September 29, 1973: Jackson 5, Ray Price, The Ovations, The Allman Brothers Band, Stevie Wonder

Straight from the States

JACKSON 5: Get It Together (Motown M 1277F).
It has to be faced: the Jacksons are in trouble, with falling record sales not only here but also in America. Whatever happened – to the Transylvania Twist? – no, sorry, that was meant to come out as, whatever happened to their supposedly fanatical following? The powers behind them at Motown have obviously been concerned by the problem, otherwise why else would this, their latest hit, show label credits for as many as five writers, producer Hal Davis end executive producer Berry Gordy among them? The result is indeed a hit, and the healthiest-looking one that the boys have had for some time. It’s also a good record, having a herky-jerky choppy rhythm structure with jagged sax and strings behind it, a repetitive synthesised bass-line through it, and jittery frantic vocal work from Michael and his brothers slotted in between it. This dominating rhythm track has, of course, the effect of making the whole thing less a song than a sound . . .and as sounds are notoriously difficult to break with melody-loving British audiences, the release here of the “Skywriter” LP track instead of “Get It Together” was possibly a wise decision on the part of Tamla Motown. Except that “Skywriter” doesn’t seem to have done much, either. As I was saying, the Jacksons are in trouble.

RAY PRICE: You’re The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me (Columbia 4-45889).
On looking through some back issues of RM the other day, I discovered that when I originally reviewed Ray Price’s hit Country version of “For The Good Times” I actually recommended it to Perry Como fans! How’s that for a prophecy? Ray has a voice that is slap bang in that Perry Como-styled Easy Listening groove, and by rights he should be just as popular – even if you yourselves aren’t into that sort of thing, do at least tell your mums and dads about him. His latest American hit is streaking to the top of the Country Charts and is also climbing Pop, where in fact its totally un-Country straight Easy Listening sound rightly belongs. Another of those Jim Weatherly-penned slowies, it reminds me of nothing so much as Rod McKuen’s Frank Sinatra-sung “Love’s Been Good To Me.” Expect Val Doonican to cover it any day.

THE OVATIONS: Having A Party – Medley (MGM K 14623).
When the Memphis-recorded Ovations first broke through in the mid-‘60s singing “It’s Wonderful To Be In Love” on Goldwax, the voice of their lead singer, Louis Williams, was obviously modelled on that of the late Sam Cooke, whose cool Gospel-style has had such an influence on so many Soul singers. After a period when nothing much has been heard from them, the Ovations are back in the R&B Charts with – guess what? – an unabashed tribute to Sam Cooke and the songs which he made famous in the early ‘60s. Recorded live (and it really does sound as if the enthusiastic audience was there at the time, even if only in the studio), Louis and the group, augmented by some girls, satisfy the requests which they evidently keep getting for Sam Cooke songs by running together over an infectious easy-paced clap beat such Cooke favourites as “Having A Party,” “Twisting The Night Away,” “Wonderful World,” “Meet Me At Mary’s Place,” “Soothe Me,” and “Amen” (the last two admittedly are less readily identified with Cooke), all moulded to the basic “Having A Party” tune and backing. Apart from its natural appeal for Sam Cooke (and Ovations) fans, this record is also notable because it is one of the few in existence which accurately captures the feel of a black singer in front of a black audience. Continue reading “September 29, 1973: Jackson 5, Ray Price, The Ovations, The Allman Brothers Band, Stevie Wonder”

September 22, 1973: The Soul Children, The Temprees, Cheech Y Chong, Carl Carlton, Marvelettes

Straight from the States

THE SOUL CHILDREN: Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing; Poem On The School House Door (Stax STA 0170).
After several successful but to my mind disappointing singles, the two guys/two gals Soul Children have come up with a genuine 100 per cent Super Soul goodie. Their topside treatment of the Lou Rawls oldie is hoarsely hollered and funkily gritty: however, it’s the flipside dead slowie about a trip the group made back to their childhood stamping ground which is the real gas. The trip turned out to be one of those ill-fated ventures of a type which should have been foreseen, proving as it did only how much time changes things and how sad as well as happy memories are always liable for revival. The nostalgic scene is set by first one of the guys and then the two girls each in turn telling a part of the story, in a pure Gospel style, before suddenly the other guy comes crashing in with a passionate screaming intensity which lifts the tune up another notch. You see, there had been a custom back at their old school for all the graduates to leave behind them a token by which to be remembered, and he has just remembered what he left – not a trophy, an honorary record or a citation like the others, but . . . you guessed! . . . a love poem on the school house door. What’s so aroused him, though, is that the poem was spurned by its intended recipient – and he had written two copies, one on the school house door and one imbedded deep down in his heart. The latter is still there, and he proceeds to soul it to us all one time. This incredibly exciting slab of gut-wrenching soulfulness has finally returned the group to the sort of form that was so impressive on “The Sweeter He Is”, four years ago. Obviously, it is a must for all Deep Soul lovers.

