THE MAIN INGREDIENT: Happiness Is Just Around The Bend (RCA ABP0 0305).
From their new “Euphrates River” album and penned by Britain’s expatriate keyboards wizard, Brian Auger (whose last two “New Soul-Jazz” albums are both high in the US Jazz Charts, where they deserve to be, while he himself is ignored here), the Ingredients’ latest hit – at 29 R&B, 71 Pop – is a coolly clopping, woolly sounding amorphous Marvin Gaye-type exercise in effortless perpetual motion, punched along by a well-tried Jazz-Funk bass line over which the echoing vocals muzz and fuzz between moody shimmering strings and chiming wah-wah brass effects. Impressive, it’s a really masterful (and commercial) amalgamation of Soul with easily enjoyed Jazz elements. And, above all else, it’s got a killer rhythm!
APRIL: Wake Up And Love Me (A&M AMS 1528-S).
Sadly now just dropped out of the Hot 100’s bottom reaches, this is April Stevens singing a Sylvia-style slinky slowie penned by herself with her past partner Nino Tempo and Jeff Barry (the latter two of whom produced/arranged as well). What sets it apart from Sylvia’s amusing but less than honest erotic efforts is its lyrical link with the tortured outpourings of Dory Previn – April admits right off, after some initial breathy endearments to her deserving lover, that “You’re 21 and I’m 34” . . . and it’s never been better for her. Can it last?? “They” say that it’s not right, just like in countless anguished teen laments, but – for the glorious moment, at least – April’s saying, what the hell. “You’re part boy . . . but ALL Man!” she purrs with self-satisfaction. Yeah!
SYLVIA: Easy Evil (Vibration VI 530).
As a contrast, Sylvia herself has gotten away from her sexy simperings and turned in a stylistically similar breathy yet lyric-following reading of Alan O’Day’s much recorded lightly Latin pulsator (probably best known as by the Friends Of Distinction), here done slower than usual to accommodate the lady’s sucking and hissing style. In common with all pressings on Vibration, the playback quality is full of frying egg crackles and Rice Crispy noises.
JOSHIE JO ARMSTEAD: Stumblin’ Blocks, Steppin’ Stones (What Took Me So Long) (The Gospel Truth GTA 1214).
Stickin’ with the chix but switching to sanctified Soul from the Stax-owned Gospel label, here’s Joshie Jo (who used to pen/produce with Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson) emoting with every fibre in her being a torturous and tortuous slowie of incredible intensity, arranged surprisingly by Paul Riser (better known for his Motown candyfloss). Towards the end – the intensity is such all through that there’s no clearly defined climax – she suddenly just opens up her throat and lets out a pure Gospel whoop of a “yeah” which soars and quavers defying all laws but those of the black church. For Joshie Jo then, the Golden Thrush Award for best vocal performance of the week!
MILLIE JACKSON: How Do You Feel The Morning After (Spring SPR 147).
Now there’s a question! Millie poses it amidst slow heartbeat thumps, squeaky strings and answering chix, and wails on with mucho anguish for all of 3:10. Funny thing is, despite her Soulful artistry and overwrought involvement, she fails to connect with me this time . . . although others must dig, as she’s at 13 R&B and 77 Pop.
BARBARA ACKLIN: Raindrops (Capitol 3892).
Still with the misses, Barbara seems to have switched labels and gone backwards in style to her great “Love Makes A Woman” sound of ’68 – of which this new steadily-clapping thonker is practically the twin sister. And that ain’t no bad thing, considering how superb that first hit was! With the label change, the Chi-Lites’ Eugene Record seems to have faded from the credits (with Eugene, Barbara co-penned many Chi Sound hits), but the beat goes on under the production of Willie Henderson . . . and, coincidentally, Willie’s own “Dance Master” single is now a fast-rising US Disco smash (57 R&B, 88 Pop) having started out as a British-issued special on Contempo! You may remember how it was reissued here only the other week – well, it has evidently been percolating back across the Atlantic in its British Contempo form, to do a Manu Dibango and become a New York City disco fave. As a result, Contempo then let the Playboy label have US rights, and . . . talk about coals to Newcastle! Oh, and Barbara Acklin is doing OK herself – she’s at Number 40 R&B.
