July 20, 1974: Millie Jackson, Perry Como, John Denver, Bobby Womack, The Temptations

Stateside Newies

MILLIE JACKSON: In The Wash (Spring SPR 147).
I was so unenthused when reviewing the A-side of this last week (“How Do You Feel The Morning After”, now at 12 R&B), that I didn’t even check out this flipside dancer. While short of being another “My Man”, it’s a handclapping beater with a catchy offbeat rhythm pattern that should endear it to certain types of dance fans, and it generates a fair amount of energy in a somewhat subtle way. Millie weaves her voice in and out of the different rhythmic elements, and the whole thing gets pretty compulsive with a “hey, gotta play that AGAIN!” appeal . . . uh, in fact, I now reckon that it’s actually even better than “My Man”! Mmmm, I’ll just play that one . . . more . . . time!

PERRY COMO: Weave Me The Sunshine (RCA ABP0 0274).
Huh? Wot’s he doing in this column? Oh well, if any Perry Como fans read it, or even the RRM, they might like to know that while here in Britain we get one slushy ballad after another from Mr. C, in America this happily lilting Dawn-tempo Peter (Paul and Mary) Yarrow-penned is currently Top 10 in the Easy Listening Chart  – although admittedly it has yet to hit the Pop Hot 100 sellers – and it would like as not be a monster smasheroo in this country. How about it, RCA? (There’s crusading journalism for you!)

JOHN DENVER: Annie’s Song (RCA ABP0 0295).
Yeah, boredom personified, but we might just as well check on some of the white Pop hits along with the R&B things in this column. Gulp! Having to listen to this unadulterated dross – even if it is at number two Pop and is from an album that sold ten billion before even being recorded – I’m not sure if that’s such a bright idea though! Quick, back to the Blues!

BOBBY WOMACK: You’re Welcome, Stop On By (UA).
Thanks Bob, don’t mind if I do! Now, here’s blessed relief – and a big hit to boot, six R&B/70 Pop – in the form of a lazily croaked Marvin Gaye-ish amorphous chinking rhythm medium swayer with sexy overtures to the girl of another man. Womack is unfortunately proving to be an acquired taste in Britain, but I can say in all honesty that everyone who has so far acquired it really does swear by it – he’s that good. Instead of the Gayes, Wonders, Whites, next time you pick up on a sophisticated soul album pick up on Bobby . . . ‘cos you won’t be sorry.

THE TEMPTATIONS: You’ve Got My Soul On Fire (Gordy G 7136F).
Culled from their UK-issued “1990” album, which I must confess I have yet to play, this reworking of the Edwin Starr-originated funky dancer comes to me as a pleasant surprise. Producer/penner Norman (Mr Te Dium) Whitfield has for once completely deserted his flatulent instrumental doodlings and given the tune a whole lotta raunch, guts and balls. The Starr version, also produced by him, had indeed got these too, but again for once he has not merely done a repeat job, as in the past with his “other” Undisputed Truth group, and instead he has rethought the whole concept and come up with the Temptations’ most punchy, self-contained single for a matter of years. It may not have done too well Pop, yet it’s still climbing (at eight this week) on the R&B Chart.

CURTIS MAYFIELD: Kung Fu (Curtom CR 1999).
In what may be just a misguided attempt to be hip and of the moment, Curtis Mayfield has titled this rather lightweight retread of his typical current style after that surely now practically passe cinematic vogue, and called the album from which it is culled – horror of horrors! – “Sweet Exorcist”. All of which seems rather a pity. Still, the single’s at 13 R&B/45 Pop, and the album’s at six R&B/56 Pop.

American Singles

Pick of the week

BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE: Takin’ Care Of Business; Stonegates (Mercury 6052627).
These “Blue Collar” workers from Canada are currently celebrating their second album’s golden status in the States, where this raunchy romper from it has literally just stomped its way to the number 20 position in the Hot 100 singles chart. Unusual for what is basically a noisy Hard Rock record, it’s got a great bouncy beat and syncopated singing . . . and is thoroughly infectious. There’s a vaguely Creedence tinge to the more ponderous flip.

DAVID CASSIDY: Please Please Me; CC Rider Blues/Jenny Jenny (Bell 1371).
Huh? Thought I knew that scale-descending harmonica intro, and – yes indeed – it’s darlin’ Dave doin’ the Beatles classic (their first chart-topper, from 1963), recorded “live” in London to a continuous barrage of screams! Without adding anything to the original, he certainly proves that his normally soft voice can get gritty and raucous when needed. The flipside rocker, reviving Mitch Ryder’s amalgamation of two even older numbers, is more of the same. POP PICK.

CHICAGO: Wishing You Were Here; Song Of The Evergreens (CBS 2510).
Sadly minus the surf effects intro and a chunk of harmony from the middle, this Caribou-recorded slowie edited (rather needlessly) from the VIIth album features the voice of Chicago’s Peter Cetera joined by those of Beach Boys Carl and Dennis Wilson and Al Jardine – and it’s around their ethereal harmonies that it revolves. Gorgeous, hypnotic and extremely summery, it deserves to hit . . . but do try to hear the long LP version first. Slow-starting but less distinctive flip. MUSIC PICK.

