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.

American Singles

THE OSMONDS: Love Me For A Reason; Fever (MGM 2006458).
Oh yes, the new Stylistics, I was thinking until I saw the name on the label! For their first “Soul” single the new-sound Osmonds have taken a Johnny Bristol slowie of nagging familiarity and imbued its H.B. Barnum arrangement with accurate Sweet Soul singing. Only trouble is, it’s a bit plodding and lugubrious, and could do with some added sparkle or lift. Not Little Willie John’s classic, the flipside funker’s more in the – I hate to say it – Jackson 5 groove. PICK OF THE WEEK.

RAY STEVENS: Moonlight Special; Just So Proud To Be Here (Janus 6146202).
Fully described last week, Ray’s newie is an hilarious send-up of the late-nite US telly rock show, “Midnight Special” . . . and thus maybe a bit too obscure for this country. However, his fun-filled impersonations of Wolfman Jack (the Sheepdog), Gladys Knight and the Pips (Mildred Queen and the Dips) and Jerry Lee Lewis (Jerry Joe Harry Lee Jimmy Baby) and the overall “Bridget The Midget” feel should be enough to get some of ya yukking. Jaunty flip. FUN PICK.

BILLY “CRASH” CRADDOCK: Rub It In; It’s Hard To Love A Hungry, Worried Man (ABC 4010).
Successfully reviving Layng Martine’s minor hit from the Fall of ’71, Crash suggests all sorts of places for his feminine helpers to rub it in . . . like his left shoulder, his sacroiliac, and, put a little right here, yeah! Er, that’s suntan lotion he wants rubbed in, y’know! It’s all so catchy, silly and summery that it should hit here, easily, and anyway it’s bound to be a radio programmer’s pick if nothing else. Presley-ish slow flip. MoR PICK.

FRANK ZAPPA: Cosmik Debris; Uncle Remus (Discreet K 19201).
Hello, are you sitting comfortably? Here’s Uncle Frank to scare the living daylights out of all you good little children as he conducts one of his sinister little intimate conversations. While not another “Dinah-Moe-Humm”, it’s still kinda neat! Messier flip. MUTHAPICKA.

PEOPLE’S CHOICE: Love Shop; The Big Hurt (Philadelphia Int PIR 2564).
“Hello ladies, welcome to my love shop” growls a gruff-voiced gent, and this outstandingly good rhythm dancer is off to a fine start. Judged from an edited DJ copy there’s no knowing what’s missing, but it can’t be bad. Ooh, that beat . . . get down, y’all! Great soulful slow flip. Unreservedly recommended. SOUL PICK OF THE MONTH.

K.C. & THE SUNSHINE BAND: Queen Of Clubs; Do It Good (Jay Boy 88).
From the same people who brought you “Rock Your Baby” but not in that, or in their own old style, here Mr Casey and his Junkanoo fellas get into a frantically pounding “Funky Nassau” bag as they wail and shout about the queen of the disco dancers. Exciting stuff, aimed at the charts . . . and your hearts. Equally good jittery ultra-funk flip. DISCO PICK.

THE EDGAR WINTER GROUP: River’s Risin’; Animal (Epic EPC 2537).
To a snorting tempo and runaway rhythm, Edgar, Rick and the boys romp along about something being “just around the bend”. They take time out for a slower ethereal harmony bit, and then stomp on towards a flashing guitar finale. Fun to write about, it’s actually not more than yer usual slick US radio fodder, fast, furious and empty. Zappa-ish flip.

B.B. KING: Who Are You; Oh To Me (ABC 4005).
Jangling piano and a bouncy beat set the scene for B.B.’s somewhat untypical semi-smooth Soul singing on this effective effort by producer Dave Crawford. The guitar King earns his nickname more on the tender undercut. SOUL PICK.

BLACK OAK ARKANSAS: Dancing In The Streets; Dixie (Atlantic K 10491).
Jim Dandy – he of the skintight lame pants – ain’t no Martha and the Vandellas. ‘Nuff said? Tongue-in-cheek (I sincerely hope) cotton plantation sing song flip.

KEN LYON & TOMBSTONE: Sing Song City; Lorraine (CBS 2327).
Rubba-dubba rhythms, plangent Johnny Winter-style guitar and hoarsely hollered lyrics all add up to make an unexpectedly OK slab of noise, totally unheralded and unheard of in the States. More Pop than Rock, but basically Strange! Chunky piano on the slower flip.

101 STRINGS: Tubular Bells; Torna Sunda (Pye 7N 25658).
A competent carbon copy of Mike Oldfield’s “unauthorised” US single – but surely the point gets lost with 101 doing what just one had achieved before? Interesting, at least, to hear the same result with less synthetics in evidence. Cornily lush bossa nova musak flip.

EAGLES: Already Gone; Ol’ ’55 (Asylum AYM 530).
Slick production values cannot dilute the drive of this expertly blended smooth harmony jumper, even if all the rough edges are already gone. What? Oh, y’know, it’s nice, and tequila-sipping California cowboys will dig. There’s some wild acidic geetar too. Slow flip with pedal steel. MUSIC PICK.

THE (DETROIT) SPINNERS: I’m Coming Home; He’ll Never Love You Like I Do (Atlantic K 10480).
Hampered by an ambiguous rhythm that I still find unsettling, this cleverly contrived medium thumper will be awkward for dancers . . . unless they set a new step to it. Jazzy David T Walker-type guitar on the creamy flip.

RUFUS: Tell Me Something Good; Smokin’ Room (ABC 4008).
ABC in America have just bought the Dot, Paramount, Neighborhood, Blue Thumb and Ember labels. Meanwhile, they’re scoring Pop and R&B with this starkly angular treatment of a Stevie Wonder song by the multi-racial Chaka Khan (a lady)-led Family Stone-type Rufus group. It’s oddly hypnotic, but I don’t like it – unlike the wailing slow flip, which is beautiful. B-SIDE PICK.

CHARLIE THOMAS & THE DRIFTERS: A Midsummer Night In Harlem; Lonely Drifter Don’t Cry (EMI Int INT 502).
Roy Tempest, where are you?! Up, it’s the “fabulous” Drifters – NOT the current hit-parade line-up – but in fairness they do happen to be three of the ex-Four Crowns who were official Drifters in the Ben E King era. Confused? While pleasant enough, their suitably old fashioned beat ballad is less than some kind of wonderful, mainly due to Charlie’s croaking voice. Mexicali flip.

BOB SEGER: Get Out Of Denver; Long Song Comin’ (Reprise K 14364).
Not a hundred miles removed from Chuck Berry’s basic riff, heavy rocker Bob tells his little queenie to go, go, go on this fine, fine, superfine block o’ rock. WOOO! Nicely nasty distorted guitar on the slower chugging flip. ROCK PICK.

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