June 15, 1974: Victor Trumper, Lamont Dozier, Tavares, The Dells, Smokey Robinson

Stateside Newies

VICTOR TRUMPER: The President Song (MCA 40260).
Remember all the fuss (and the big sales) caused by “The Americans”, earlier this year? It was an ultra right-wing commentary written and narrated by Canadian broadcaster Gordon Sinclair, and taken to platinum status on the Hot 100 by Byron MacGregor, which got played quite a bit on Capital Radio’s “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got” show but which never came out here. Well, wily Victor Trumper remembers it well, and with splendid self-sacrifice has laid aside his trusty willow to enter the political arena in the hopes of making big sales (and big bux) with HIS tribute to some particular Americans. Beginning at the beginning with George Washington and ending at the end with Richard Nixon, Victor intones the names of all thirty-seven American Presidents, pausing momentarily after the assassinated ones, and interspersing each bit of the list with an enigmatic little chorus along the lines of “They all made you what you are today, please don’t throw it all away”. After the last chorus, he gets to Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, and then the record just stops. Now, although ultra-patriotic in intent, already the record is causing wildfire controversy in America, where some radio stations are banning it from their airwaves with the argument that it is an incitement to assassinate Nixon too! Currently big in Boston and banned in New York (a switch from the usual order), yet with many more radio stations uncommitted in the latter city, it’s obviously the sort of single that’ll either sell a million overnight or else die a rapid death. It’s actually good enough to deserve the former fate, which ought to please Victor (whose identity might surprise some: despite the American patriotism, he is in fact British and a broadcaster himself). Now ain’t that nice?

LAMONT DOZIER: Fish Ain’t Bitin’ (ABC 11438).
It seems strange that Lamont Dozier (currently up 11 to 14 with a bullet on the R&B Chart), who after all was one of Motown’s legendary producers along with Holland brothers, is scoring a hit himself with which he has no connection other than as singer. Produced, co-arranged and co-penned (but not with Lamont) by McKinley Jackson, and culled from the “Out Here On My Own” album, it’s an effectively lurching medium-slow rhythm jiggler that’s sung with the Levi Stubbs type of strangulatedly hoarse urgency.

TAVARES: Too Late (Capitol 3882).
Just one place behind Lamont Dozier R&B but 14 above him above him at 77 Pop, the Tavares brothers’ latest is a slick and smooth creamy chugger with slightly Latin rhythms during the gradually building intro and Spinners-style professionally good vocal work behind the coolly impassioned lead singer. Penned and produced by prolific hitmakers Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, it gets credited as a Haven Records Production yet is not actually on that duo’s new Capitol-distributed Haven label.

THE DELLS: I Wish It Was Me You Loved (Cadet CA 5702).
At 17 R&B, the delicious delectable Dells do Jackie Avery’s lush slowie with shimmering strings, hurting vocals, deep bass spoken interruptions and a whole lotta soulful beauty. It’s deep and not particularly Pop-y, but Soul Vocal Group Freaks will lap it up. Slurp, slurp!

SMOKEY ROBINSON: It’s Her Turn To Live (Tamla T 54246F).
From his “Pure Smokey” album (already available here), Bill’s 31 R&B/82 Pop Chart-climber is a tricky rhythm shifter with a basic ONE – two – THREE – four beat thonking buoyantly along under his multi-tracked quavering high-pitched-but-punchy singing. Quite a groover, modern style, it must be going great guns in the hipper discos.

American Singles

Pick of the week

MICHAEL EDWARD CAMPBELL: Roxanne (You Sure Got A Fine Design); Roll It Over (Rare Earth RES 115).
With more than a touch of Chuck Berry’s “Nadine” about the jaunty staccato structure and chugging rhythm, this light-hearted little ditty about a slick chick who’s expensive to love (she only does it for cash) is good unpretentious fun and I like it a lot. Self-produced Campbell gets beefy support from a spirited girlie group and something called The Boogie Band on both equally enthusiastic sides, but the flip is less punchy.

TERRY JACKS: If You Go Away; Me And You (Bell 1362).
Another from the same composing team who penned “Seasons In The Sun”, this thudding slowie finds Canadian Terry rendering the words which Rod McKuen put to Jacques Brel’s “Ne Me Quitte Pas” in a torturedly earnest style, full of yearning breathiness and sibilant S’s. His own slow clippety-clop flip appeals more to my own ears. MoR PICK.

THE YOUNG RASCALS: Groovin’; You Better Run (Atlantic K 10124).
Although it was replaced two years later by Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crystal Blue” in my affections, for a while this 1967 Summer smash was my favourite blue-eyed New York vocal group record . . . and for many others it remains, possibly along with the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Daydream”, one of THE all-time Summer Sounds, full of chirruping birdies, dancing sunbeams and creaking hammocks. The noisier 1966 flip has an interesting if dated approach. SUMMER PICK.

