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.

SINGLES US

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.

VAN McCOY & THE SOUL CITY SYMPHONY: Love Is The Answer; Killing Me Softly (Avco 6105030).
Eddie Calvert lives! With a golden trumpet intro, this “Love’s Theme”-cum-“TSOP”-type instrumental (actually from the Stylistics’ latest LP) seems set to do well here, especially as Van has fans already. Nicely relaxing flipside treatment, too. MoR PICK.

GENE DOZIER & THE UNITED FRONT: Give The Women What They Want; The Best Girl I Ever Had (Mercury 6167007).
Here’s that funky chanter with the incredible intro which I told you about last week. Once past the intro admittedly it does get a bit monotonous, which may limit its appeal to funky folk only, but they’ll dig mightily! Attractive semi-slow vocal flip. FUNKY PICK.

GENTLEMEN & THEIR LADIES: Party Bump, Pts 1 & 2 (Contempo CS 2030).
If the parrty, parrty, parrty craze hasn’t already parted, this good booming bass chanter – complete with whistle blowing – should be what the funky dancers ordered. Chat starts the Junior Walker-ish flip, which is rather more interesting . . . as is the fact that George Kerr produced. PARRTY PICK.

THE LAST WORD: Keep On Bumpin’ Before You Give Out Of Gas; Funky And Some (Polydor 2066429).
The ecological yet silly title should tell you that this is indeed another creation of the Minister Of New New Super Heavy Funk, Mr James Brown himself. An angular rhythm jiggler with sax and synthesizer, it’s basically an instrumental with subdued chanting and background chat. Ponderous brassy flip, the title of which fits the dancin’ topside better. FUNKY PICK.

ARLO GUTHRIE: Presidential Rag; Nostalgia Rag (Reprise K 14365).
Not a rag in the strict sense, Arlo’s now outdated ditty about the ex-Mister President is a perky plopper with smooth strings and nasal whining. However, the Ian Whitcomb-type flip really is a rag, slow and woozy.

THE DOOBIE BROTHERS: Eyes Of Silver; You Just Can’t Stop It (Warner Bros K 16450).
“Long Train Running, Part Two” . . . which means it’s professionally put together without saying anything new at all. They do make nice noises though, as and the original was good so is this. Jerky flip to a similar formula. ERSATZ ROCK PICK.

THE MOM AND DADS: The Rangers Waltz; Quentin’s B Flat Boogie (Pye 7N 45382).
Did me nut when this accordion-led waltz-time instrumental came out a couple of years ago, and now I see it’s finally become one of Australia’s all-time smashes! Real down home, portly Mom and the grinning Dads from Washington State are a traditional treat not to be missed . . . book ‘em for your next social function, now! Sax-playing Quentin Ratliff gets it on to a great boogie-woogie rhythm flipside. Yeah! ODDBALL PICK.

OTIS CLAY: You Did Something To Me; It Was Jealousy (London HLU 10467).
With a solidity that’s frightening, Willie Mitchell’s latest backing sound threatens to rival his “I Can Hear The Rain Work” at times, especially when Otis’s voice meshes into a scale-climbing twiddly bit from (I think) the bass and organ. Mmm, that’s nice! The comfortable chugger’s flipped by a strainingly Soulful slowie. SOUL PICK.

LOBO: Don’t Expect Me To Be Your Friend; How Can I Tell Her (Philips 6073828).
Having missed out on “I’d Love You To Want Me”, Philips now try to recoup their loss with another oldie, a fairly uninteresting slowie that was a US Top 10 hit at the start of last year. More poignancy on the even slower flip, which sounds better to me.

GEORGE FISCHOFF: Georgia Porcupine; I’ll Never Forget (UA UP 35678).
Once the youngest composer on Broadway as well as cleffer of such as “98.6”, piano-pounding George starts slow and delicate before making this instrumental erupt like an updated Kokomo or Floyd Cramer. Boy, he can sure hammer them 88’s! Romantic slowly building flip.

THE ARMADA ORCHESTRA: It’s The Same Old Song; To Chicago With Love (Contempo CS 2024).
Doing for this Four Tops oldie much as Earl Van Dyke and the Soul Brothers did their “I Can’t Help Myself”, the San Remo Strings-copying Orchestra turn out a squeaky clomp-along instrumental that’s as danceable as the vocal original. Pretty piano on the lush ‘n slushy slow flip.

THE ESCORTS: Disrespect Can Wreck; Let’s Make Love (At Home Sometimes) (Contempo CS 2029).
Here’s value (if you’re not a flipside freak) – the group’s two most recent hit sides back-to-back. Badly pressed, the stylus-skipping “Disrespect” is a falsetto throbber which eventually becomes a little playlet with judge, mother and convicted son . . . suitable, as the group is made up from inmates (some now ex) of Rahay State Prison in New Jersey, where producer George Kerr has to record the vocal tracks. The lovely sweet slow flip is their current R&B hit, and possible preferable.