THE TEMPREES: Love’s Maze (We Produce XPA 1811).
Recorded with Soul Group Freaks only in mind, this dreamy Sweet Soul slowie is one of those obscure exquisite beauties which are unfortunately far too Deep to be Pop over here. It features each of the three guys in the group alternating on lead, their switchovers sometimes being almost discordant – and hence exaggeratedly Soulful. The hand-clapping sparsely-backed easy-beat flip, “Wrap Me In Love“, is just as nice. Those who dig will dig, muchly!

CHEECH Y CHONG: Basketball Jones (Featuring Tyrone Shoelaces) (Ode 66038).
Remember the Brighter Side Of Darkness, the schoolboy Soul Vocal Group who recently had a US smash with “Love Jones“? Well, “head” humourists Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin, the Chinese and Chicano comedians, have now made this spoof near-copy of that hit! Young Tyrone wails away that he’s got a basketball jones – ever since he was a little baby he’s always been dribbling, in fact he was the baddest dribbler in the neighbourhood! – and he gets everyone to sing along with him to the monotonous slow melody, just like the Beatles did on such classics as “All You Need Is Love” and “Hey Jude”. The result is more good-humoured than humorous . . . and a US hit. Continue reading “September 22, 1973: The Soul Children, The Temprees, Cheech Y Chong, Carl Carlton, Marvelettes”

September 1, 1973: Ultra High Frequency, The Independents, Eddie Kendricks, The Moments, The Chi-Lites

Straight from the States

ULTRA HIGH FREQUENCY: We’re On The Right Track (Wand).
Wooo-wooo! goes the whistle, clank-clank chug-chug choo-choo-puffa goes the sound-effects-with-rhythm intro. How do I know that I’m listening to a British hit, when it has only just started to pick up dee-jay support in America? Well, for starters, it’s another Philly Sound dancer . . . PLUS, Norman Harris and Stan Watson produced it, with more than a hint of the O’Jays in the group’s harmonies and delivery, and with an eye on the sound effects from their earlier success, “Armed And Extremely Dangerous.” But basically, I know because it’s such a treat for dancing feet – and even has a backing-track instrumental flip for dancers Up North.

THE INDEPENDENTS: Baby I’ve Been Missing You (Wand).
Currently big and getting bigger, both R&B and Pop, the Indies’ newie is another of those exquisite Sweet Soul slowies which they do so well. There’s a touch of the Chi-Lites about the piano and strings intro, over which one of those apologetic gentle sexy raps leads into the main title phrase chorus, which features the chick of the group up front (in fact, she takes some of the key lines on her wailing lonesome ownsome). Yeah!

EDDIE KENDRICKS: Keep On Truckin’ (Parts 1 & 2). (Tamla).
The ex-Temptation is hitting hard R&B and Pop with his latest, uncharacteristic, modern funk rhythm number, which features some great tinkling cool vibes work amongst the bongos and wah-wah that carry on truckin’ even when the rest of the drums and synthesizer backing drops away. Actually, so many different instrumental changes occur during the course of the tune that to list them would be a drag. Eddie himself, through in fine voice, seems to play second fiddle to the ultra-rhythmic instrumental track. Dancers WILL DIG! Incidentally DAVID RUFFIN, the other main ex-Temptation, has another Bobby (Dells) Miller-penned/produced slowie, the truly Soulful, self-derogatory “Common Man” (Motown). Continue reading “September 1, 1973: Ultra High Frequency, The Independents, Eddie Kendricks, The Moments, The Chi-Lites”

August 25, 1973: David Cassidy, James Brown/Lyn Collins, Joe Simon, Deodato, Ike & Tina Turner

Stop press: Cassidy review

DAVID CASSIDY: Daydream; Can’t Go Home Again (Bell, in America only).
David’s new American single pairs a couple of the tracks from his as yet uncompleted new album, and will not necessarily be chosen for singles release in Britain once the finished LP has been heard (writes James Hamilton). David’s whole approach shows an ever increasing maturity. “Daydream,” the famous Lovin’ Spoonful ditty from 1966, here becomes much mellower and less angular than the original, with a greater emphasis on the jangling piano and good-time jug band atmosphere – right rooty tooty, in fact! It’s the lovely slow flip, though, which really shows off David’s maturity. Sung expressively in David’s husky, breathy voice, the truly beautiful melody is perfectly complemented by its gentle backing of electric piano and lightly Latin rhythm. Believe me, it’s real music.

