Posted tagged ‘1970’

Finally going beyond the best of

December 1, 2013

“The Best of the Guess Who” was one of the first records I bought back in the ’70s. It has sufficed all these years.

But for the past couple of years, I’ve been noodling with the notion that maybe I ought to dig beyond all those great AM radio hits. I’ve always passed on “Share The Land” because of five of its eight cuts are on that greatest-hits comp.

But during an early-morning digging excursion on Black Friday, I found a nice copy of “American Woman” among the dollar records at one of our local indie record stores.

guesswhoamericanwomanlp

So tonight on The Midnight Tracker, we go digging beyond “American Woman” and the other familiar cuts on Side 1 of this LP from 1970. You know three of the four cuts on that side — the title track, “No Time” and “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature.”

On Side 2, from which there were no North American singles, you’re reminded again that Burton Cummings was a tremendous singer and that Randy Bachman was a most versatile guitarist. This was Bachman’s last LP with the group for more than a decade.

On “Humpty’s Blues,” appropriately enough, you hear Cummings the blues shouter. In so doing, he stands toe to toe with Robert Plant. (“Led Zeppelin II” was released while the Guess Who was recording this LP. Both Cummings and Plant were in their early 20s at the time.)

“969 (The Oldest Man)” is an instrumental that blends “American Woman” riffs into a cool roadhouse jazz vibe.

Another cool cut is “8:15,” which foreshadows “Bus Rider,” released later that year. Cummings co-wrote the former with Bachman, the latter with Bachman’s replacement, Kurt Winter (even though Winter brought it from his old band, Brother).

Also worth noting: “Proper Stranger” was released as a single only in Australia, where it reached No. 85.

“969 (The Oldest Man),” “When Friends Fall Out,” “8:15,” “Proper Stranger” and “Humpty’s Blues (American Woman epilogue),” the Guess Who, from “American Woman,” 1970. This is Side 2. It runs 19:01. (The buy link is to a remastered CD from 2000 with one additional track.) Also available digitally.

Give me just a little more time

April 30, 2012

There rarely seem to be enough hours in the day. Give me just a little more time, and we’ll dig into one of my most treasured record finds.

When I started listening to Top 40 AM radio in 1970, one of my faves was “Give Me Just A Little More Time” by the Chairmen of the Board. For years, that was only song I knew by that group.

The Chairmen of the Board was fronted by General Norman Johnson, whose vocals are so memorable on that song. Harrison Kennedy, Danny Woods and Eddie Custis rounded out this powerhouse quartet. It was assembled by songwriting and production greats Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Edward Holland Jr. after they left Motown in the late ’60s to start the Invictus and Hot Wax labels.

I came across the Chairmen of the Board’s debut record last spring. My copy isn’t pristine. You’ll hear that. Even so, it was fascinating to hear what lurked in the grooves beyond the first cut, which is …

“Give Me Just A Little More Time,” “Come Together,” “Bless You,” “Patches” “Since The Days Of Pigtails & Fairytales” and “I’ll Come Crawling,” the Chairmen of the Board, from “The Chairmen of The Board,” 1970. This is Side 1. It runs 18:14. It’s out of print.

That side starts with the smash hit. Then a Beatles cover with Kennedy on lead vocal. Then a fine deep cut, a slice of sweet pop-soul. Then the original version of “Patches,” shortly thereafter so memorably covered by Clarence Carter. Then the B side to that smash hit, which features Woods on lead vocal, and which my friend Larry over at Funky 16 Corners has certified as “smoking hot” and “a killer.” And finally another fine deep cut and the B side to the second single.

The songwriting credits for five of this record’s 12 cuts read Edythe Wayne. That’s a pseudonym for Holland-Dozier-Holland, necessary because of their legal battle with Motown (over money, of course). Ron Dunbar, who worked for H-D-H, gets co-writing credits on seven cuts. He wrote “Patches” with Johnson. The Funk Brothers were the backing band. Is it any wonder these songs are so good?

If you connect the dots, they go from the Four Tops, whom H-D-H often worked with at Motown, to the Chairmen of the Board. Both featured a distinctive lead singer and three versatile sidemen. Both groups’ LPs blend H-D-H originals with well-chosen covers.

It’s interesting to listen to this apparent evolution of the Four Tops sound and recall that it came at the same time Norman Whitfield was taking both groups’ peers, the Temptations, in a much grittier, funkier direction.

Dusty in Philly

December 30, 2011

Not sure all that much explanation is needed for tonight’s album side on The Midnight Tracker.

In 1969, there was “Dusty in Memphis.”

British pop singer Dusty Springfield, hoping to tweak her image and remain relevant, released an LP full of R&B songs. Though seven of its 11 songs were written by Randy Newman and Brill Building greats Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill, they were delivered soulfully by Springfield, who was backed by the Memphis Cats and the Sweet Inspirations. The LP had a smash single in “Son Of A Preacher Man,” which reached the Top 10 in early 1969. “Dusty in Memphis” became a classic.

A year later, Springfield tried the same formula, turning from Memphis to Philadelphia.

“A Brand New Me” was full of R&B songs written and produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. When this was recorded in Philly in the fall of 1969, Gamble and Huff were up-and-comers, still more than a year away from founding Philadelphia International Records.

Dusty in Philly wasn’t as popular as Dusty in Memphis. The title cut, “Brand New Me” was the big single, but it barely reached the Top 25 on the U.S. pop chart in early 1970. The LP reached No. 35 in the UK, but it didn’t even crack the Top 100 in the U.S. It turned out to be the last LP she recorded in the States to be released.

