August 30, 1969: Johnny Cash, William Bell, Three Dog Night, Billy Preston, Elvis Presley

JOHNNY CASH: A Boy Named Sue; San Quentin (CBS 4460).
There’s been so much talk about Johnny Cash of late that the time must be right for him to have a hit here. Recorded live at the infamous San Quentin prison, this jog-trotting amusing study (about a guy who HAD to be tough, thanks to his dad’s foresight) could be the one to do the trick . . . especially as it’s currently Top 5 in the U.S., and will be performed as heard here on the up-coming “Cash At San Quentin” T-Ver. Disconcertingly there’s even a “bleeped”-out word near the end! Big applause from the inmates for the flip.
CHART POSSIBILITY.

WILLIAM BELL: Happy; Johnny I Love You (Stax 128).
“Happy” is the right name for William’s bright and bubbly terper, a most untypical sound from Stax – produced surprisingly by Booker T. Jones (from the Detroit-influenced strings and chix one might have expected it to have been Don Davis). This lively, lovely “happy” dancer will add sparkle to the air-waves and could so easily be a hit if played enough, especially following Jackie Wilson’s not dis-similar “Higher”. Flip-side, an easy sway is added to Booker T.’s “Uptight” song.
CHART POSSIBILITY.

THREE DOG NIGHT: Easy To Be Hard; Dreamin’ Isn’t Good For You (Stateside/ Dunhill SS 8024).
This talented group are enormous in America, where their last outing, “One“, actually got to number one, yet they remain a minority taste in this country. Their new lurch-beat slowie, bulleted up the U.S. Chart, is from “Hair” – and that magic connection might just be enough to raise the interest level sufficiently to give them a hit here too. Punchy flip.
CHART POSSIBILITY. Continue reading “August 30, 1969: Johnny Cash, William Bell, Three Dog Night, Billy Preston, Elvis Presley”

August 23, 1969: Nickie Lee, Johnny Adams, The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, The Persuasions, Otis Rush

NICKIE LEE: And Black Is Beautiful; Faith Within (Deep Soul DS 9013).
Dave Godin and fellow freaks at “Soul City” have finally got it together and are all set to release a lot of sizzling wax over the next few weeks (including a budget-price Oldies album!). To kick off, they’ve only released one of the best Soul records of the year, that’s all. Actually a U.S. R&B hit about the time of James Brown’s “Say It Loud”, this slowie takes that most Black music of all, Gospel, as a framework for its message . . . a logical choice. As chicks repeatedly chant the title statement Nickie interweaves his rallying advice, so that the whole is a powerfully insinuous slab of the best type of Soul there is. Naturally I am prejudiced, as Gospel Soul (along with those Oldies-But-Goodies Soul Vocal Groups!) is my favourite variety, and there hasn’t been enough of it during the last four years! (Deep Soul got this beauty from Bell Records. who again have let a small label win a six star review. Sure, it won’t be a hit, but then neither was “Soul Deep” by the Box Tops – which has most merit. Bell have got the goods in plenty, so why can’t they give us a taste more often?).
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JOHNNY ADAMS: Reconsider Me; If I Could See You One More Time (Polydor 567775).
Exactly five years after the late Joe Hinton scored so massively in America with his Souled-up version of the C&W “Funny (How Time Slips Away)“, Johnny Adams is enjoying a similar success with his not dis-similar treatment of another C&W song. His voice soars to a high and beautiful falsetto in a way that will delight True Soul Freaks, who should hear this. Great. Incidentally, his last hit was “Release Me”! (Modesty Corner: due to a lamentable lapse of my normally reliable I.B.M.-like brain, crammed full with unimportant facts, I forgot in the recent Aretha review that of course both “Pledging My Love” and “The Clock” were Johnny Ace songs).
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THE WATTS 103rd STREET RHYTHM BAND: Till You Get Enough; Light My Fire (Warner Bros. WB 7298).
The Band’s latest U.S. hit starts with a trace of Isaac Hayes’ “Hyperbolicsyllabicsequedalymistic” sound (it’s a track off his smash “Hot Buttered Soul” album), before they get into their own jungle rhythm groove. Not every Soul fan’s groove maybe, but for “Cue Club”-goers and other funky dancers this is a mesmeric gas! It’s sure all got rhythm! Dig the quiet flip too – if you think at first that it’s nothing new, have patience.
* * * * * Continue reading “August 23, 1969: Nickie Lee, Johnny Adams, The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, The Persuasions, Otis Rush”

May 24, 1969: Bob & Earl, Mason Williams, Jamo Thomas, Ike & Tina Turner, Ella Fitzgerald

BOB & EARL: Dancin’ Everywhere; Baby It’s Over (B&C CB-102).
Bob & Earl’s 1966 recording (an old “B” side) is nice enough for Soul fans, but now that all the mystery is over I don’t see many Soul freaks actually clamouring to get this fairly routine but good brassy dancer (very much like Jackie Lee’s other Fred Smith-produced things), and it certainly isn’t going to grab the general public as much as “Harlem Shuffle“. The excellent Wallace Brothers-like slow and ultra-Soulful flip (the U.S. “A” side originally) is something else though, and has always been one of my favourite goodies, so maybe this is the side to snare the Soul freaks! Anyway, as the boys are here and the record will be plugged, it’s a CHART PROBABILITY if not a smash.