Straight from the States

JAMES BROWN: Sexy, Sexy, Sexy; Slaughter Theme (Polydor) and LYN COLLINS (THE FEMALE PREACHER): How Long Can I Keep It Up (People).
James Brown, meets Jim Brown! Yes, hot on the heels of his soundtrack scoring chores for “Black Caesar”, Mr. James Brown has trotted out more movie music, this time for the latest in the Jim Brown-starring (and Jim Brown-produced) “Slaughter” series, “Slaughter’s Big Rip Off”. Remember, Billy Preston did the original “Slaughter” theme? Well, the impact of hearing the new James Brown theme as you sit back in your cinema seat is gonna be a whole lot different! From a slowly building suspense-filled start it explodes into a whole mess of funky butt Soul rhythm, before easing back into a comparatively melodic instrumental passage. However, that’s only the B-side of J. B.’s new single, the score-culled A-side of which is one of those leaping whomping stomping dancers of the sort which he cut a few years back . . . hence, if it comes out in Britain, it stands a really good chance of hitting here. Add the kinda blatant title to a beat that sure don’t quit, and Pop satisfaction is guaranteed!

Then, for a Soulful turnabout, also from “Slaughter’s Big Rip Off” comes The Female Preacher’s lovely new slowie, penned by J. B. with Fred Wesley, and of course arranged and produced by James Brown – The Hit Man – Godfather of Soul (as both labels proclaim). Interestingly, the Lyn Collins record features an edited 3:32 “Part 1” version on the plug side and the full 5:29 “Part 1 & 2″on the flip. It’s a rap-introed beauty with a gorgeous relaxed backing behind Lyn’s tender then raw emoting, which obviously relates lyrically to Slaughter’s girlfriend in the movie: as the words switch from a loving resignation to her man’s dangerous way of life and become more agitated by self-doubt about her own inner strength, so the music becomes a churning whirl that accurately reflects her mental turmoil. Thus, if the only reason for a visit to the original rather drab “Slaughter” movie was to see Stella Stevens starkers, James Brown’s music will be reason enough to sit through the “Big Rip Off” . . . provided that they fit it all in the film.

JOE SIMON: Theme From Cleopatra Jones; Who Was That Lady (Spring).
Staying with black movie music, we find that although Joe Simon himself wrote and produced this theme for “Cleopatra Jones,” the Brad Shapiro-penned / produced flip has rather more to do with the film’s subject matter, actually mentioning her by name. The theme itself is a ponderous mixture of instrumental and vocal which never gets off the ground, consisting mainly of a monotonous cluster of clomps infiltrated by torpid strings, brass and electric piano, not to forget a bit of the mandatory wah-wah guitar, over which Joe Simon bays and howls. He does actually say “Cleo” twice towards the end, but on the faster, synthesizer-introed flip he tells us all about “Miss Jones” – a gun-totin’ afroed cutie taken to wearing mink boleros with bead accessories, if the paper sleeve pic’s anything to go by. This flip is so much more lively and better than the A-side that it will be a good move of Polydor’s if they make it the plug side when and if British release time comes. Continue reading “August 25, 1973: David Cassidy, James Brown/Lyn Collins, Joe Simon, Deodato, Ike & Tina Turner”

August 18, 1973: Isley Brothers, Eagles, Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen, Perry Como, Maureen McGovern

ISLEY BROTHERS: That Lady (Parts 1/2) (Epic EPC 1704).
What freakiness is this? Amorphous pretty noises, phasing acid guitar, slinky sensuous singing . . . a lightly chattering beat, some chukka-wukka grittiness at times . . . but over all this rapidly rising US hit (and especially its instrumental B-side) is dominated by the mind-naggingly sustained acid guitar line, amidst which the Isleys’ vocal smoothness is at its sexiest. More of a sound than a song, it will hopefully not be too shapeless for British tastes, as it’s truly the PICK OF THE WEEK.

