June 29, 1974: Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, Wet Willie, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Johnnie Taylor

Stateside Newies

JOE COCKER: Put Out The Light (A&M 1539).
Up 10 to 72 on its second week on the Hot 100, Joe’s first single in quite a while (it’s actually culled from his new “I Can Stand A Little Rain” album) finds him still stumbling about amidst tempo-changing brass and chanting chix in his old style. Possibly as horn-playing Jim Price produced, there’s almost more brass than Joe.

ERIC CLAPTON: I Shot The Sheriff (RSO 409).
Without having heard it myself, I can’t do better than repeat Billboard’s great interest-arousing review: There’s no guitar solo in Eric Clapton’s return single after a recording layoff of some two years. But “Sheriff” is such a catchy goof of a winner that it’s easy to see why RSO felt they had to go with it. Song has a lot of the Latino percussiveness and broad outlaw storyline of “Cisco Kid”. On Billboard reviewer found himself humming it 11 hours straight.

WET WILLIE: Keep On Smilin’ (Capricorn CPR 0043).
The five one-time and probably still would-be Punk-Rockers from Mobile, Alabama, have surprisingly scored their first single hit (at 44 with a bullet) by harnessing what amounts to their version of the old “Malaco Sound” to an identity-crisis ditty of optimistic bent. Thus, the Van Morrison-ish vocals and cooing chix get held up by that “Groove Me”-type lurching rhythm pattern created by the Reggae-style bass. It works OK, too, without being anything terribly exciting.

OZARK MOUNTAIN DAREDEVILS: If You Wanna Get To Heaven (A&M 1515).
Despite their name, this Glyn Johns-produced group of Southern longhairs play it absolutely safe with their formula radio fodder, which keeps its guitar and harmonica solos and its chugging rhythm on the dull side of tasteful while managing to give an impression of discreet Hell-raising glee. Clean enough for FM and tight enough for AM, it’s as boring as . . . well! And it’s stagnating, up just 3 to 25, after 11 weeks. Back to Mono and messy freedom! And fun!

JOHNNIE TAYLOR: I’ve Been Born Again (Stax STA 0208).
At 15 with a bullet on the Soul 100, Johnnie’s newie starts out with the sound of a car hooter and some conversational dialogue in amongst the sparsely tricky funky rhythm’s bones of clucking guitar and “matt” drums. He then gradually winds it up as the backing fleshes itself out and intensifies, until he’s riding a great light but bouncily buoyant whomping beat with this Gospel-drenched singing. Hitting Pop at 89 for the first time, it could well become big.

THE NEW BIRTH: Wildflower (RCA ABP0 0265).
The O’Jays, amongst other black acts, have made their rendition of this US hit by Canadian group Skylark one of the tour-de-force highlights of their stage act, and now the Harvey Fuqua-produced New Birth have taken it back into the US Charts (17 R&B, slipping out of the 50 Pop). A meandering slow thudder, it gives the group plenty of scope to do their male lead/sophisticated chix Friends Of Distinction-style thing.

JAMES BROWN: My Thang (Polydor PD 14244).
The James Brown-style “thang” is now to forget about the Hitman, Godfather Of Soul tag, and to print the label legend: James Brown – Minister Of New New (sic) Super Heavy Funk!! In fact, since growing a moustache, Mr. Brown looks disturbingly fatherly and much older . . . how long before he’s the Grandfather Of Soul? His latest slab of riffing rhythm ‘n blues (19 R&B, 65 Pop) starts out at a slower tempo with some chat between James and the JB’s before the unremitting repetitive rhythmic riff sets in and induces a hypnotic dancer’s trance while Mr. Brown weaves his non-lyrics between the band’s chanting, the brass and bass, and a weird plopping noise of some catchiness. Given the monotonous chanting along with the particularly rigid construction, this shows him possibly closer to his old Gospel influences than usual of late, and the effect compares well with some of his Famous Flames-era work from about ten years ago. The flip is his 1972 “King Heroin”-copying “Public Enemy No. 1 – Part 1”, and – on my copy at least – there’s a very audible print-through from groove to groove.

DIXIE DRIFTER: I Am The Black Book (IX Chains NCS 7003).
Presumably the Dixie Drifter is still black dee-jay Enoch Gregory, who made “Soul Heaven” immortal back in the mid-‘60s. Here, he’s reading the bitter words of poetess Toni Morrison to the gentle music of Angela DeCoteaux (arranged by, yes, Bert). The Black Book is living embodiment of the black experience in all its forms . . . and with some drily humorous wishful thinking thrown in, like “I am Bessie Smith winning a roller-skating contest”. A haunting record, it’ll appeal to those who think they’ll like it, while others may derisively compare it with “Deck Of Cards”. If they’d only listen.

American Singles

Pick of the week

ELVIS PRESLEY: If You Talk In Your Sleep; Help Me (RCA ABP0 0280).
As well as the “RM”, Elvis too is celebrating HIS 20th anniversary now! Difficult to determine, the date he recorded “That’s All Right” (his first single) was probably – and certainly no later – July 5th, 1954 (the full fax will be in next week’s ish). A pity then that this, his 137th US hit (!), is far from as exciting. Co-penned by his cousin Red West, it’s a brassily arranged and somewhat menacing semi-Swamp Funk slow lurcher with girlie group support, while the J.D. Sumner & The Stamps-supported easy listening lilter on the flip is possibly a better bet here. For nostalgia reasons really, the flip’s my PICK OF THE WEEK.

