BUNNY SIGLER: Love Train, Pts. 1/2 (Philadelphia Int. ZST 3545).
Pulled from Bunny’s “That’s How Long I’ll Be Loving You” album and cut in two for singles release, here’s his ultra-soulful slowing-up of the O’Jays’ international smash. There’s still plenty of rhythm, but this time it’s a ponderous slow lurching thump ‘n thud to which you can actually grasp the one you love while you sway on board the love train with a groin-grinding action! (And if you can’t be near the one you love, love the one you’re near!) Anyway, back on the track, Bunny (a bloke, y’know, of mighty disco fame in the past) gets a gospelly feel going as he wails and rants away over a loosely chanting group, who actually start the record off with some formless background chatter over the strongly-featured organ’s sanctified chording and the churchy piano’s ditto plonking. On Part 2, the music drops away, and Bunny preaches to the accompaniment of this by now humming group, members of whom chip in with righteous “yeah, yeahs”, before the music comes back in and the beat returns. A really good concept, done well, and obviously destined to be extremely popular amongst the Soulful folk.
LITTLE MILTON: Behind Closed Doors (Stax STA 0210).
So now Milton Campbell wraps his bluesy throat around the Charlie Rich smash, substituting a frantic passion for Charlie’s quiet conviction. The result is actually less personal than the quieter approach, and summons up – in my mind, at least – mental images of a far sweatier and more wham-bam set of behaviour patterns behind those closed doors than does the more refined boasting of sensitive yet burly Rich. Still, different strokes for different folks, and different tricks for different chicks. (Phew, keep it up! – Assistant Ed).
TYRONE DAVIS: What Goes Up (Must Come Down) (Dakar DK 4532).
Speaking of keeping it up, Pete, Tyrone here has the oh-so-truthful answer! It’s always hard to describe Ty’s discs, because as with those of such as Al Green they do tend to have the same formula, but vary considerably in the detail which makes up their overall similarity of sound. This new one, which is doing extremely well R&B (at 20 this week), is another bouncy whomper with rhythm-riding phrasing and all sorts of subtleties.
GLADYS KNIGHT & THE PIPS: On And On (Buddah BDA 423).
Simply streaking up both charts with bullets all the way (29 Pop/18 R&B), Glad and the lads are helped on this pounding chant by the fact that it was penned/produced by none other than Curtis Mayfield . . . wotta meetin’ of talents, huh?!! Not only that, but also it’s from the Pips-featuring and Mayfield-scored soundtrack of a movie called “Claudine”, starring James Earl Jones and Diahann Caroll – a black movie that, from its publicity pix, looks like a black “Love Story” rather than yet another pimps / drugs / Mafia caper. The music heard on “On And On” presents the soulful wailing of Gladys set to the usual wukka-wukkings and thudding percussion that have become the Mayfield trademark these days.
Pick of the week
MARIA MULDAUR: Midnight At The Oasis; Any Old Time (Reprise K 14331).
“You won’t need no camel – no, no! – when I take you for a ride”, warbles this navel-flashing houri as she undulates between the palm trees slipping from tent to tent beneath the starlit skies. A lady who takes her time, she’s finally had the huge hit she deserved in America with this gorgeous and seductive little ditty, backed beautifully by a jazzy guitar, jiggly slow rhythm and lazy strings. There’s a Classic Blues approach to the relaxed yet jaunty flip, which only enhances her Red Hot Mama appeal.
JAY DEE: Strange Funky Games And Things, Pts 1/2 (Warner Bros K 16395).
Jay Dee could’ve called himself Jay Lee ‘cos in fact he’s none other than that Northern Disco rave, the man who made a thing called “Do The Duck”, the “Harlem Shuffler” himself, Mister JA-CK-IEE LEEEEEE! Super Bad! What’s more, that Southern Disco fave, the old groaner himself, Mr Barry White penned, produced and generally created this really rather effective snikkety-rhythm heavy slow funker. Not the sort of thing to delight the dancers in Oldham . . . or will blind loyalty to their man make them change their taste?! . . . It’s got an instrumental Norman Whitfield-type Part 2 which, for once, is good too. R&B PICK.
THE TEDDY BEARS: To Know Him Is To Love Him; JEWEL AKENS: The Birds And The Bees (Contempo-Raries CS 9004).
Phil Spector’s first success (he actually sang in the one girl, two boys group too), this dreamily slushy 1958 million-seller is still much requested by nostalgicats, for many of whom it appears to be “their song” . . . so, provided that Contempo can get the jocks behind it, it could be another revived hit. On the 1965 flip by Black Jewel (whom Eddie Cochran backed somewhat earlier), his perky slow bouncer has a period charm that right now makes it sound even older than the topside. In common with several other records these days, this (my copy, at least) has been pressed in semi-see-thru-red vinyl. OLDIE PICK.
NEIL SEDAKA: Laughter In The Rain (Polydor 2058494).
Not to be confused with the currently better-plugged British cover-version by Phil Cordell, this is the original by the cheeky chappie wot wrote it. Evidently the stand-out track on his last album, but not issued on single in favour of a dismal dirge which died a deserved death, it’s now likely to be too damned late. Oh well. Which reminds me – it is actually rather like Carole King’s “It’s Too Late”, once you get under the lush trappings. So, the “Oh Carol” affair continues? POP PICK.
WIZZ: Brooklyn (Surrey International SIT 5007).
Label names that include “International” in them are darned lucky to get printed in full, so why do they do it? Anyway, here’s a jauntily silly goodtime ditty with all the bounce-along ricky-tricky trimmings on which my zanily madcap disco act depends, so Surrey Int. can depend on my playing it at my next MoR dance. As for you lot . . . ? Um, yeah! MoR PICK.