EAGLES: Tequila Sunrise (Asylum AYM 520).
From their “Desperado” concept album comes the Eagles’ latest laid-back gem, an oh-so-languid lazy lilter which features sleepy singing, gentle guitar, slithering steel, “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” touches, and a trace of influence from their feathered friends, the Byrds . . . . aaahhh-uurrr-umm, I think I’ll just lay me down and rest awhile, so sleepy, mmmmm, mmmm MMMUSIC PICK.

COMMANDER CODY & HIS LOST PLANET AIRMEN: Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette); Rock That Boogie (Paramount PARA 3040).
The only reason why many people, the staff of “RM” included, are going to the Reading Festival next weekend is to see the stars of the show, Commander Cody and his real gone Airmen. Cody and the boys just love that oldtime Country music, the sort with balls, and spend their time making fun-filled bouncy recreations of it. For instance, this vintage mild lunacy, full of sprightly fiddle and skipping rhythm, was originally recorded (with a much deeper voice) by Tex Williams in, I do believe, the far-off ‘Forties. What’s more, the jolly flip is similar to the sort of pre-Rock ‘n Roll boogie which Tennessee Ernie Ford used to record, better than twenty years ago. If, wonder of wonders, you dig these, try Dan Hicks And His Hot Licks’ “Where’s The Money” next. MUSIC PICK. Continue reading “August 18, 1973: Isley Brothers, Eagles, Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen, Perry Como, Maureen McGovern”

July 21, 1973: Donny Osmond, Marvin Gaye, The Miracles, Jim Croce, Jerry Lee Lewis

DONNY OSMOND: Young Love; A Million To One (MGM, available 10th August).
The first 45 I ever had (writes James Hamilton) was Tommy Steele’s EP of “Young Love”, the heart-rending teen ballad with which Sonny James topped the US for most of February / March 1957, and with which American actor Tab Hunter hit here. True to form, Donny Osmond has now revived it as his next single, and of course is suited to a “T” by its tender sentiments. Gulp! There’s even a soulful short monologue! Culled from his “Alone Together” elpee, it (in this American pressing) fades out rather arbitrarily after only 2:18. Flipside, Don revives another old ‘teen ballad, which hit in America for Jimmy Clanton during the Autumn of ’60 – however, because it sounds as though he recorded it before the famous voice -break, this version is more reminiscent of the 5 Stairsteps’ 1967 treatment. Which oldie will get the Osmond touch next?

Straight from the States

MARVIN GAYE: Let’s Get It On (Tamla).
As mentioned last week, Marv has a newie . . . and it isn’t his own song! Written and co-produced by Ed Townsend (of 1957’s “For Your Love” fame), and arranged by veteran Rene Hall, it’s a slow plodder which features some subdued blues guitar in behind the dominating thud beat pattern, through which Marvin weaves his old-style “How Sweet It Is”-type vocal. What a departure! What’s more, it’s completely hypnotic. However satisfying his recent amorphous sound may be, it sure is good to hear – and really HEAR – Marvin’s great Gospel voice at its sinuous best. He even gives Al Green a run for his money here. On the flip is a Norman Whitfield-produced wah-wah and fuzz-tone treatment of “I Wish It Would Rain” . . . huh? You’ll hear the times change at Motown . . . backwards?

THE MIRACLES: Don’t Let It End (‘Til You Let It Begin) (Tamla).
The heavy significance of the titles recorded by the old Miracles, the new Miracles and Smokey Robinson sure have been hammering home the point that they’ve reached a fork in the road. Yes, this is the first single to feature Smokey’s replacement, William Griffin. While he’s no Smokey vocally, he has a nice if anonymous crystal clear falsetto tone, and is well mixed in with the others on this lead-switching lush and delicate slowie, written with more than a hint of Robinson crossed with Bachadavid by co-producer/arranger Freddie Perren. It’s extremely pleasant, but in this age of Chi-Lites, Stylistics and Blue Notes it does not sound to me as if it would start a new group – and I emphasize “new” – on a major career, sounding as it does like so many others. Continue reading “July 21, 1973: Donny Osmond, Marvin Gaye, The Miracles, Jim Croce, Jerry Lee Lewis”

July 14, 1973: James Hamilton meets Sylvia, Cliff Nobles, Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway, Derek Martin

Whispering sweet nothin’s and still keeping up on the business
James Hamilton meets SYLVIA

“HELLO?” The voice is husky, laid back, welcoming – which, regrettably, is more than can be said of that of the sweaty fella who’s making the call. If you’ve ever tried conducting a trans-Atlantic telephone conversation while you’re wearing headphones, listening to the other person through the left channel by way of a microphone sellotaped to the receiver and hearing yourself through the right by way of another mike held in the same hand as the mouthpiece – to which, of course, you have to get as close as possible in order that you can be heard at the other end – well. . . . it’s not conducive to a relaxed exchange of sweet nuthin’s.