Pick of the week
THE JONESES: Hey Babe (Is The Gettin’ Still Good?), Pts 1/2 (Mercury 6052531).
Co-arranged by Richard Tee, this closely harmonised vocal group dancer is indeed reminiscent of his ‘67/’68 vintage work with the O’Jays while at the same time being totally fresh in an old fashioned sort of way. From a thumping intro the group lead into the cheerfully clomping rhythm with an incredible acapella set of “boo, spadadoo budadoo doo” noises (which start the more instrumental flip too) before romping along with a wailing intricacy behind the gruff lead voice. The effect is wonderfully happy – if a bit Deep – and should appeal mightily to Philly Freax AT LEAST.
DON COVAY: It’s Better To Have (And Don’t Need); Leave Him, Pt 2 (Mercury 6052634).
The “Mercy Mercy” man is back in a whomping stomping action-packed groove on this great Gospel-flavoured joyous leaper. Considering that the Stones copied some of his old style, it’s perhaps appropriate that he should have used the line “I can’t get no more . . . satisfaction” as the basis for his call-and-answer Gospel group format, which drives along to an unremitting buoyantly bouncy beat prodded by yowling Blues guitar and squeaky group singing. This is REAL music! As flip, the impatiently waiting get Part 2 of his dead slow atmospheric masterpiece from last year. SOUL PICK.
BOBBY GOLDSBORO: Hello Summertime; And Then There Was Gina (United Artists UP 35705).
Recorded as it was at the request of his telly-viewing British fans, can Bobby make this extended and de-coked commercial for Coca-Cola into the new “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmoneee)”?? It’s from the same school of jauntily lilting catchy chorus singalong slush with inoffensive lyrics about lazy summertime activities, and I can visualise myself having to play it to death at my older age group disco dances in months to come as – yes indeed – it should hit its target right in their wallets. Bobby’s own flip is in his slower “Summer (The First Time)” style. MoR PICK.
HERB ALPERT & THE T.J.B: Save The Sunlight; You Smile – The Song Begins (A&M AMS 7120).
One of several Easy Listening biggies out this week, Herb’s newie is probably the most eagerly awaited as it’s his first vocal for a while. Softly duetted with an uncredited chick between bouts of trumpet and accordion, it’s a nicely romantic smoocher without being as universally appealing as his old “This Guy’s In Love With You”. Gentle instrumental flip. EASY PICK.
ROBERTA FLACK: Feel Like Making Love; Conversation Love (Atlantic K 10467).
On this lazily throbbing Gene McDaniels-penned slowie, Ms. Flack merely does a more sophisticated yet ultimately emptier version of Sylvia’s sexy between-the-sheets come-on. Pretentiously “classy” flip.
JIM REEVES: I’d Fight The World; What’s In It For Me (RCA ABP0 0255).
As we approach the tenth anniversary of Gentleman Jim’s ‘planecrash death, here’s his latest US Country hit, a softly pulsing easy-paced swayer of obvious charm. Slow flip with what has to be overdubbed accompaniment. EASY PICK.
DARYL HALL & JOHN OATES: When The Morning Comes; Lady Rain (Atlantic K 10459).
On the showing of their soulfully duetted US-only “She’s Gone” single and now of this catchily harmonized jittery slow rhythm-rumbler, these guys have got me interested enough to try their “Abandoned Luncheonette” album – hope it’s as good as these suggest. The similar yet more complex flip even has some frantic jazz fiddle. For once, a post CSN&Y strumming white harmony group with an identity of its own! MUSIC PICK.
JAMES BROWN: My Thang; The Payback (Polydor 2066485).
The Minister Of New New Super Heavy Funk’s “Thang” is more hypnotic and lively than of late – though just as repetitious – and looks like doing well Stateside, where “The Payback” preceded it by selling a million (without actually being a big Chart hit). In fact our flipside version, though the same length as the US “Part 1”, is taken from the album and thus lacks the enlivening “This is for Chicago” comments overdubbed on the 45. R&B PICK.
JOHNNY BRISTOL: Hang On In There Baby; Take Care Of You For Me (MGM 2006443).
