August 31, 1974: James’s final US singles review column

James Hamilton had been writing weekly US singles reviews for Record Mirror since early 1969. This is the last week that his reviews would appear, and it marks the start of an eight-month absence from the publication.

James’s contributions to Record Mirror would resume in June 1975, with the launch of the Disco section.


MILLIE JACKSON: In The Wash; How Do You Feel The Morning After (Polydor 2066466).
A surprisingly subtle stomper, “In The Wash” is officially the B-side yet deserves the top billing it gets in this column. Just listen to the way in which all the different ingredients gradually appear, and then thrill to Millie’s great Gospelly voice! Definitely a compulsive play-it-again side, unlike the boring slow plug-side. R&B PICK.

GREGG ALLMAN: Midnight Rider; Multi-Coloured Lady (Capricorn 2089002).
Capricorn having switched to Polydor here, this old Kinney pressing with a new number stuck on it must be taken to be no more than a promo for Gregg’s reissued album. However, after “Please Call Home”, this aptly “Laid Back” atmospheric slowie remains the best thing on it and still deserves some success here. Delicate slow undercut. LAZY PICK.

ALICE COOPER: Under My Wheels; Desperado (Warner Bros K 16127).
A minor US hit from the start of 1972 and out here originally before Cooper-mania struck, this agreeable aggressive chunk of churning noise is out again to act as a trailer for Alice’s new “Greatest Hits” album. Excellent intro, although overall it may be a bit dated for the chart this time around. Mannered self-consciously “strange” flip. ROCK PICK. Continue reading “August 31, 1974: James’s final US singles review column”

August 24, 1974: Gene Dozier & The United Front, The Staple Singers, Simon Stokes, Billy Preston, Diana Ross & The Supremes

Stateside Newies

GENE DOZIER & THE UNITED FRONT: Give The Women What They Want (Mercury 73603).
Starting with an incredible “what the blankety-blank was THAT?” noise, Eugene’s latest hunk o’ funk (yet to be charted) is a choppily clomping chanter propelled by a metronomic beat, some ridiculously “dry” guitar and, latterly, lots of brass. As I seem to remember that Mr. Dozier is a keyboardist, I assume that he’s in control of some sort of synthetics as well. Sure is a good sound, y’all . . . and it’s even due out here soon, too.

THE STAPLE SINGERS: City In The Sky (Stax STA 0215).
Up in the sky at 4 R&B (only 85 Pop), Mavis and the Family Staple are in their usual formularized groove, although this time the tempo is somewhat slower and Mavis wheezes less. Song’s pretty dull, too.

SIMON STOKES: Captain Howdy (Casablanca NEB 0007).
Captain Howdy was the name of the little devil being exorcised in – oh, you guessed it! However, this vaguely amusing modified Bo Diddley beat pop ditty has little to do with “The Exorcist” other than in very general idea: it’s full of advice to kiddies about what to do if the Captain visits them . . . and, as his main interest now seems to be scaring little girls in the street, he sounds pretty harmless. Simon Stokes, as probably no one remembers, led the Nighthawks who scored in the Southern States with “Voodoo Woman” at the end of ’69 (issued here on Elektra), and then led the Black Whip Thrill Band. With credentials like that, he might have been expected to come up with something more bloodthirsty than this! Still, he’s been bubbling in and out at the bottom of the Hot 100, and the flip (which started out as the hit side) does happen to be a complex tale entitled “I Fell For Her, She Fell For Him And He Fell For Me”. Continue reading “August 24, 1974: Gene Dozier & The United Front, The Staple Singers, Simon Stokes, Billy Preston, Diana Ross & The Supremes”

August 17, 1974: The Stylistics, Stevie Wonder, Nilsson, The Osmonds, Ray Stevens

Stateside Newies

THE STYLISTICS: Let’s Put It All Together (Avco 4640).
Following the monstrous success of their “You Make Me Feel Brand New”, now being repeated here, Russell Thompkins and the guys stay in their tender sweet dead slow mood . . . but there’s a big difference, even so. Goodness knows what’s happened, as, instead of Thom Bell being at the creative helm, they are now being penned for and produced by Hugo and Luigi, Messrs. Peretti and Creatore, heads of the Avco label and industry veterans from way back. Where’s Thom, and his co-composer, Linda Creed? There is some consolation for the freax though, in that the arranging chores are now handled by Van McCoy, who has a legion of fans himself (and who, coincidentally, is plugging along about halfway up the Easy Listening Chart with an instrumental called “Love Is The Answer”, as by Van McCoy and The Soul City Symphony on Avco 4639). It must be said that without the Thom Bell touch this Stylistics slowie is a bit more bland than usual, which may be influencing its comparatively (after such a smash) slow Chart climb – after four weeks, at 30 R&B, 38 Pop.

STEVIE WONDER: You Haven’t Done Nothin’ (Tamla T54252F).
Somehow on hearing his new bossa nova album I knew that Stevie’s first single from it would be this boring rehash of his “Superstition” formula, on which the Jackson 5 are reputed to help sing the “doo doo wop” chorus – not that they’re audible (except possibly to dogs with sharp hearing!). Quelle drag, and it really does drag leadenly, especially when there’s an overpoweringly good ‘n funky dancer elsewhere on the album called “Boogie On Reggae Woman”, which simply shouts out to be played in discos. Still, the single’s at 32 Pop, 51 R&B.