Sweet nuthin’s are what Sylvia’s “Pillow Talk” hit is all about. Sylvia actually wrote the song in the hope that Al Green might record it. “I took it to Memphis and played it to Al and to Willie Mitchell, but Willie thought it was a bit too sexy for Al! So, I brought it back, very despondent, and it was just left in the tape room here for about six months after that.”

You see, Sylvia Robinson is not just a singer and songwriter these days, she is primarily Vice-President (to her husband’s President) of a flourishing little group of Rhythm & Blues record companies – All Platinum, Stang, Astroscope, Vibration – in Englewood, New Jersey. Hubby takes care of the business business, she takes care of the music business: to the extent that one of her songs and productions with the Moments, “Love On A Two-Way Street,” was as big a hit for the company a couple of years ago as is “Pillow Talk” now.

As any Soul Group Freak must surely know, as well as the Moments, their other hit-scoring stars include the WhatNauts, George Kerr, Dave “Baby” Cortez and The Ponderosa Twins + One. (Actually, ace producer / singer Kerr is now with another label, but Vibration has recently signed Derek “Daddy Rolling Stone” Martin).

Sure, Sylvia used to be a full-time singer. With the currently Paris domiciled legendary guitarist, Mickey Baker, she recorded while very young in 1957 the original hit version of “Love Is Strange.” After the Mickey & Sylvia team split up, she recorded as Sylvia Robbins . . . but let’s get back to the present, and “Pillow Talk.”

“I had put my voice on it basically to take it to Al Green, and that same tape which I took down to Memphis is the same tape which is now the hit record. I would have wanted to re-mix it over again, but I was unable to because I had taken myself off of the eight-track as I had tried several other people on the track.

“So, that demonstration mix was the only one that I had of myself. I couldn’t alter it unless I had done the performance over again. ”

Once she had been persuaded that her version was the one to release, exactly as it was, Sylvia was pleasantly surprised to find that the R&B radio stations and their listeners just lapped it up. She had no trouble over the suggestive nature of her words until, long afterwards, the Pop stations began to programme it.

“I had a few problems because of certain things that they thought I said but which, if they’d listened properly, they’d have heard were not in there. Like, there’s one part where I say ‘nice Daddy, nice Daddy,’ but they thought it said ‘lie steady.’ Hahahaha! For certain stations we had to send out copies of the lead sheet to them. Everybody thinks I say that – I think I’ll have to incorporate it into my act, ‘lie steady!’ Hahahaha!”

Sweet dreams, Sylvia . . . and all you blokes out there, as the O’Jays say, it’s time to get down.

Straight from the States

CLIFF NOBLES: This Feeling Of Loneliness (Roulette).
Do you remember how, back in ’68, Cliff Nobles hit big, big, big with that great dancer, “The Horse“? And how “The Horse” was in reality just the instrumental backing track to Cliff’s vocal on “Love Is All Right“, which became relegated to the lowly B-side, where it was never heard from again? Well, Cliff is back, slowly climbing the R&B and Pop Charts, produced still by Jesse James, and . . . on a vocal hit at last! It’s a true hunk of throat-wrenching Soul, too. To a plopping, swaying, pretty, semi-slow melody he gives out all he’s got in a time-honoured fashion which is full of the type of anguished choking Soulful expression made famous by such as Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and all the other old ex-Gospelers. Interestingly, his voice does not sound double-tracked so much as phased (that is, the original take is re-recorded on top of itself, but slightly out of synchronization, to give a swimming sound that can sometimes make a freaky ear-messing noise which has been popular ever since the Small Faces and others used It in 1967). Here, the phasing is of the swimming variety, and ties well in with the smooth strings and brass backing to make an intriguingly unusual overall atmosphere.

