Pick of the week
DONNY & MARIE OSMOND: I’m Leaving It (All) Up To You; Umbrella Song (MGM 2006446).
Originally a late ‘50s Soul duet by its writers, Don (Sugarcane Harris) and Dewey (Terry), and then a November ’63 US Chart-topper/minor UK hit by Baton Rouge-recorded cutsies, Dale and Grace, this heartstrings-tugging slowie now leans more towards the slightly Country feel of the latter. Marie’s keening tones are mainly responsible, as they nearly obliterate Donny’s deeper support – in fact, he only manages to come out on top of his sister for an exact total of six words! Dressed up with noisy strings and things, the abrupt pauses in the plodding beat lose some of their emotional impact but nevertheless are still quite effective. Oh, and girls . . . Donny gets the upper hand, vocally, on the lower-pitched slow and pretty flip!
THE HUES CORPORATION: Rock The Boat; All Goin’ Down Together (RCA ABP0 0232).
From one “Rock” to another: before George McCrae’s “Rock Your Baby” replaced it, this tastefully produced sophisticated Soul bouncer was top of the US Charts . . . and now Andy Kim’s “Rock Me Gently” is fast approaching that position! (But “Rock And Roll Heaven” may get there first!) Anyway, the Hues Corp’s girl and blokes sung happy romper is catchy and Pop enough to do well here too, where it’s already much programmed by certain radio stations. Mildly moody slow flip. POP PICK.
KING CURTIS, DELANEY BRAMLETT & FRIENDS: Teasin’; Soulin’ (Atlantic K 10464).
. . . not the least of the Friends being ERIC “Slowhand” CLAPTON, guitar star of this parish, whose amazing quaking wah-wah work provides the basis for the late Curtis Ousley’s soaring soprano sax spurts. Relatively and oddly ignored when first out a few years ago (though modest me did my best to alert you at the time), this shrilly lurching instrumental has gone on to become something of a truly “underground” classic – so catch it now while you can. More straightforward flip. MUSIC PICK.
RONNIE DYSON: We Can Make It Last Forever (CBS 2340).
Now produced by Henry Cosby of Motown fame after a spell with Thom Bell, the ex-“Hair” star is here on a good though confusing tempo switcher which starts out as a tortured convoluted slowie before unexpectedly and cleverly changing into a complex rhythm churner with a fly-away beat. A masterly creation by all concerned (Dave Vanderpitte co-arranged with Cosby). It hopefully won’t prove to be too tricky: CBS evidently fear it might, as on their shortened DJ version the slow part is edited right down. SOUL PICK.
QUINCY JONES: Soul Saga (Song Of The Buffalo Soldier); Body Heat (A&M AMS 7124).
Off Quincy’s new vocal LP, his complicated treatment of the Flamingos’ oldie (about black US Cavalrymen after the civil war) seems an odd singles choice – much better is the title track flip, a sensuous slowie full of synthetic noises and slinky singing, rather like Earth, Wind And Fire. But, if you’re interested at all, get the LP.
MFSB: Love Is The Message; My One And Only Love (Philadelphia Int PIR 2536).
Again featuring the Three Degrees and again used as a US telly theme, this rather bitty and inconsequential piece of music is unlikely to become another “TSOP”. The purely instrumental romantic slow flip is in the lush ‘n slushy “Summer Of ‘42” mood before Vince Montana jazzes up the tempo with his vibes.
SLY & THE FAMILY STONE: Time For Livin’; Small Talk (Epic EPC 2530).
Ooops, I nearly typed “Time For Marryin’”! The old groaner’s sounding a bit like Leon Russell on this boring slow swayer. Appropriately, baby noises dominate the more effective “hushing” flip, which is a bit like Stevie Wonder. Family life has evidently debilitated Sly’s former power.
JAN & DEAN: Walk Like A Man; Tennessee (UA UP 35714).
Dredged up from 1963, the surfers’ effort to equal the Four Seasons’ wailing original is interesting . . . and little else. A much better bet, the “ba-baba-ba b aba” gibberish flip is real vintage fun.
PAUL ANKA: (You’re) Having My Baby; Papa (UA UP 35713).
Penned by Paul to a puke-inducing commercial formula, this derivatively backed slowie is an opportunistic and sadly successful (in America) attempt to make its audience go all misty-eyed as the pregnant lyrics unfold (sung in part by a Cher-like chick). Yech! Nicer flip, more in the style of his Mexican Chart-topping “Let Me Get To Know You”.
JOHN DENVER: Annie’s Song; Cool An’ Green An’ Shady (RCA ABP0 0295).
Complacent folksy muzak, dead slow and ever so nice, now number one in America. Please, don’t make it a hit here, please! John Denver’s ambition is to own a restaurant in Colorado and sing to his customers . . . can’t he afford it yet?
ETTA JAMES: Out On The Street Again; Come A Little Closer (Chess 6145033).
Although Temptations-style flatulent instrumental doodling can be extremely tedious, here producer Gabriel Mekler has managed his Norman Whitfield-copying long intro with sufficient skill to make it a good lead-in to veteran Soulstress Ella’s gritty vocalese. Played loud in a London disco it should go over well, while the soulful slow chix-helped flip may have more lasting appeal for purchasers. R&B PICK.
J.J. CALE: Cajun Moon; Starbound (A&M AMS 7118).
The laid back Okie is at his inimitable front porch rockin’ lazy best on this smokily-sung wah-wah plopper. Nuff said? Phased Beatles-type vocals on the atmospheric slow flip make a change of approach . . . and a lovely relaxing sound. LAZY PICK.
THE CORDELLS: Annie Get Your Yo-Yo; Me And Leahy (GTO GT 3).
Produced by and named for Ritchie Cordell, the genius behind Tommy James and the Shondells’ early hits, this raucous bunch of singers and yellers go through what amounts to a re-working of “Mony Mony”, complete with palm-numbing hand-smashing clap beat and gloriously uncool genuine enthusiasm. Maybe it’s too messy to be a hit, but it sure is fun! Incestuous instrumental flip, with an “I’m busy now – you’d better wait” line at the end: so that’s how GTO label-topper Dick Leahy came to fame!?! POP PICK.
STARBIRD: Umbrella Man; Hot Lips Is Back (CBS 2254).
To an easy rolling jauntily chugging subdued “Proud Mary” rhythm these light-voiced guys sing an inoffensive little computerized Pop ditty that’s like a softer “Love Goes (Where My Rosemary Goes)” or some such. In other words, it’s dated, catchy and could hit. And forget “Hot Lips” – on the flip, Bubblegum is back! But then, Ron Dante is responsible, and he was the hidden voice behind the Archies. MoR PICK.