THE DRIFTERS: Kissin’ In The Back Row Of The Movies; I’m Feeling Sad (And Oh So Lonely) (Bell 1358).
With barely the most perfunctory of Macaulay and Greenaway re-writes, 1964’s “Saturday Night At The Movies” resurfaces with a new title and all the old much-loved noises. Who’s complaining? The flip reminds me of 1962 Elvis. POP PICK.

MICHAEL JACKSON: Music And Me; Johnny Raven (Tamla Motown TMG 900).
The Jackson 5 having completely lost their impetus here, it’s probably just as well that their show has been cancelled, for one look at how grown-up and un-cuddly Michael has become would be enough to lose their younger fans. Still living in the past, however, Motown have dredged up this old album title track, a sweet little slowie sung in unbroken squeak, which would have had hit prospects were the show to go on. MoR PICK.

ARETHA FRANKLIN: I’m In Love; Oh Baby (Atlantic K 10447).
Completely changed around, the Bobby Womack-penned Wilson Pickett oldie becomes a frothy and somewhat insubstantial concoction given Aretha’s swirling treatment and complex rhythms. Dead slow flip.

GRAHAM CENTRAL STATION: We’ve Been Waiting / It Ain’t No Fun To Me; Can You Handle It? (Warner Bros K 16388).
Good value for the determinedly trendy, here’s a nifty segue of two trax “adapted” from this Family Stone offshoot’s debut album, c/w the full 5:10 of their current US hit. They’re too cold and calculated for my own taste, but many find ‘em fine.

BLOODSTONE: That’s Not How It Goes (Decca F 13521).
George Harrison-ish slidin’ guitar and a lazy “My Sweet Lord” lilt blend beautifully with Al Green-ish chugging drums and some wailing falsetto behind the unhurried lead vocal on Mike Vernon’s latest ace production. Wood, dig that wailing! SOUL PICK.

WILLIE HENDERSON: The Dance Master, Part 1 (Instrumental) and 2 (Vocal) (Contempo-Raries CS 9005).
Re-issue for the recent ponderous funker by Chicago’s famous hornblowing arranged [Ed: the review is cut off at this point]

STEPHANIE MILLS: I Knew It Was Love; The Passion And The Pain (Paramount PARA 3050).
Arranged and co-penned by Bert Keyes, these two Diana Ross-ish (but more Soulful) slowies are likely to become collectors’ items amongst femme fans, who will probably prefer the much better and rather sensuous flip. Get it now while it’s still cheap!

BINGO: We Can’t Get Enough; Mumblin’ Man (Polydor 2066365).
Arranged/co-produced by Bobby Martin, these Philly Sound guys do a nice if unexceptional medium beater with all the usual trappings: however, the herky-jerky flip revolves around its mumblin’ ‘n slurrin’ central figure and is much more distinctive as a result.

VAN MORRISON AND THE CALEDONIA SOUL EXPRESS: Caledonia (What Makes Your Big Head Hard?); What’s Up Crazy Pup (Warner Bros K 16392).
While the CSE lay down a brassy big band beat, shrill-voiced Van romps along through Louis Jordan’s old ‘40s jump ‘n jiver with an obvious regard for the original yet also his own blues shouting style. The new flip’s similar, with a long brassy intro. And don’t forget to Boogie! MUSIC PICK.

THE DELLS: Sing A Rainbow / Love Is Blue; Give Your Baby A Standing Ovation (Chess 6145031).
Even if it is only as the B-side to their re-issued 1969 British hit, the Dells’ lovely sound-effects and rap-introed recent US R&B smash deserves an ovation of its own here. Much the same tempo as “Homely Girl” and with a similarly intriguing concept, it’s an alternately wailing and hoarse voice-switcher which is cheered almost every inch of the way by surging bursts of whistling and clapping . . . the very ovations they ask for. B-SIDE PICK.

BILLY JOEL: The Ballad Of Billy The Kid (Philips 5078018).
Billy has an American hit called “Piano Man”, so what do naughty Philips do? They get one of their British signings (Doc Browne) to cover it, AFTER they’ve released this boring older story song of Billy’s instead of his hit. It may have been unintentional, but nevertheless it seems pretty rotten.

BARBRA STREISAND: All In Love Is Fair (CBS 2394).
With her usual theatrical enunciation, Barbie soars away on Stevie Wonder’s much-praised love song. Who’s this “Mister Ree”, then, Barbie? Oh, you mean “mystery”, do you?

JAMES GRIFFIN: She Knows; Father And Son (Polydor 2066468).
His mother’s pride, James affects a Nilsson-esque approach on the romantically pretty-pretty dead slow Colin Blunstone-type topside, while on the flip a simple beat adds crust to the facile lyrics before the tempo slows for a while. (A slice off the old loaf, the long-suffering fella is ex-Bread).

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