GLORIA GAYNOR: Honey Bee (MGM 2006419).
Just as you know without hearing it that a choo-choo-puffa whistle will introduce CHER’s latest stab of boredom, “Train Of Thought” (MCA 140), so you know that this Norman Harris-arranged stomper will go bzzzz-bzzzz-bzzzz. Ho-hum! Actually, thanx to the controversy caused by Gloria’s switch midway in this record’s career from CBS to MGM, and to the indeniably effective if mindless bang bang bang rhythm, it stands every chance of spilling Chart-wards from Discoland this time round. POP PICK.
FRANKIE LAINE: Blazing Saddles; MADELINE KAHN & CHORUS: I’m Tired (Warner Bros K 16414).
From the incredibly funny “Blazing Saddles” movie, made by Mel Brooks who brought you the little-seen but much-loved “The Producers”, come these two satirical gems. Frankie’s theme song is a splendid send-up (which nevertheless can be taken seriously out of context) of all his ‘50s Western themes, like “Gunfight At O.K. Corral”, while Madeline (remember her from “What’s Up Doc” and “Paper Moon”?) does a devastating demolition job on the Marlene Dietrich type of Germanic temptress, with lines worthy of Mae West as she jibes at her saloon audience. When you see the film, you’ll find that she also massacres “Cabaret” . . . and probably ONLY when you’ve seen it will you get the full value from this dishy little platter. YUK-YUK PICK.
THE FOUR TOPS: One Chain Don’t Make No Prison; Turn On The Light Of Your Love (Probe PRO 621).
Lambert & Potter strike again, with help from producer Steve “Fantastic Baggy” Barri, on their latest success-formula penning for hoarsely-hollering Levi and his ever-popular cohorts, who thrash about amidst this pseudo-Philly stomper . . . one more time. Fine for fans, as the journalist’s cop-out goes! Flipside, after a heavily synthetic intro, they play a fairly small part in an imaginatively arranged herky-jerky slowie of rather more interest if less appeal.
ARCHIE BELL & THE DRELLS: Girls Grow Up Faster Than Boys; Love’s Gonna Rain On You (President PT 418).
Ooo-weee! All Deep Soul specialists will be doing their number when they hear this incredible slow gem, which finds Archie back in his truly Soulful bag, wailing and crying through the whup-wooing of the Drells. It’s recent yet dated in style, and one hundred solid per cent G-R-E-A-T! As for the flip, can you get to squeaky strings, audience laughter and a long, long narration . . . NOT of the Barry White type! Mmm-hmmmm, S-O-U-L PICK.
GEORGE McCRAE: Rock Your Baby, Pts 1/2 (Jay Boy BOY 85).
So, George is indeed the husband of Gwen McCrae, and his rapidly-rising US smash is out here in a commendable hurry. It’s a haunting sound, created by a constantly-chording organ into which George’s lightly wailing voice is blended, set against a synthetic rhythm, pumping bass, soulful guitar and rippling chimes (which doubtless are synthetic too, and more than likely the work of Timmy Thomas, whose presence on organ and Rhythm Box seems virtually certain). All of this carries on, but with less of George, in Part 2 . . . and, as with the similarly haunting William DeVaughn newie, dee-jays are advised to get two copies and segue both sides! Actually, which of these equally good newies will come out on top over here? Had there been a photo of Mr McCrae, this would have been my PICK OF THE WEEK.
5 thoughts on “June 8, 1974: Bunny Sigler, Little Milton, Tyrone Davis, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Maria Muldaur”
James guesses wrongly about “Rock Your Baby”: Timmy Thomas doesn’t perform on it, and the keyboards are in fact played by “KC” of the Sunshine Band.
Gloria Gaynor arrives on the scene with her first release produced by Meco Monardo & Tony Bongiovi (older cousin of future rock legend Jon Bon Jovi) Gloria along with George McCrae & K.C. would spearhead the first Disco tsunami that swept the world. James reminding us just how starved we were of information on US artists back in the day before the internet. Midnight At the Oasis was a massive US hit that reached the lower end of the UK chart despite loads of airplay. Maria Muldaur looked like she was gonna be the next big thing… she wasn’t. Laughter In The Rain would become one of those “go to” modern standards that was performed by almost every artist who appeared on a UK TV Variety show. It’s become one of Sedaka’s most enduring and signature songs. By this point in their careers the Four Tops finally run out of steam and would disappear from the charts for well over a decade before making a final last hurrah in the late 80s. Blazing Saddles would become a cult classic movie that has kinda slipped down the rankings this century.
The success of “Rock Your Baby” feels like a turning point: it became the first soul/R&B to top the UK chart since The Tams “Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me” three summers earlier, and by the end of 1974 there would be five more chart-toppers from black artists.
The reappearance of r&b/disco at number one on the British pop charts also coincides with the end of glam rock’s reign as the mainstay of the singles chart (and TOTP) in this country which it had held since 1970/71.
I completely agree – this was a real “changing of the guard” moment. As a 12 year-old erstwhile glam fan, I was very much aware that the genre was on the wane. Slade and Gary Glitter had both released disappointing ballads in the spring (“Everyday” and “Remember Me This Way”), and their similarly synched follow-ups (“The Banging Man” and “Always Yours”), although successful, felt like an over-continuation of former glories. Meanwhile, my attentions had turned to Queen, Sparks and Cockney Rebel, who were dialling down the sequins and adding an art-school twist.