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.

RAY STEVENS: The Streak; You’ve Got The Music Inside (Janus 6146201).
Already with a word-of-mouth reputation amongst the general public here, Ray Stevens’s biggest ever US smash is disappointingly lame but is bound to get a lot of exposure (no pun intended), as a result of which it could convince some that it really IS funny. Conceived as a radio news report (set to music after a while), it gives Ray ample opportunity to show off his different funny voices as a canned audience laughs uproariously at the by now over-tired joke. Dull slow “straight” flip.

ROSHELL ANDERSON: Know What You’re Doing When You Leave (Contempo CS 2014).
Soul pick of the week, had William DeVaughn not been such an exceptional rival, Roshell (a bloke) drags out his soulful notes in a smoky croak over a backing of such classic simplicity that only the complex lyrics prevent this from being another “When A Man Loves A Woman”. For some reason the co-producer gets credited with the satisfyingly deep and old fashioned flip, as by JESSE BOONE AND THE ASTORS: No Particular One. SOUL PICK.

WILLIAM DeVAUGHN: Be Thankful For What You Got, Pts 1 & 2 (Chelsea 2005002).
The fastest rising and most talked about Soul smash in America, this ultra cool laid back lazy slow (yet funky) thumper is the long overdue backlash against the damaging Super Fly syndrome. You may not have a fancy automobile or consort with glamorous gangsters, sings William, but be thankful for what you got . . . your pride. There are hints of Curtis Mayfield in his voice and of Willie Mitchell in the beat, while overall the beautiful sound is possibly the most distinctive and refreshing since Timmy Thomas’s “Why Can’t We Live Together”. Dee-jays, get two copies and segue the lovely instrumental flip! SOUL PICK.

K.C. & THE SUNSHINE BAND: Sound Your Funky Horn (Jay Boy BOY 83).
I thought that was Sunshine JUNKANOO Band. Oh well. After exhorting us all to “Blow Your Whistle”, Mr. Casey is now adopting another tack on this less interesting Party-type follow-up.

DEODATO/AIRTO: Do It Again (CTI CTS 4003).
Funky electric keyboards from Eumir Deodato, rattling percussion from Airto Moreira, and – most important of all – brain-searing guitar from John Tropea make this “live” instrumental treatment of the first Steely Dan hit an absolute gas. That guitar . . . phweeee! MUSIC PICK.

EARTH, WIND & FIRE: Mighty Mighty; Drum Song (CBS 2284).
Well, did you get their “Head To The Sky” album? They’ve got a new one now, at last, and while the rest of its contents are unknown to me, these two tracks make my expectations high indeed. The topside tricksy brass ‘n chanting funky stomper is probably their most accessible single to date, Sly Stone-ish but better, while the flipside instrumental is a thing of rare beauty – percussive, of course, but full of weird noises from African finger pianos or some such exotic devices. Do try them. MUSIC PICK.

KETTY LESTER: Love Letters (Contempo-Raries CS 9003).
Quite possibly this revival of Ketty’s unforgettable 1962 slowie, with its hauntingly distinctive piano, will make it a hit all over again, as it hasn’t aged at all. On the flip, there’s another effective slowie but in a different style and by Johnny Burnette’s brother, country-rocker DORSEY BURNETTE: Hey Little One. NOSTALGIA PICK.

SHIRLEY ELLIS: The Name Game; Ever See A Diver Kiss His Wife (While The Bubbles Bounced About Above The Water) (MCA 134).
One for Northerners and Alan Freeman listeners, Shirley’s 1965 follow-up to “The Clapping Song” is another irritating/delightful load of gibberish set to a bouncily farting baritone sax. It’s certainly had its fans since then, so who am I to put it down? OLDIE PICK.

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