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.

SYLVIA: Sweet Stuff (Vibrations VI 529).
R&B 25, and slipping from a high of 16 after thirteen weeks, Ms. Robinson’s in her usual winsome between the sheets mood, coyly sucking, cooing and hissing, “Uh, do it baby, yeah! That wasn’t so bad after all, was it, sweet stuff?” Neither was the record this time.

FOUR TOPS: One Chain Don’t Make No Prison (Dunhill D-4386).
R&B 28/Pop 62, bulleted on both, Levi and the gang’s latest hoarse stomper has quite a good beat and a fairly convincing sense of urgency, even if the formula’s the same as usual.

OSCAR BROWN Jr.: The Lone Ranger (Atlantic 45-3001).
R&B 30/Pop 93, the studiedly “hip” night club entertainer-cum-jazzer of “Dat Dere” and “Brown Baby” fame in the early ‘60s has returned with – yes! – the old Lone Ranger and Tonto joke set to music . . . you know the one, where Tonto says as they’re surrounded by Indians, “What do you mean WE, white man?” Yuk yuk!

ISAAC HAYES: Wonderful (Enterprise ENA 9095).
R&B 31/Pop 89, slow to go on both but at least bulleted R&B, Ike’s in his usual tender vocal mood and does it to a mildly bouncy slow thump beat with chix ‘n strings ‘n things.

NATURAL FOUR: Love That Really Counts (Curtom CR 1995).
R&B 32/Pop 101, and not to be confused with “It’s Love T.R.C.”, this Leroy Hutson co-penned (but not produced) rhythmic slowie has a pretty arrangement and some cool singing from the good-looking guys. Pleasantness personified.

EDDIE KENDRICKS: Son Of Sagittarius (Tamla T 54247F).
R&B 46/Pop 55, bulleted on both, and from his “Boogie Down” LP, Eddie’s metronomically clopping newie finally brings America’s favourite pre-occupation (after sex) into the Charts. How can it fail? If you hadn’t guessed, I’m Taurus. Wow, far out!

THE IMPRESSIONS: Finally Got Myself Together (I’m A Changed Man) (Curtom CR 1997).
R&B 47/Pop 88, bulleted R&B, and produced by Ed Townsend with much of his “Let’s Get It On” feel to it (especially in the rhythm and the drily yowling guitar), the re-constituted Imps have finally got themselves together (and another significant hit) after a spell in the doldrums after Curtis Mayfield left. The lazily rolling pace suits them even if vocally they’ve lost their immediate identity.

TRANSATLANTIC JOTTINGS . . . GAMBLE & HUFF have now formed a TSOP label alongside PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL, GAMBLE and TOMMY: first releases are by THE PEOPLES CHOICE and TALK OF THE TOWN . . . BARRY WHITE has also formed the TOGETHER UNLIMITED label, debuting with WHITE HEAT, while LED ZEPPELIN’s own label is called SWAN SONG, kicking off with Britain’s BAD COMPANY Soul group . . . JAY & THE TECHNIQUES are now on SILVER BLUE (POLYDOR here) singing “I Feel Love Coming On” . . . MERCURY RECORDS in the US are following their British PHONOGRAM affiliate’s lead by plugging their newies via discotheque deejays, at last . . . FRANKIE FORD of “Sea Cruise” fame has formed a production company named after that old hit and a label called BRIARMEADE, releases on which (including Rockabillys by NARVEL FELTS) will be thru SOUTHERN SOUND here . . . JERRY LEE LEWIS has lost a thousand dollars to a lady who alleges he slapped her in a night club three years ago . . . HOWLIN’ WOLF is sueing ARC MUSIC for allegedly withholding by fraud the bulk of his songwriting royalties since 1952 . . . for the fifth week running, CHARLIE RICH has the top three C&W LPs, which is no mean feat . . . CAROLE KING & GERRY GOFFIN can claim a double first: their song “THE LOCO-MOTION” is only the second to top the US Hot 100 twice by different artistes years apart (LITTLE EVA and GRAND FUNK), and the first was their “GO AWAY LITTLE GIRL” (by STEVE LAWRENCE and DONNY OSMOND)!! . . . the legendary “YOUR HIT PARADE” is to return to US TV, featuring original artistes singing their original hits from arbitrarily chosen “top sevens” of weeks from the distant past, plus two hits from the present day . . . CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG’s first show together again will co-star – wait for it! – THE BEACH BOYS, THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND and MOTT THE HOOPLE, and will be in L.A’s 100,000-seater Coloseum on July 6th . . . and finally, that fine old trouper ANDY WILLIAMS has recorded the “Papillon” theme in Japanese, which might even make it less dull than it is in English . . . arogato and goodnight!

American Singles

Pick of the week

EVERLY BROTHERS: All I Have To Do Is Dream; Wake Up Little Susie (Janus 6146200).
First salvo from Phonogram – who now have the Barnaby catalogue – in their Everly campaign, which will include a definitive “Greatest Hits” elpee. Apart from their sounding slightly as though they’ve been strained through cheese-cloth, it’s great to have these two classics back on single, although it would have been even greater had “Dweam Dweam Dweam” been coupled with its original B-side, “Claudette”. Anyway, you get the full lisping glory of the gorgeously slushy “Dweam” plus the paranoid parental fear of the couple who innocently (?) dozed off during a dull drive-in movie on 1957’s punchy Paul Simon-influencing “Susie”. Yeah, all our yesterdays.