The ex-Motown producer/penner makes his vocal debut here with a snikkety cymbal multi-tracked Barry White-type treatment of his own familiar song, which while good enough to hit may prove too much like others in the genre to establish an identity of its own. Unexceptional slow flip. R&B/POP PICK.
CLARENCE REID: Funky Party; Winter Man (Atlantic K 10456).
Like George McCrae, Clarence is from Florida, where he does possibly more producing than singing. His latest US R&B hit (out here in a commendable hurry) uses that well-known “Shaft” brass line in amongst a funky if unexceptional dance tune, which if anything is overshadowed by the sadly unseasonal semi-slow flip.
PERRY COMO: The Way We Were; I Don’t Know What He Told You (RCA LBP0 7520).
Now RCA are making those horrible injection-moulded brittle singles with painted labels, and Perry’s substituting schmaltzy smoochiness for the boring delicacy of Barbra Streisand’s original movie theme. The latter is the good news! Old fashioned flip, too. EASY PICK.
OHIO PLAYERS: Funky Worm; Paint Me (Westbound 6146100).
The runaway US success of their new “Skin Tight” album must be one of the month’s sensations, but without even having hit here first time round with this 1973 slab of funky lunacy (a US monster smash) the Players’ chances in Britain are nil – hence this re-issue of their most accessible single. To a slow thump beat the group are joined by a “granny” and her synthesized-playing “worm” . . . and despite the fun, the beat may still be too slow for dancers here. RE-ISSUE PICK.
KOOL & THE GANG: Hollywood Swinging; Dujii (Polydor 2001530).
Proof of how important a US hit their “Jungle Boogie” was must be this somewhat undistinguished yet adequately funky dancer’s rapid climb up both Pop and R&B Charts. Fine of its type, with an appeal for London disco-goers doubtless, it’s still less interesting than the straight Jazz instrumental flip.
CLAUDINE LONGET: Who Broke Your Heart (And Made You Write That Song); Goodbye Jimmy Goodbye (Janus 6146028).
Andy Williams’s ex-missus (as I understand it) has always had a demurely Frenchified way with a song, and here she applies her sexy ingenue’s little girl voice to a pleasant slowie with chart potential. More breathiness on the flip. EASY PICK.
MAC DAVIS: One Hell Of A Woman; A Poor Man’s Gold (CBS 2398).
Singer-songwriter Davis is out of the same bag as Bobby Goldsboro, and here he even grafts some of the noises from Bobby’s “Summer (The First Time)” onto his mid-tempo thumping US Pop and Country hit, which he sings with exaggerated masculinity. Slushy slow flip. MoR PICK.
2 thoughts on “July 13, 1974: The Main Ingredient, April, Sylvia, Joshie Jo Armstead, Millie Jackson”
James’s review of The Main Ingredient’s “Happiness Is Just Around The Bend” contains his first ever mention of the term “jazz-funk”. We’ll have to wait another two years for the second mention – in a review of John Handy’s “Hard Work” on July 24th 1976 – but after that, its usage starts becoming more frequent.
Interesting that James points out the poor quality of Sylvia’s recording. Sylvia Robinson was notorious for some shady dealing and lots of penny pinching particularly with the quality of recordings. Listening to a lot of the early recordings by Sylvia and other artists on the label like the Moments demonstrates this very clearly. James really his it in for Roberta Flack with yet another poor review of what would soon be a Billboard Hot 100 No1 and is now considered a classic soul recording. Similarly he gives a very lukewarm welcome to Johnny Bristol’s smash hit! 74 was a great year for Bristol as The Osmonds would reach No1 in the UK later in the year with his composition “Love Me For A Reason”. Don Covay’s record still sounds great today. Main Ingredient are another of those 2nd division soul vocal groups who deserved greater success, Cuba Gooding had such a great voice and they recorded some fine material. Perry Como was still riding the wave of his comeback by recording “The Way We Were” which became an instant modern classic that would be recorded by hundreds of MOR artists and a staple of TV variety show guest spots for the rest of the decade. Bobby Goldsboro’s Coke Ad really broke through and was played incessantly on Radio 1 throughout that summer of 74. Memories, like the corners of my mind…