ARETHA FRANKLIN: Angel (Atlantic).
Rita Frankel, as Mae West refers to her, begins her latest slowie (co-produced by herself and the great Quincy Jones) with a delicately backed rap: “I got a call the other day. It was my sister Carolyn, saying, ‘Aretha, come by when you can: I’ve got something that I wanna say.’ And when I got there, she said, ‘You know, rather than go through a long, drawn-out day, I think the melody on the box will help me explain.'” And it so happens that this pretty piece of gentle Soul wailing was written by that same sister, Carolyn Franklin, together with Sonny Saunders. Not, in fact, one of Aretha’s meatiest bits of material, it is however a perfect showcase for both her own laid back voice and Quincy’s perfectly lovely arrangement. On Aretha’s own flipside funker, “Sister From Texas“, the wukka-wukka-wukka-wukka wah-wah wins.

DONNY HATHAWAY: Love, Love, Love (Atco).
The eclectic Donny seems to be flirting with Soul again on this, his treatment of J. R. Bailey’s recent R&B hit. Bailey, with “Love, Love, Love” and the similar “After Hours“, has been tapping the Marvin Gaye market, starved of singles by the real thing but happy to buy J. R.’s accurate copies of that mellow echoing ethereal sound. Thus, Donny’s own treatment of Bailey’s version of the Gaye sound gets close to the original model in much the same way as did his “live” version of Marvin’s “What’s Going On” – although here the girlie group behind him sound at times as if what they’d really dig to be singing on is “Ebb Tide”. Very pleasant listening for the meantime, BUT . . . Marvin’s gotta newie out now too, about which, more later. Keep tuned! Continue reading “July 14, 1973: James Hamilton meets Sylvia, Cliff Nobles, Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway, Derek Martin”

July 7, 1973: Al Green, Johnnie Taylor, The Invitations, Tom T. Hall, Betty Wright

Straight from the States
Our exclusive service to RM readers. James Hamilton listens to records so far only available in the US.

AL GREEN: Here I Am (Come And Take Me) (Hi).
Willie Mitchell’s well-oiled backing eases into its usual satisfying groove with a solidly thumping slow drum beat, and Al “Crown Prince Of Soul” Green slips and slides all over the slick surface in his usual satisfying style.

Okay, so nothing else is new, and this pulled-from-the-album cut is not the tailored-for-Britain single which we were promised by Willie when he was here, but it is a four minute and ten second example of an extremely sophisticated singer’s highly personal art.

Al Green’s individual style is indeed an art, of the most avant garde variety. From the basis of a dependably rock-steady backing, he uses words less for their storytelling qualities than for their sound, which he twists into abstract patterns just as an instrumental soloist might restructure a melody in a jazz setting.

This single is by far the most abstract of Green’s career to date, and, if issued here, will probably prove to be his least accessible to British ears.

However, if it does well (as it is bound to do) in America, will it pave the way for him to experiment with some wordless scat singing in place of a song on his next single?

JOHNNIE TAYLOR: I Believe In You (You Believe In Me) (Stax).
One of the hottest hits at the moment, both R & B and Pop, the “Who’s Making Love” man’s latest is a delicately-starting silky slow thumper, taken from his accurately-titled “Taylored In Silk” album.

The gentle backing has some nicely unusual melodic shifts, and contains some odd flute and strings sounds which make me imagine them coming echoing down an eerily remote Scottish glen – why, I don’t know, but that’s my mental image.

Rather like Al Green’s music, here it’s the sound rather than the song that matters, although – not to discredit the ex-Soul Stirrer – the sound in this instance owes more to the overall backing than to Johnnie’s voice.

THE INVITATIONS: They Say The Girl’s Crazy (Silver Blue).
Hallelujah! Remember the Invitations, of “What’s Wrong With My Baby” fame? They toured here as the Fabulous Bloggs Brothers or some such back in the late ’60s, and cut their two Sandy Linzer & Denny Randell-penned/produced goodies (yes, “Hallelujah” was the other) back in ’65.

Now they reappear on, surprisingly, a melodic mid-tempo plopper which would not have sounded unusual even back then, yet which is hanging on and battling ever higher up the R & B Charts of today.

Surprisingly, too, it began by being but the flip side of their more adventurous reworking of “For Your Precious Love” – at least you get a double-sided beaut for your money.

And guess who’s arranging/co-producing them now – none other than Philly’s own Bobby Martin! Stand by for its English issue. Continue reading “July 7, 1973: Al Green, Johnnie Taylor, The Invitations, Tom T. Hall, Betty Wright”

June 30, 1973: Bobby Womack, S.O.U.L., The Montclairs, Bill Withers, Don Covay

Stateside singles

Our exclusive service to RM readers. James Hamilton listens to records so far only available in the US.