ANDY WILLIAMS: Make It Easy For Me; You Are The Sunshine Of My Life (CBS 2522).
The new improved (oh yeah?) miracle Williams continues his plundering raid on contemporary composers with an adequately pleasant if somewhat tired reading of this lesser-known Peter Skellern slowie, flipped by a funereal paced ditto of Little Stevie’s previously sparkling gem. Fine for fans. EASY PICK.

CORKY MAYBERRY: Whispering Grass (Don’t Tell The Trees); A Friend Of A Friend Of A Friend (Warner Bros. K 16425).
(1) If Presley poll-voting fans put their money where their mouths are, and (2) if David Cassidy can put an Ink Spots tune in the charts, this Jordanaires-sung Ink Spots oldie shouldn’t be as much of an anachronism as at first it might appear. An old-fashioned gentle swayer, on which Country dee-jay Corky only does a deep bass recitation during the last half, it’s really rather lovely. And for laughs, Corky gets the whole of the Ian “You Turn Me On” Whitcomb-penned flip to himself; it’s a fast-talking Country blues about hippies, bigotry, the Klan and abused Southern hospitality, and MUST be heard to be believed! FUN PICK.

LAMONT DOZIER: Fish Ain’t Bitin’; Breaking Out All Over (ABC 4003).
Lurching along to a distinctive slow rumbling and plopping rhythm, Lamont hoarsely laments a hard luck story of today, complete with topical references to Tricky Dick tryin’ to be slick (Tricky Dick please quit). As his more accessible last single failed here, this sadly will follow suit – although the easier if glib flip may have been a better bet.

JIMMY BUFFETT: Come Monday; The Wino And I Know (ABC 4001).
An ex-Billboard employee (aren’t we all?!), Jimmy has concocted a radio programmer’s dream of attractively mushy musical wallpaper . . . except that for Beeb play he had to cut out a reference to Hush Puppies! John Denver fans will dig.

STEVIE WONDER: Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing; Do Yourself A Favor (Tamla Motown TMG 908).
We’re now one single ahead of America, which never got “Misstra Know-It-All” but went with this after “Living For The City”. The highspot is right at the start with some Latin rhythms and great mumbled Spanish chat, after which the actual song rather loses direction while remaining attractive enough in sound, multi-tracked and gaily thumping. Herky-jerky 1971 flip from his direction-finding “Where I’m Coming From” LP. INTRO PICK.

THE CASUALEERS: Dance, Dance, Dance; There’s Something About This Girl (Pye Disco Demand DDS 103).
Evidently very much in demand up north, the Casualeers’ 1967 vocal group stomper is in the “Breakin’ Down The Walls Of Heartache” groove and could easily spill Pop-wards. White-sounding slow flip. OLDIE PICK.

CHAIRMEN OF THE BOARD: Everybody Party All Night; Morning Glory (Invictus INV 2523).
Dominated by a Jimi Hendrix wah-wah rhythm and boosted by a synthesizer blast, the CoB’s hustling tribal dance chant is less get down funky than its title might suggest . . . a fact which should help it here. Muddy fuzz tone buzzes away behind the flutes, strings and things on the instrumental slow flip. R&B/POP PICK.

BETTY WRIGHT: Secretary; Value Your Love (Atlantic K 10474).
From Florida like George McCrae, Betty’s got this incredible rhythm-hitting wailing voice which effortlessly emphasises the funkily chugging beats with every syllable she sings – and when the lyrics conspire to help her by rhyming “secretary”, “ordinary”, “necessary” . . . phew! The result is her best since “Clean Up Woman”, and maybe even better than that. The “now listen girls” slow flip is just as soulful. SOUL PICK.

THE COMMODORES: Machine Gun; There’s A Song In My Heart (Tamla Motown TMG 902).
A disco smash if ever there was one, this Billy Preston-styled wah-wah and synthesizer instrumental herky-jerker is quite likely to repeat its US chart success here, where word-of-mouth about it has already spread. Jiggling ambiguous rhythm Sly Stone-type vocal flip. DISCO PICK.

BILLY BUTLER: Right Track; Can’t Live Without Her (Epic EPS 2508).
Possibly the most perennial Northern disco classic of them all, Billy (brother of Jerry) Butler’s shrilly-backed clomper – from, was it, ’65? – is quite capable of hitting the Pop charts on this re-re-re-re-issue. Nice old-style “Chicago Sound” vocal group flip. OLDIE PICK.

LIMMIE AND FAMILY COOKIN’: Saxophone Jones; I’ll Be Your Song (Avco 6105029).
We-ell . . . it sure is different! With a hefty dose of the Great Gatsbys, Limmie’s back in a rumpty-tumpty Charleston-flavoured ‘20s groove of the type that one might expect from Dawn or Jimmy Osmond but not from these Rhythm and Boppers. Impossible to predict which way their fans will jump, though the old folks should dig it. Straightforwardly winsome little flip. MoR PICK.

ANDY KIM: Rock Me Gently, Pts 1/2 (Capitol CL 15787).
Canadian Kim’s got one of them husky ‘n hairy Neil Diamond voices around which, with almost indecent plagiarism, he has fashioned a commercially predictable cluster of cracklin’ Caroline chords designed to play up the vocal similarity. In his favour, by pushing it all along with a fresh and fairly synthetic chugging rhythm he has at least made himself sound a lot more relevant to ’74 than the current Diamond does, and the instrumental flipside version emphasizes the fact. It’s so cleverly crafted it can’t miss. CHART CERT.

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