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.

JIM STAFFORD: Wildwood Weed (MGM M 14737).
Jim’s latest hilarious hit (a big number 9 with a bullet), penned this time by funny Country man Don Bowman, is the story of some good ole boys who discover by chance that chewing on that weed growing on the farm makes them behave kinda funny . . . and, yeah, pretty soon they get around to smoking it! Yi-ha! Then the government men come and burn the crop, but the good ole boys just smile and say “Y’all come back now, hear?” They can afford to, sittin’ on a sack o’ seeds! One thing puzzles me about all this, though – whatever happened to the old radio ban on drug songs in the States? I guess it’s gone eight miles high, along with Lucy in the sky.

I seem to remember some time ago encouraging the nostalgicats among you to buy the original of this by Laing (Laynge?) Martine when it came out here. Anyway, the delightfully dated ditty is back again – and with a vengeance: number 1 Country, 25 with a bullet Pop! Crash gets perky support from some chix as he suggests all the places he wants it rubbed in . . . that’s suntan lotion we’re talking about!

American Singles

ROD McKUEN: Seasons In The Sun; Love’s Been Good To Me; Mr Bojangles; Jean (Warner Bros K 16410).
Here at last, on one of the Warner Giants 4-track maxis which quietly slipped out the other day (more are listed below), Mister McKuen sings the words which he himself wrote and which, with some slight alteration, gave Terry Jacks a hit. Softly and huskily, he fills them with tenderness and emotion, to be greeted by tumultuous applause and an orchestral reprise . . . yes, a pity for collectors, it and the Sinatra hit are “live”, but the flip’s two trax about tapdancing Bill Robinson and schoolmarming Jean Brodie are not. For those with romance in their hearts and lumps in their throats, my PICK OF THE WEEK.

NEIL YOUNG: Walk On; For The Turnstiles (Reprise K 14360).
It’s nice to find the Loner still cutting through the grease better than most other white stylists. From his new seaside album, he croaks and wails a thumping, creaking and scratching rhythmic semi-slowie, amidst which is buried some good R&B guitar. It ain’t too commercial, but I like it! The agony piles up (and a plane flies over) on the acoustic banjo blues flip. Neil’s another with a Warner Giants maxi out, viz: Southern Man; Till The Morning Comes; After The Gold Rush; Heart Of Gold (K 14350). MUSIC PICKS.

JOHNNY JOHNSON & THE BANDWAGON: Breaking Down The Walls Of Heartache; Dancin’ Master (Epic EPC 2597).
This minor US hit reached number 4 here in ’68, becoming a quintessential example of – and model for – much of the disco stomping R&B-type Pop which still sweeps through Britain . . . yet which is ignored in America. Johnson subsequently switched bases here, and is quite likely to find himself back in the Charts with this, things being as they are. Original flip, slower and more soulful. DISCO PICK.

WARNER GIANTS: ALICE COOPER: School’s Out; No More Mr Nice Guy; Elected; Billion Dollar Babies (K 16409), EVERLY BROTHERS: Wake Up Little Susie; Bye Bye Love; Cathy’s Clown; Ebony Eyes (K 16407) (NB Susie and Bye Bye are NOT the originals, which can be found on the new Janus LP), JAMES TAYLOR: You’ve Got A Friend; Sunny Skies; Fire And Rain; Sweet Baby James (K 16405), JONI MITCHELL: Carey; Both Side Now; Big Yellow Taxi; Woodstock (K 14345), THE BEACH BOYS: California Saga/California; Sail On Sailor; Marcella; I’m The Pied Piper (K 14346), TOM PAXTON: Peace Will Come; The Last Thing On My Mind; I Had To Shoot That Rabbit; General Custer (K 14349), JOHN SEBASTIAN: You’re A Big Boy Now; Blue Suede Shoes; Darling Be Home Soon; Apple Hill (K 14351), AMERICA: A Horse With No Name; Sandman; Ventura Highway; Riverside (K 16408), GORDON LIGHTFOOT: If You Could Read My Mind; Christian Island; Ode To Big Blue; Me And Bobby McGee (K 14344), TONY JOE WHITE: I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby; Did Somebody Make A Fool Out Of You; If I Ever Saw A Good Thing; California On My Mind (K 16411), FRANK SINATRA: Strangers In The Night; Love’s Been Good To Me; Softly As I Leave You; Let Me Try Again (K 14348) and One More For My Baby (And One More For The Road); My Way; That’s Life; The Good Life (K 14347), DEAN MARTIN: Gentle On My Mind; King Of The Road; Georgia Sunshine; You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You (K 14341) and Little Ole Wine Drinker Me; Bumming Around; By The Time I Get To Phoenix; Not Enough Indians (K 14340), SAMMY DAVIS JR: Once In A Lifetime; What Kind Of Fool Am I; The Birth Of The Blues; Big Bad John (K 14342), LITTLE RICHARD: Rockin’ Rockin’ Boogie; King Of Rock And Roll; The Saints; Mockingbird Sally (K 14343), FACES: Stay With Me; Pool Hall Richard; Cindy Incidentally; Memphis (K 16406), CURVED AIR: Back Street Luv; It Happened Today; Marie Antoinette; Ultra-Vivaldi (K 16412). Phew . . . I cannot in honesty recommend the Sammy Davis Jr or the Little Richard, but the rest really are good – nay, great – value for fans!