MASON WILLIAMS: Greensleeves; 13 Dollar Stella (Warner Bros. WB 7272).
The Smothers Brothers may have been sacked by their T.V. company, but Mason Williams continues to make pleasant noises as always. This heavily-orchestrated, up-tempoed updating of the gentle oldie (!), which is currently popular “easy-listening” in the U.S., could carry on here where his successful and much-requested “Classical Gas” left off, since his excellent “Saturday Night At The World” vocal follow-up failed. Mason’s guitar does the twiddly bits, and is backed by slabs of violin and romping rhythm. The more peaceful flip features a bit of pretty happy-go-lucky self-penning with guitar to the fore.
CHART POSSIBILITY

JAMO THOMAS: I’ll Be Your Fool; Jamo Soul (Chess CRS 8098).
Lovely subtle funk on this beautifully flowing rhythm dancer, with some of “Heard It Thru The Grapevine’s” greatness. Jamo’s curious high, though not falsetto, voice, rides over the chugging beat and the subdued guitar which, with two nice brass breaks, constitute the hacking. Much better than “I Spy (For The F.B.I.)“, and given the plays it could do big things. Re-entitled instrumental flip is the same as “F.B.I.’s” though – a pity.
CHART POSSIBILITY Continue reading “May 24, 1969: Bob & Earl, Mason Williams, Jamo Thomas, Ike & Tina Turner, Ella Fitzgerald”

May 3, 1969: Canned Heat, Vikki Carr, Marv Johnson, Billy Butler, Gene Chandler & Barbara Acklin

CANNED HEAT: Time Was; Low Down (Liberty LBF 15200)
Will it be third in a row for Heat’s prepossessing new rock-a-ballad? Maybe, but although it combines some of Stevie Wonder’s lilt with a nice rumbling bass, freaky guitar and steady drumming, it lacks the last two’s magic spark of life – time will tell. Typical so-called “boogie” noises on flip, O.K. later on. CHART POSSIBILITY

VIKKI CARR: If Ever You’re Lonely; Fly Away (Liberty LBF 15217)
Though “With Pen In Hand” is still kicking (not out the jams), here is a newie from Vikki – all melodic with heavily crescendoing patches and torch singing (she even sounds a bit like Cilia at times). ‘S not bad at all, and could do rather well. Personally, I preferred the light, Bossa-Nova-ish, reminiscent flip. CHART POSSIBILITY

MARV JOHNSON: I Love The Way You Love; You Got What It Takes (United Artists UP 35010)
Recorded at the turn of the decade, when Marv was 20, these old UA sides are among Berry Gordy’s earliest productions. “Love” (a U.S. hit) hints at the course Tamla was to take in its first years, while the slightly earlier (muzzily re-mixed) “Takes” was a hit here for both Marv and Johnny Kidd (and was actually written by Bobby “Watch Your Step” Parker). Motown addicts should hear the old London LP, “Marvellous Marv Johnson” (HA-T 2271), the better of his two UA albums, which includes some deliciously falsetto-sung straight standards. Presumably aimed at collectors. * * * * * *  Continue reading “May 3, 1969: Canned Heat, Vikki Carr, Marv Johnson, Billy Butler, Gene Chandler & Barbara Acklin”

April 26, 1969: Booker T. & The M.G.s, The Ronettes, Glen Campbell, 5th Dimension, Crazy Elephant

BOOKER T. & THE M.G.s: Time Is Tight; Hang ‘Em High (Stax 119).
From the soundtrack of the Booker T. Jones scored up-coming ”Uptight” flick, and a fast riser Stateside, this walloping, galloping -pounder is a gas dancer in spite of sounding like a backing track for “I Can’t Turn You Loose“. In the current climate it could be a smash here. Flipside (from their Iast L.P., never a single before) was a U.S. Pop hit, and is the movie theme read in semi-funky manner. CHART POSSIBILITY.