LOU REED: Sweet Jane; Lady Day (RCA APB0 0238).
Harsh angular aggression from his live “Rock ‘n Roll Animal” waxing, Lou’s ‘70s treatment of the Velvet Underground drug song is crunched along by a monotonous heavy metal riff behind – or rather, in front of – his curiously effective “non-singing”. It’s got an oddly hypnotic effect, and is best heard LOUD. There’s more variety on the slow flip from the same source, which sounds strangely dated and evocative of open air festivals. ROCK PICK.

CARPENTERS: I Won’t Last A Day Without You; One Love (A&M AMS 7111).
Issued in America presumably to squelch a version by Maureen McGovern, this typical Carpenters slowie from their old “A Song For You” LP has surely been a hit here before . . . otherwise, why else would it be so darned familiar? Admittedly it is exactly like nearly everything they’ve ever done at that tempo, but even so the “when there’s no getting over that rainbow” chorus is something I know backwards already. MAUREEN McGOVERN’s version is in fact out over here (Pye 7N 25627) and, if just because she’s a welcome break from the all-pervasive keening of Karen, it’s a mellower, mushier, and altogether easier on the ear alternative. SLUSH PICK.

PERRY COMO: I Want To Give (Ahora Que Soy Libre); Beyond Tomorrow (Love Theme From “Scorpio”) (RCA LPB0 7518).
More lazy slurring and superlative breath control on another slowie from Perry. The Mediterranean touches sit uneasily on the Theodorakis-penned film flip. SENIOR CITIZEN PICK.

HERB ALPERT & THE TIJUANA BRASS: Fox Hunt; I Can’t Go On Living Baby Without You (A&M AMS 7113).
Newly embalmed, the ever youthful Herb returns to recording with a self-penned breezy instrumental which trips and slips along like a dose of salts and is so innocuous that it scarcely does enough to connect before it’s over. Clumsily titled, the Nino Tempo co-penned flip is a bit meatier with some bouncy steel drums amongst the Mariachi Muzak. NOSTALGIA PICK.

TOM MIDDLETON: It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference (CBS 2269).
From Canada, Tom’s reading of this dreamy Todd Rundgren slowie is lurchingly attractive and does credit to its originator by keeping the instrumentation subtly pretty. MUSIC PICK.

THE NEW BIRTH: It’s Been A Long Time; Keep On Doin’ It (RCA ABP0 0185).
Mmmm, here’s that beautifully understated slowly intensifying crawling-paced wailing Soul gem, made so good by the lead-singing bloke’s pent-up emotional preaching over an innocently cooing chix-dominated back-up. Nobody who considers himself to be a true Soul Freak should miss this. Had there been any chance of the RRM files containing a pic of the New Birth, this would have been the PICK OF THE WEEK!

HERBIE HANCOCK: Chameleon; Vein Melter (CBS 2329).
Jazz purists are getting all het up over Herbie’s switch to the commercialism of synthesizer and a boogaloo beat, whereas R&B and funky dance fans are overjoyed! Keep on choogling, Herb, and sock it to us one more time! Anyway, for those that care, the lushly slow flip is more in a jazzily tinkering mood. What IS Jazz, in any case? Huh? R&B PICK.

MATATA: Return To You; Something In Mind (President PT 417).
These London-based Africans are about as close as they can get to James Brown without being the real thing, and have the whole funky get down street music party thing TOGETHER! They’re in a slightly more ethnic groove than before here, and end the bounce-along rattling flip with a frantic percussion knees-up. R&B PICK.

GWEN McCRAE: For Your Love (President PT 413).
Already reviewed as it turns out somewhat ahead of its release here, remember that this is Gwen’s “Let’s Get It On”-type reading of Ed Townsend’s old slowie, and it’s a Deep Soul must. SOUL PICK.

LEON HAYWOOD: Keep It In The Family; Long As There’s You (I Got Love) (Pye 7N 25652).
The mellow moonlighter adopts a male version of the Mavis Staples vocal wheeze on this Staples Singers rip-off herky-jerky beater, which is nice enough in its own way, but which to my and many Americans’ minds is overshadowed by the peaceful slow flip, an R&B hit in its own right.

Meanwhile, THE STAPLE SINGERS themselves get their last two US hits coupled back-to-back here (Stax 2025224), “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” being another tedious example of Mavis’s formularized wheezing croak set to the “I’ll Take You There” tune, and “Touch A Hand, Make A Friend” being an altogether happier skip-along little ditty with gay twiddly bits from steel drums and some sort of pipe organ.

BRINKLEY & PARKER: (Don’t Get Fooled By The) Pander Man (Contempo CS 2012).
Not that it’s much of a recommendation, this is evidently what’s knockin’ ‘em out in London’s discos. Oh well, if you don’t happen to be tired of the Temptations themselves making this boring Norman Whitfield-type noise, maybe you’ll dig Brinkley and Parker’s accurate carbon copy of their sound. Instrumental continuation on the flip and all, as they mutter and whine about a pimp and his hookers. The words are good, so it’s a pity the music isn’t more original.

NILSSON: Daybreak; Down (RCA ABP0 0246).
Obviously extremely competent and technically well made, these two tunes from the Nilsson and Ringo-starring “Son Of Dracula” flick seem curiously flat and insubstantial . . . typically Nilsson, in other words, but at his glossily emptiest. The topside pretends to be jaunty while the slower flipside plodding thumper is a bit McCartney-ish. Pure Pop with a capital “P” and no Soul.

J.J. BARNES: To An Early Grave (Contempo CS 2009).
A disappointingly dull re-introduction to the mid-‘60s R&B legend who toured here recently, this new slow rhythm patterer is in fact marginally better in its instrumental backing-track B-side form. A shame.

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