ASHFORD & SIMPSON: Main Line; Don’t Fight It (Warner Bros K 16441).
Valerie and Nick are doing fine Stateside with this slick ‘n easy jaunty churner, spiced by an unusual strings sound, which could just click in Three Degrees-mad Britain. Gentler soulful flip. R&B/POP PICK.

“LITTLE” JOHNNY BLAIR: Momma’s Gone; Easier To Say Than To Do (Pye Disco Demand DDS 106).
Produced by Lelan “Silver Fox” Rogers, this chunky funker from ’71 is brassier and – dare I say? – better than many Northern disco obscurities, and could indeed I suppose be a sop to the South. Johnny can scream and the Soul flows, especially on the hurtin’ slow flip. SOUL PICK.

HENSON: God Only Knows; Do Me Wrong, But Do Me (UA UP 35717).
The Beach Boys opus gets some Harrison-ish guitar, wailing synthesizer and reverential multi-tracked singing from this 25 year-old Muscle Shoals sessioneer – and the appealing mixture’s fine for radio programmers. Invitingly-titled Alan “Easy Evil” O’Day’s flipside pulsator is nice too. SOFT ROCK PICK.

SCOTT McKENZIE: San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair); Reason To Believe (CBS 1168).
And why not? ‘Tis the summer season and sure as hell this hippy drippy ditty from ’67 is a summer song. Tim Hardin flip, subsequently popularized by Rodnee. PETAL PICK.

DAVE LOGGINS: Please Come To Boston; Let Me Go Now (Epic EPC 2442).
“Poignant” sez Roger Scott, Capital Radio’s drive time jock: “boring” sez I, about this quaveringly-sung dirgey lump of nothing with cryptic lyrics about being “the number one fan of the man from Tennessee”. Sure you don’t mean Colorado, Dave (who is NO relation to Kenny or Dan)? Grief, there’s more on the flip! VACUOUSLY PRETTY PICK.

PAUL: Hey! Paula; Next To Jesus (London HLU 10463).
Bliss! Minus Paula, here’s Paul re-doing their great true love and devotion slowie from 1963 all by himself. If it weren’t a kinky situation, “hey hey Marie – hey hey Donny” would be a great substitute idea. Semi-irreverent strumming flip. SCHLOCK PICK.

SPARKS: Girl From Germany; Beaver O’Lindy (Bearsville K 15516).
From their earlier (by just a little bit) “Woofer In Tweeter’s Clothing” album, this Anglophile pastiche has bits of Bolan, Chapman and – oh, you’ll name it, they’ll claim it – all mixed with a cerebral originality of their own. Slow starting then noisily jerky flip, more in their current groove. US PICK.

TRIBE: Tribe; Learn To Love (ABC 4007).
The Big Dee Erwin-produced “Koke”-snorting fivesome are now in a vocal mood on this funky street chanter, which still has a lightness of touch amongst the instrumental pounding. Moody tribal slow chant flip. SOUTHERN DISCO PICK.

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