THE RONETTES: You Came, You Saw, You Conquered; I Can Hear Music (A&M AMS 748).
Sounding straight out of 1963 (“worry” pronounced “wowwy” even!), Veronica Spector and the girls come storming back with another brand new Phil Spector production. If the era of “Be My Baby” and “Do I Love You?” was an unforgettable slice of your past, you will go into ecstasies over this, as nothing much has changed (who’s complaining?!) – the pace is a bit faster and the noise a bit fuller, that’s all. The coupling naturally has especial interest at the moment, as it’s the original version of Beach Boys’ click, and makes a timely re-release that could have sold well on its own. CHART PROBABILITY

GLEN CAMPBELL Galveston; Every Time I Itch I Wind Up Scratchin’ You (Ember EMB S 263).
“Phoenix”, “Wichita”, now “Galveston” (the port for Houston, Texas) – where next, Jim Webb? This lacks the easy charm of “Lineman”, having a more aggressive beat and approach, but it retains the same guitar tone, the strings’ sound, and much of the lilt of its predecessor – without its romance. Radio 1’s playing it fit to bust, so it must happen . . . but not as big as the former hit, methinks. More easy-on-the-ear sounds on flip, co-penned by Glen with Jeremy Slate. CHART CERTAINTY.  Continue reading “April 26, 1969: Booker T. & The M.G.s, The Ronettes, Glen Campbell, 5th Dimension, Crazy Elephant”

March 22, 1969: David Ruffin, Tommy Roe, Mama Cass, Sarah Vaughan & Billy Eckstine, Judy Collins

DAVID RUFFIN: My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me); I’ve Got To Find Myself A Brand New Baby (Tamla Motown TMG 689).
Not exactly going out on a limb to say that this will be a hit, as not only is it a smash in America, but also these days the climate seems right for ANYTHING from Motown, new or old. The ex-Temptation sounds exactly that as he does a “My Girl” type of song, and, although I hate to say it, this really is the formula as before. It’s a pretty good formula, though, and if the British public can stand all those older Tamlas, it can stand this also, as it steps back a few years in style. Equally nice flip has rather more expressive singing from Dave. Now the great British public will go and prove me wrong! CHART CERTAINTY

TOMMY ROE: Dizzy; The You I Need (Stateside SS 2143).
Erstwhile top popster from the early ’60s, Tommy’s just had a U.S. chart topper with this bit of superior Bubble Gum Music (unfair to call it that, really, but it is very Pop and has definite elements of that style). Nice rumbling piano and heavy violin bits, beat emphasized by organ, and a simple set of teen lyrics with catchy repetitive “Dizzy” chanting. Tommy always was a classy performer of dignified bearing, and it’s good to see him doing well again. Bright ‘n’ bouncy flip. The very busy Steve Barri produced. CHART PROBABILITY

MAMA CASS: Move In A Little Closer, Baby; I Can Dream Can’t I (Stateside/Dunhill SS 8014).
Cue for countless boring articles headlined “Mama Cass Anita Harris-s Harmony Grass”. So – it’s a good enough song, as most Radio 1 listeners can testify, and though she’s kinda big there’s room for Cass too. Try the quiet and melodic flip, which is a good smoochie. Another Steve Barri production. CHART POSSIBILITY.  Continue reading “March 22, 1969: David Ruffin, Tommy Roe, Mama Cass, Sarah Vaughan & Billy Eckstine, Judy Collins”

March 15, 1969: Dionne Warwick, Tyrone Davis, Stevie Wonder, The Rascals, Richie Stevens

Editor’s note: a few of James’s earlier single reviews for Record Mirror have surfaced, spanning from 1969 to 1974. These will also be posted on this blog.

DIONNE WARWICK: This Girl’s In Love With You; Lonely In My Heart/Dream Sweet Dreamer (Pye International 7N 25484).
Right and proper that Dionne should sing Herb Alpert’s big vocal hit, as it is of course a Bacharach and David song (of exceptional beauty, which everyone must know already). This is much the same as Herb’s version — if not better — except that in place of his trumpet it has what sounds like, but surely can’t be, comb and paper! The song is so good that it should be a smash again with no difficulty, and is already just that in America. Some confusion over what the flip is, but if it’s “Lonely In My Heart” it’s nice. CHART CERTAINTY.

TYRONE DAVIS: Can I Change My Mind; A Woman Needs To Be Loved (Atlantic 584253).
Release at last for this monster American R&B/ Pop smash. Tyrone Davis debuts most impressively, and, if he can maintain this quality, should soon become a Giant of Soul (Doctor Soul’s prediction). With a fantastically powerful but beautifully controlled, roaring, Little Milton-ish voice, he power-drives through the gentle B-side slowie with such force that it gave me goose-bumps on first hearing! However, it’s the ambiguous-beat, slowish and catchy “Can I Change My Mind” that should be a hit, especially just after “For Once In My Life’s” success. Tony Blackburn, please play it! CHART POSSIBILITY.

STEVIE WONDER: I Don’t Know Why; My Cherie Amour (Tamla Motown TMG 690).
Lovely freaky noises lead into mature-voiced Stevie, who pours his heart out more and more as the strings and brass build and build. The mid-tempo slowie is nowhere near as melodious as “For Once In My Life”, and will probably have less wide-spread appeal as a consequence, but it must sell well just on the strength of Stevie’s impassioned delivery . . . he leaves you feeling quite limp! For melody lovers, the pretty flip is the side, and it could be equally popular. CHART CERTAINTY.  Continue reading “March 15, 1969: Dionne Warwick, Tyrone Davis, Stevie Wonder, The Rascals, Richie Stevens”