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”.

BILLY PRESTON: Nothing From Nothing (A&M 1544).
From a jaunty rendering of the “12th Street Rag” intro (oy!), Billy’s honestly not bad newie piano plonks its way into a medium rhythm chugger with banjo backup and an attractive lilt. His smoky vocals owe much to Ray Charles again and are a bit forced in their self-conscious soulfulness, but the overall result becomes one of his rare goodies. Chart action is a reflection of this – it’s at 19 Pop, and a big 9 R&B.

American Singles

DIANA ROSS & THE SUPREMES: Baby Love; Ask Any Girl (Tamla Motown TMG 915).
The girls’ second British hit and first number one from 10 years ago, this definitive disco classic is the true precursor of today’s Three Degrees sound, and as such is almost bound to go sexily clomping its way up the chart again. Gypsy fiddle intros the original even smoother cooing flip. PICK OF THE WEEK.

GARY PUCKETT & THE UNION GAP: Lady Willpower; The Beggar (CBS 2593).
Puckett’s inimitable bulldozer vocal powers through this surging rhythmic slowie, their second British hit from six years ago. Whether it can repeat its earlier success as follow-up to Young Girl will be interesting to see. Grandiose complexity on the ambitious flip. MoR PICK.

MIRACLES: Do It Baby; Wigs And Lashes (Tamla Motown TMG 914).
The Smokey-less Miracles seem to have found their feet with William Griffin and are doing it well, baby, on this coolly sung jerky thumper, which while basically semi-slow and soft has a staccato rhythm and some parts reminiscent of Barry White. Griffin really goes for the old Smokey sound on the Philly-ish flip. R&B PICK.

CURTIS MAYFIELD: Kung Fu; Right On For The Darkness (Buddah 402).
Despite the crass title, Curtis’s newie has grown on me. A delicately constructed meshwork of isolated noises, it’s a subtly rhythmic dancer that could even do well here. More intricacy on the slower flip. R&B PICK.

ROBERT PARKER: Barefootin’; I Caught You In A Lie (Contemporaries CS 9010).
Poor sound quality on the gay 1966 UK hit topside, but the more laid-back gently rhythmic flip sounds fine – which is important, as it’s likely to sell better being an unavailable West Indian fave. The label has another old New Orleans classic out too, AARON NEVILLE: Tell It Like It Is; Why Worry (CS 9009). SOUL PICKS.

CRAIG RUHNKE: Summer Girl; Turn The Lights Down Low (UA UP 35722).
Nicely old fashioned teenage sentiments lightly crooned by a Canadian pronounced “Runky” – still, not enough meat on it to hit, even in this year of ’62 in ’74. Slow flip.

BOZ SCAGGS: I Got Your Number; Slow Dancer (CBS 2305).
One of my faves, bogged down by a ponderous brassy arrangement on a Johnny Bristol plodder. Peter Meaden likes it though . . . and he found The Who. Slow flip.

REUBEN HOWELL: Rings; I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever) (Mowest MW 3019).
Although Lobo’s won the Chart race in the States, Reuben started it with this radio-aimed pseudo-poignant slowie, slickly produced in Muscle Shoals. Optimistic dead slow Stevie Wonder flip. He’s white.

CHER: I Saw A Man And He Danced With His Wife; I Hate To Sleep Alone (MCA 152).
Although quite attractive, Cher’s latest doom-laden slowie belies its great title line (lifted, incidentally, from Fred Fisher’s “Chicago”, sung by Frank Sinatra), which led me at least to expect something altogether happier. Driving flip with Spector-ish tinkles.

CLASSIC SULLIVANS: Paint Yourself In The Corner; I Don’t Want To Lose You (Kwanza K 19501).
Warner’s new R&B label debuts here as (I think) it did in the States, with this excellent lightly romping Impressions-type creamy dancer, which Soul jock Gregg Edwards says he remembers from a few years back. Certainly expect it to hit here now. Slow flip. R&B PICK.

YVONNE FAIR: Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On; Let Your Hair Down (Tamla Motown TMG 913).
With the Temptations currently produced by the Steves Cropper and Wonder, Norman Whitfield’s now putting this old James Brown protégé through her paces on an excitingly funky rework of Edwin Starr’s disco dancer, full of choppy rhythms and vocal support from what sounds like Marvin Gaye. Gritty “live” flip. R&B PICK.

AL WILSON: Help Me, Vocal / Instrumental (Pye DDS 107).
The ex-Roller and recent US Chart-topper never sounded as good as on this solidly clapping 1966 dancer, although the tinny guitar and brass backing track that makes up the churning instrumental flip is probably what the Northern fans are after. R&B PICK.

OLIVER SAIN: Bus Stop; Nighttime (Contempo CS 2026).
The sax-playing St. Louis-based band leader, a name from the ‘60s, is right at home in the ‘70s on this repetitive rhythm instrumental sparse funker, designed with dancin’ feet in mind. Lovely “Harlem Nocturne”-type slow flip, with echoes of King Curtis. R&B PICK.

THE IMPRESSIONS: Finally Got Myself Together (I’m A Changed Man); I’ll Always Be Here (Buddah BDS 403).
With an apt title the Curtis Mayfield-less Imps have scored their biggest US Pop hit since the late ‘60s, and it’s out here on the new Pye version of Buddah. Not unlike the old “Why Am I Treated So Bad” Gospel hit, the slinky slow plodder’s full of soulful singing. Brighter uptempo flip, possibly better for Britain as it’s like old Intruders things. FLIPSIDE PICK.

BLACK IVORY: What Goes Around (Comes Around); No One Else Will Do (Kwanza K 19500).
Philly Sounds from the current R&B chart, with effete falsetto Soul vocals over snikkety wah-wah rhythms arranged by Vince Montana on vibes. Norman Harris did the nicer sweet slow flip.

SPIRITUAL CONCEPT: I Don’t Wanna Hear (Bull Do Do); Let’s Take It All (Philadelphia Int PIR 2563).
TSOP – or, as it’s known in Spain, ESDF (El Sonido De Filadelfia) – now gets into Protest Music via this rather leaden chant, coyly retitled for Britain, about not wanting to hear “none of your bull”. Interesting as an oddity rather than music. Soul meets Sgt Pepper on the flip.

GLADYS KNIGHT & THE PIPS: On And On; The Makings Of You (Buddah BDS 401).
Penned/produced by Curtis Mayfield for the “Claudine” movie, the Pips’ latest is a thumping chanter that palls rapidly. Romantically tender undercut, but it too lacks balls.

RITA FORTUNE: Sisters And Brothers: Vocal / Instrumental (CBS 2603).
Aimed slap bang at the UK Charts, here’s a Bert De Coteaux-arranged girlie clomper which even has the requisite backing track flipside instrumental version. Had Rita and her friends (or is she multi-tracked?) sounded less domineering and more like the Three Degrees, their aim would have been even better.

AFRICAN MUSIC MACHINE: Mr. Brown; Camel Time (Contempo CS 2025).
A surprisingly delicate slice of funk dedicated to the Minister Of New New Super Funk, Mr James Brown. Nice Peddlers-type organ sound on the instrumental flip.

GRAHAM NASH: Grave Concern; Another Sleep Song (Atlantic K 10470).
Not to be outdone by Terry Sylvester, the solo ex-Hollie uses an indistinct radio newscast as the pivot of his rumbling and clanging slow whiner, which has more really nice biting guitar than vocal. Studio chat intros the sleepy slow flip.

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

  1. 1974 was quite a year for Diana Ross in the UK charts. 3 solo hits 2 duets with Marvin & the rerelease of the iconic Baby Love would make it 6 hits in 1974.


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