SPYDER TURNER: Since I Don’t Have You; Happy Days (Kwanza K 19502).
Spyder’s never managed to follow his impersonation-filled treatment of “Stand By Me” from the beginning of ’67, and his rather stolid reading of this lovely and much recorded old Skyliners classic won’t alter anything. The flipside re-write of “Oh Happy Day” is better, and has already been played by Greg Edwards on Capital.

5 thoughts on “August 31, 1974: James’s final US singles review column”

  1. This is an unexpected moment for James to stop writing for RM, after over five and a half years of continuous service. His “Stateside Newies” column made its final appearance the week before, but his separate section of reviews of UK releases by US artists was given a full redesign this week, with a new header graphic. This would suggest that its future wasn’t in imminent peril.

    Meanwhile, soul/R&B music was enjoying a major commercial resurgence, disco was well on the way to becoming established as a genre in its own right, and clubs were playing a greater role in breaking hit records. So, since the music that James had been consistently championing was now gaining wider acceptance, wouldn’t his services be needed now more than ever?

    We don’t know whether he jumped, whether he was pushed, or whether the parting of ways was mutual – but James’s departure did not mark a downturn in RM’s soul/disco coverage. Three weeks later, two new sections were introduced: one for soul (initially written by Tony Jasper, and subsequently by Giovanni Dadomo), and another for the professional DJ sector, under the supervision of Roger Squires.

    A few months down the line, RM would start publishing a monthly UK soul chart (taken from Blues & Soul magazine), and a monthly disco chart, compiled from DJ returns. The disco chart was markedly pop-based, as indeed was the early disco chart in James’s own section. A weekly Northern Soul chart from Russ Winstanley at the Wigan Casino also appeared in early 1975, and ran for several months.

    Unearthing these early singles reviews has been a real pleasure. Although less remembered than his disco columns, they display a remarkable level of erudition and insight, and I’ve learnt a lot from them.

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  2. This has been a fascinating off shoot from the main Disco Column blog entries. It has been been both entertaining and informative- giving us a real insight to what it really was like back in the early 70s when these records first appeared- before they became iconic hits or sank without trace. We can see clearly what the contemporary view before memories became obscured through time and opinions changed and 50 years worth of hindsight got in the way. Also fascinating to see releases put into the perspective of a timeline with other singles/artists work. Thanks again for taking the time to track all of this down and to compile it in a format on the internet where it is easier to access and make sense of it all. It is of course still great to trawl through all those old copies of Record Mirror and get lost for hours reading old reviews/articles and pouring over the charts. It can be quite a surprise to discover that what we might consider as our great memories and powers of recall are in fact so far out of wack and totally faulty-those massive hits that actually never reached the charts or had a minor brush with success- often edited in our heads to match the fantasy version of the past that does indeed reside in all of our minds.

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  3. Agree that this does appear to be the worst time for James to stop writing this column as I”ve always considered this to be the point when “disco” really first broke through into public consciousness for the first time with George McCrae, KC & the Sunshine Band, Hues Corporation making waves in the charts on the radio and in discos across the land. Radio DJs on Radio 1 and Luxembourg were talking about disco and it was having a big impact. Of course we’re looking at this from 2020. In August 74 no one knew what was ahead! I do remember James first Disco column in 75. Those very first UK Disco charts threw up some strange entries- Nigel Olsson?? It would of course be several years before the disco scene matured and the disco chart really became established in its own right and became a true trendsetter reflecting a wide range of music most of which never got near a Radio 1 turntable or the Official UK Chart.

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    1. I agree, summer 1974 was a turning point. It’s where a veteran soul DJ friend of mine stops, and – in terms of my (much missed) weekly gig playing mostly disco – it’s where I start. The big climbers at this time were Hang On In There Baby, Queen Of Clubs, Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love Babe and Machine Gun, and the likes of Rock Your Baby, Rock The Boat and When Will I See You Again were still selling well.

      The fact that Nigel Olsson’s “Only One Woman” – a cover-version ballad which didn’t even make the pop Top 40 – topped the first ever Record Mirror Disco Chart is beyond bizarre. It wasn’t a flash in the pan, either: the following month, it was still at #2, and the month after that it was at #3. But hey, at least it was written by the Bee Gees!

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  4. It shouldn’t be forgotten that aside from the seemingly largely mainstream and mobile DJ’s who contributed to the early JH Disco Charts there was also already quite a few more cutting edge funk and 70’s soul nights in existence at this time mostly in London and the SE (the Goldmine, Pantiles, Crackers the Lacey Lady among others were already in existence in 1975) but also in Manchester and the NW and maybe other places too. But it’s probably fair to say it wasn’t these specialist DJ’s who contributed to the early days of the chart. And those funk and soul discos were obviously completely different from the Northern Soul scene which was at its height and massive just about everywhere outside the before mentioned London/SE, and from what I’ve read Liverpool (very strangely seeing as its in the north west which was northern soul’s capital!) and for some reason the North East, at this time.

    So it seems that JH also started to tap into a more specialist scene as his column progressed and obviously the disco boom added many more mainstream clubs to those playing the more funky sounds and would have changed the makeup of the chart anyway.

    Anyway as has been said already thanks for uploading the 69-74 columns way before my time and very interesting to see things covered as they happened.

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