NILSSON: Many Rivers To Cross (RCA PB 10001).
Virtually unheralded on its release and just bubbling under the Chart for one week only, Harry’s version of this Jimmy Cliff oldie is – wait for it, Beatles freax! – arranged and produced by no less a celebrity than John Winston Lennon. From an album called “Pussy Cats” (d’you suppose they wear diamond collars?), it’s very, very much in the old Lennon “Imagine” style – slow, anguished, lurching along like a drunkard bouncing from wall to wall down a corridor. Oh yeah, Lennon seems to do a fair bit of singing too, in behind Harry and alternating the lines towards the end, all the while creating a Liverpudlian aura. How come this hasn’t attracted more attention? It’s only high class pop, but I like it. Continue reading “August 17, 1974: The Stylistics, Stevie Wonder, Nilsson, The Osmonds, Ray Stevens”

August 10, 1974: Ray Stevens, Isaac Hayes, Earth Wind & Fire, Jim Stafford, Billy “Crash” Craddock

Stateside Newies

RAY STEVENS: Moonlight Special (Barnaby B604).
After the ghastly “Streak” it’s great to find Ray back in a groove that is both funny and musical. But let me explain, as to British ears the relevance of his new US hit (73) will be lost: on US telly there is a late night rock show called “The Midnight Special”, sent up here by Ray as “The Moonlight Special”. OK? Well, much in the style of his “Bridget The Midget”, he introduces the show’s host, the Sheepdog . . . howling dee-jay Wolfman Jack, right? He in turn introduces Mildred Queen and the Dips . . . Gladys Knight and the Pips, huh? What happens though is that the Dips keep repeating (in perfect soulful harmony) everything that Mildred says, including things like “how come y’all sing everything I sing . . . cut that out! . . . stop that!” Then, amidst appropriate howls, the Sheepdog introduces Jerry Joe Harry Lee Jimmy Baby, the king of the piano rockers himself . . . er, Jerry Lee Lewis? What makes it all so good is that Ray’s every impersonation is devastatingly accurate (within limits), and extremely funny. But this ain’t gonna capture the general public’s imagination like “The Streak” did. Does that matter?

ISAAC HAYES: Title Theme (Enterprise ENA 9104).
Is it safe to claim these days that Isaac Hayes has come up with a worthy follow-on to his “Shaft” theme? This swirling phased cymbals-dominated gruffly-sung beater is the theme from a movie called “Tough Guys”, for which Ike penned the score (as he did also with the recent but short-lived “Truck Turner”), and it certainly sounds fresher than his other post-Shaft work – possibly on account of his use of synthetics instead of that earlier omnipresent yet trendsetting wukka wukka wah-wah. It sounds good to me, but isn’t doing too well R&B, where it’s slow-moving at 85.

EARTH, WIND & FIRE: Kalimba Story (Columbia 4-46070).
So, what is a kalimba? EW&F leader Maurice White plays it, and it’s obviously the instrument that gives so many of the group’s songs their oddly plopping resonant noises. On this jauntily bouncing funky chanter it naturally comes through loud and clear, but I’m still undecided between some form of ethnic vibes or finger piano. It’s a great sound whatever, and is at number 10 R&B, 61 Pop. In this country, you can get it on their great new album, “Open Our Eyes” (CBS 65844). And, thinking of great albums, “up” for ages as I got off Marvin Gaye’s new “Live” one. Stevie’s newie’s got some nice Bossa-Novas, too. Continue reading “August 10, 1974: Ray Stevens, Isaac Hayes, Earth Wind & Fire, Jim Stafford, Billy “Crash” Craddock”

August 3, 1974: Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett, Rufus, Ecstacy Passion & Pain, Poco

Stateside Newies

DIANA ROSS AND MARVIN GAYE: Don’t Knock My Love (Motown M 1296F).
Taken from their “Diana and Marvin” album, the dynamic duo’s latest US hit (45 R&B/53 Pop) is their revival of this old Wilson Pickett pounder . . . and, despite their previously docile duets, they really do manage to knock the hell out of it! Marv has the chance to get in a few of his old Gospel screams, Di keeps her vocal tone down lower than usual, and together they fill the bouncy beater with excitement.

WILSON PICKETT: Take Your Pleasure Where You Find It (RCA ABP0 0309).
Mama Pickett’s little boy himself is in his usual grunt, wheeze and holler mood on his own latest hit (slow moving at 77 R&B), and the medium paced lurcher is a bit too leaden to whip up much enthusiasm. A pity, as a decade and more ago, Wilson used to be THE most exciting Soul singer there was.

RUFUS: Tell Me Something Good (ABC 11427).
Something of an oddity, this hit (7 R&B/19 Pop): sung by a white chick (of the sweaty whisky-swigging school) and what I understand to be a multi-racial band of blokes, it’s the Stevie Wonder tune slowed and stripped right down to its bare bones. The result is very angular and rather unattractive . . . but decidedly different. I’m surprised to see it doing so well in the R&B Chart, actually, as although the sparse backing contains the mandatory synthetic noises the lead-singing chick does sound so incredibly white. And mundane. Continue reading “August 3, 1974: Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett, Rufus, Ecstacy Passion & Pain, Poco”