BILL HALEY & HIS COMETS: See You Later Alligator; Rudy’s Rock (MCA 142).
The first Rock ‘n Roll record I actually owned (on 78 at that), Bill’s reptilian rocker is now flipped (instead of by “Paper Boy”) with Rudy Pompilli’s honking and squealing tenor sax classic from the “Rock ‘n Roll Stage Show” album, which was also the first LP I ever had. Enough reminiscing . . . get out there and ROCK!! R ‘n R PICK.

CHARLIE RICH: A Very Special Love Song; I Can’t Even Drink It Away (Epic EPC 2259).
To complete the hat trick of ageing Rock ‘n Rollers with picture picks this week, Charlie’s singing just for you a very special and thoroughly corny love song that ought to delight romantic matrons everywhere. The more heavily Country flip finds him with a bad case of the “I Ain’t Stopped Boozin’ Since You’ve Been Gone” Blues. Oh, and in case it was obliterated in last week’s ish, the address for those Rockabilly classics by Vern Pullens, etc, is Injun Records, 26 Stanford Avenue, Hassocks, Sussex. Back with Rich, he gets a SENIOR CITIZEN PICK.

THE CONTOURS: Do You Love Me; Determination (Tamla Motown TMG 899).
The 1962 original (Brian Poole did a cover, dear), the Contours’ disco classic remains just as potent today – unlike many old non-rock dancers – and could quite easily be a hit in its own right this time. Hope so. The ’66 flip always used to go down well at “The Scene” and probably still does Up North. DISCO PICK.

ALBERT HAMMOND: It Never Rains In Southern California; Anyone Here In The Audience (Mums MUM 8499).
British-born Bert’s bit of instant myth-making was originally out about 18 months ago, when it made him a star in America but bombed here. With its catchy chorus, Carole King tempo and occasional dull thunks – not to mention satirical lyrics – it deserves to do it here now. The flip’s a finely judged put-down (I think!). Be sure to wear some FLOWERS IN YOUR HAIR PICK.

TINY TIM: The Happy Wanderer; My Nose Always Gets In The Way (Polydor 2058485).
Now what would be nice is a re-issue of the Obernkirchen Children’s Choir early ‘50s original of this Germanic rumpty-tumpter, here given a somewhat unnecessary mild Reggae rhythm by Mr Tim and his helpers. Oh well, at least a Beverley Sisters contemporary cover-version will soon be out on a new Philips International “20 All Time Great Hits” LP. He sounds like Ian Whitcomb on the kiddie korus music hall flip. SILLY PICK.

THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS: Rock And Roll Heaven; I Just Wanna Be Me (Capitol CL 15785).
The Righteous Bros resurrected by the hit-making machine of Lambert & Potter are better than no Bros at all, so despite the formula construction of this turgid and torpid muzzy slow thumper their voices cut through with lyrics about Hendrix, Joplin, Redding, Morrison, Croce and Darin all grooving around that great auto-changer in the sky. At least the slow flip finds them more in their old style. Another “Soul Heaven” it’s not, but as sick tributes go it’ll do. POP PICK.

THE INTRUDERS: Win, Place Or Show (She’s A Winner); Memories Are Here To Stay (Philadelphia Int PIR 2212).
First, might I suggest that, as all their more recent singles are on it and it’s consequently great, you get the Intruders’ “Save The Children” album instead? Otherwise, tricked out with effective racetrack noises, this creamy clomper stands more chance of hitting this time around following its follow-up’s success here (work that one out!). It’s a real goodie, with a lovely dead slow flip. But try the LP. R&B PICK.

THE CHI-LITES: I Found Sunshine; My Heart Just Keeps On Breakin’ (Brunswick BR 12).
Certainly a US hit last year even if it wasn’t out here, which I forget, Eugene’s sprightly synthetic rhythm thumper always did sound like the sort of thing that UK hits are made of. This time it should click. Bluegrass fiddle on the medium beat flip, an interesting experiment which as a US A-side did less well than was hoped. R&B PICK.

BARRY ST. JOHN: My Man (Decca F 13529).
Barry, female and British, has in fact done the best Soul single of the week, and I’m still getting a goosebump buzz every time I hear it! Penned by the Arnold-Martin-Morrow factory and arranged/produced by Pip Williams, whose work I’ve recommended before, it’s a tempo-messing bouncy light beater with “matt” drums supplying an ace fingersnapping rhythm, through which Miss St. John weaves her sexy, breathy, gliding, swooping, soaring and above all rhythm-riding great voice, like a superior Mary Wells. If the 3 Degrees and Pearls can do it, so can Barry! SOUL PICK.

2 thoughts on “June 29, 1974: Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, Wet Willie, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Johnnie Taylor”

  1. It’s a shame that the Barry St. John single isn’t available anywhere – I’d like to hear it.

    What are these “matt” drums that James keeps mentioning in his reviews? It’s not a term that I’ve come across before…


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