BOBBY WOMACK: Nobody Wants You When You’re Down And Out (UA).
Possibly the last time that this old song was given an R&B treatment was as the adventurous B-side of the Hesitations’ 1968 “The Impossible Dream”. It now gets a slinky sensuous bass-driven slow reading in Bobby’s inimitable hoarsely screaming Gospel-ish derivation of the Marvin Gaye sound, a style with which Womack has become progressively more popular amongst an ever-widening audience with each new LP release. Following “Communication”, “Understanding” and the shared soundtrack, “Across 110th Street” (all of which are available here), his latest US hit album from whence comes this hit single is “Facts Of Life”. Do give him a listen.

S.O. U. L.: This Time Around (Musicor).
Standing for “Sounds Of Unity And Love”, S.O.U.L. are one of those modern R&B groups who draw on many influences, not unlike such as War, Bobby Womack, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. This, their latest R&B hit, is particularly reminiscent of the latter’s “What’s Going On”, in fact, and is a very pretty amalgamation of cool lead, chunkily schlerping rhythm, tootling flute and underlying melodic chords created by the ethereal wordless harmonies of the group. A lovely record, even if not entirely original.

THE MONTCLAIRS: Prelude To A Heartbreak (Paula).
Are these the “Happy Feet Time” Montclairs? Their first R&B hit for years, this Oliver Sain co-production is a wailing slowie which starts with a muttered rap over a sexily soaring sax before the lead singer emotionally swoops through the lush strings, sax and group backing. Old-fashioned and smoochy in sound, it’s almost a throw-back to the late ’60’s. Continue reading “June 30, 1973: Bobby Womack, S.O.U.L., The Montclairs, Bill Withers, Don Covay”

June 23, 1973: The Osmonds, Four Tops, Diana Ross, Pep Brown, The Dells

Osmonds go for a Slade sound

THE OSMONDS: Goin’ Home (American MGM).
The Osmonds rock (writes James Hamilton) on their new American hit! Not only do they feature pounding piano, clanging guitars, buzzing clavinet (or some such other electric keyboard), and a chattering straight-ahead stomp beat, but also their frantic vocals include more than a touch of that Slade sound – especially where they emphasize the line: “I’ve gotta FIGHT, fight, fight, all day, and night, and day, ALL RIGHT!” Sorry I can’t say with authority which brother is singing lead (it’s not Donny or Jimmy!); whoever he is, his uninhibited rawly straining voice is just right, and is well backed up on the emphatic bits by the hollering full sound of the others. Yeah more than a touch of Slade. And a good solid rocker.


Our exclusive review service to R. M. readers. James Hamilton looks at the singles just released in the States.

FOUR TOPS: Are You Man Enough (Dunhill).
First “Shaft,” then “Shaft’s Big Score.” Now, are you ready for . . . “Shaft In Africa”? Yup, Ricky Roundtree will next be seen on the cinema screen taking giant steps all over the dark continent – as, coincidentally, will Ron O’Neal in the “Super Fly” follow-up. “Shaft In Africa” features music by the Four Tops, and this Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter–penned/produced piece of moody machismo is, if not the title song, certainly the big number. Strange, then, that it resembles the O’Jays’ “Back Stabbers” in just about every respect bar the words! Anyway, there’s always room for another Gamble & Huff dancer in discos, and this blends in with the genuine article pretty well. Uh, before we leave movieland – do go see “Slither,” it’s the flick that’s given me most satisfaction so far this year.

DIANA ROSS: Touch Me In The Morning (Motown).
The title track from divine Di’s new album, this brand new, non-Billie Holiday, tender slowie presents La Ross in a mature and unstrident mood, which may well be a result of lessons learnt while training for the “Lady Sings The Blues” vocal approach. The song itself is nothing unusual for her – it starts dead slow with just piano behind her wistful tones, then she breathes a “hey!” and the slow tinkle rhythm begins before the pace quickens and she gets into a typical fast, staccato chorus. The new difference is that even when the tempo accelerates and her voice rises, at no time does her old piercing shrill shriek spoil the easy listening qualities of the record. Still, what’s good news for some may be bad for others! Continue reading “June 23, 1973: The Osmonds, Four Tops, Diana Ross, Pep Brown, The Dells”