its own and I happen to like it. Lazy slurring and ethereal steel guitar give the pleasant flip a Country-style Lovin’ Spoonful flavour. Better than riding elephants, huh, Micky? POP PICK.

JACKSON BROWNE: Take It Easy; Ready Or Not (Asylum AYM 526).
The guy what wrote it now sings the Eagles’ first US hit, and it sounds still remarkably like their version (or should that be vice-versa?). Bland music for spaced-out California cowboys, and very nice of its type. Amusing flip. This guy writes such good words and has such a distinctively mellow voice, it’s a pity he’s lost both amidst the hippy Country musical trappings.

LEON RUSSELL: If I Were A Carpenter; Wild Horses (A&M AMS 7107).
Leon’s Easter offering reaches us later than America, and without its prettily posed cover of Leon dressed as Jesus . . . not yet, boy, even if the critics have been crucifying ya! He does the tune with a jaunty rhythm, his inimitable vocal styling, and some lewdness in the heavy breathing department. The Stones’ song flipside has a – would you believe? – mild Reggae rhythm behind the Country steel guitars, and comes off rather well.

ANDY & DAVID WILLIAMS: What’s Your Name (Philips 6000145).
Change of label and now the Terrible Twins get Osmonds-type technical support from such as Don Costa and Mike Curb on their pleasingly wimpoid revival of the great 1962 hit by Don and Juan, who admittedly were somewhat more Soulful! It’s a sickly sweet duet with syrupy strings and redundant piano triplets . . .and, thanks to its former associations, I love it! TEEN PICK.

STU NUNNERY: Madelaine (Mooncrest MOON 23).
Sally from Syracuse and Maddy from Vera Cruz? Nope! Oh well, Stu’s singing his heart out on a formula-type slow piano and massed build-up comes-and-goes production that sounds like millions of other would-be profound efforts.

GORDON LIGHTFOOT: Sundown; Too Late For Prayin’ (Reprise K 14327).
Can’t say I exactly run around the room clicking my fingers with glee on hearing this mournful slowie, but it’s a dull week and someone’s gotta have a picture put above their review and Gordon just about qualifies thanks to the nagging inevitability of his tune, which sounds so familiar immediately that it’s bound to be a hit. Actually, it IS quite nice too, and trips along at a fast enough pace to make dancing of both a smoochy and a polite type possible. Quavering reverential slow message flip. MoR PICK.

TAVARES: That’s The Sound That Lonely Makes (Capitol CL 15779).
The sound of a heart breaking, as impersonated by the Tavares brothers (pronounced as in the Spanish), is a dryly performed semi-Soul slowie with unison vocal back-up, tapping and clucking rhythm and an impassioned lead singer. They’re popular in American Soul markets, but too carefully contrived for my own taste.

SONS OF ROBIN STONE: Got To Get You Back (Atlantic K 10441).
Created by Philly’s Bobby Eli, the Sons not surprisingly are another coolly clomping Philly Sound group. OK for Philly Freaks, but nothing more than that.

ISAAC GUILLORY: Sidewalks Of America (Atlantic K 10442).
Another boring modern-day ‘teen balladeer . . . oh for Fabian and Frankie Avalon! At least they didn’t try to be tediously relevant.

AL MARTINO: I Won’t Last A Day Without You (Capitol CL 15783).
Creamily croaking Al does the Paul Williams-penned dreamy slowie just right for romantically inclined old folks everywhere. It’s gotta be said, the guy does sound sincere.

MAGIC NIGHT: Baby You Belong To Me (Pye 7N 25643).
More yearning slow Soulfulness on a sweet ‘n squeaky slowie. Not quite in the Stylistics class, but nice enough even so.
[Ed: In the US, Magic Night were known as The Magic Touch.]

BROWN SUGAR: Didn’t I (Polydor 2001495).
Clydie King does her Diana Ross impersonation and calls the result Brown Sugar . . . considering the number of Ross fans in this country, she may have found the right formula too, especially if they are prepared to buy the same noise time and time again from its originator, as this is nothing different either.

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