Still, there’s lots to like about “A Brand New Me.” You really can’t go wrong with this combination of Springfield’s soulful vocals and those smooth, sophisticated, upbeat Gamble and Huff songs.

“Brand New Me,” “Joe,” “Silly, Silly Fool,” “The Star Of My Show” and “Let’s Talk It Over,” Dusty Springfield, from “A Brand New Me,” 1970. It’s out of print but is available digitally. This is Side 2. It runs 12:12.

The men who wrote these songs became a who’s who of Philly soul.

Gamble co-wrote all five cuts, the last three with Huff. His co-writers on “Joe” were singer Jerry Butler and another up-and-coming Philly producer, Thom Bell. His co-writers on “Silly, Silly Fool” were songwriter Allan Felder and guitarist and arranger Norman Harris, both also early in careers that saw them collaborate on some of the greatest Philly soul hits of the ’70s.

Springfield recorded a second LP with Gamble and Huff, but it wasn’t released. Some of those songs finally saw the light as bonus cuts on CD re-releases in 1992 and 2002. They also are available digitally.

The flip side of ‘Patches’

August 31, 2010

Tonight on The Midnight Tracker, we’re going to keep this simple.

With the beginning of classes looming for our high school sophomore, it has been a hectic time around the house. I could use a blast of something less complicated.

That something presented itself last night, when I put on “Patches,” the 1970 album from Alabama soul singer Clarence Carter. Of course, I dig the single of the same name, which was a big hit that year, the first year I really started listening to the radio.

My first thought was to serve up the side with “Patches,” but as I listened to the whole thing, the other side turned out to be more interesting. It’s full of that sweet Muscle Shoals sound.

“Willie and Laura Mae Jones,” “Say Man,” “I’m Just A Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin’),” “Let It Be,” “I Can’t Leave Your Love Alone” and “Your Love Lifted Me,” Clarence Carter, from “Patches,” 1970. This is Side 1. It runs 18:30.

“Patches” is available digitally and on this 2-on-1 CD with “The Dynamic Clarence Carter,” which was released in 1969. They were Carter’s third and fourth albums.

Side 1 starts with a nice cover of “Willie and Laura Mae Jones,” a Tony Joe White tune that had been covered a year earlier by Dusty Springfield on her legendary “Dusty in Memphis” LP.

Three of the next four cuts were co-written by the great soul songwriter George Jackson. The third cut, “I’m Just A Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin’)” was written by Jackson and sax legend Eddie Harris. It was a single for soul singer Candi Staton, who was married to Carter at the time. Love the Muscle Shoals horns on this one!

The Beatles’ “Let It Be” gets taken to church with Carter’s slow, gospel-inspired take. This one, along with the Tony Joe White cover, showcase Carter the singer as storyteller.

The last cut, “Your Love Lifted Me” was written by O.V. McClinton during his soul and R&B period. This isn’t Jackie Wilson’s “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” which had come out three years earlier, but it could be a fine companion piece.

‘I fell in love with a woman named gospel’

June 8, 2010

In May 1970, a full 16 years before Paul Simon released the African-flavored single “Graceland” to wide acclaim, Neil Diamond released the single “Soolaimon,” which was powered by African rhythms and backed with gospel vocals.

“Soolaimon” sat at the heart of what Diamond called “The African Trilogy (A Folk Ballet).” That piece made up all of Side 2 of the “Tap Root Manuscript” album when it was released in November 1970.

Here’s how Diamond described his inspiration in the liner notes:

“Tap Root Manuscript” was one of the first albums I ever bought, but I bought it for all the hits — “Cracklin’ Rosie” and “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” are on it, too — and not “The African Trilogy.”

Regardless, that second side was quite an introduction to world music, especially in 1970. There are stormy moments and quiet moments, stirring orchestration and authentic sounds, children’s choirs and Diamond’s own voice as the storyteller.

I hadn’t played it in many years, but it all came back in a rush when I put it on the turntable.

I thought you might like to hear it.

“The African Trilogy (A Folk Ballet),” Neil Diamond, from “Tap Root Manuscript,” 1970. This is Side 2. It runs 18:32.

The cuts are, in order, “Childsong,” “I Am The Lion,” “Madrigal,” “Soolaimon,” “Missa,” “African Suite” and “Childsong (Reprise).”

Seen in the charts

January 31, 2010

Over at our home blog — AM, Then FM — we’ve started a series looking back at songs I heard on my AM-FM radio during the ’70s. We’re starting out with 1970, so let’s stay there.

Everyone knows R.B. Greaves hit it big with “Take A Letter Maria,” which reached No. 2 in 1969. But do you remember the follow-up single, which was in the charts at this time of year in 1970?

You’ll hear it on tonight’s side on The Midnight Tracker, which resurfaces at the end of every month. It emerges from the haze of time, reviving an old late-night FM radio show on which one side of a new or classic album would be played.

That follow-up single is a cover, but it isn’t “Cupid,” the fourth cut on Side 1. “Cupid” is a little bit of family business on which Greaves covers a tune written and done first by his uncle, Sam Cooke.

No, that follow-up single was “Always Something There To Remind Me,” the oft-covered Hal David-Burt Bacharach song.

“Always Something There To Remind Me,” Don’t Play That Song,” “Take A Letter Maria,” “Cupid” and “This Is Soul,” R.B. Greaves, from “R.B. Greaves,” 1970. This is Side 1. It runs 15:14.

That last cut, “This Is Soul,” has a nice, upbeat slice of Muscle Shoals R&B. It, like “Take A Letter Maria,” was written by Greaves. Why wasn’t that put out as a single?

There are lots of little mysteries when it comes to R.B. Greaves.

Greaves was born in Guyana, the son of an Air Force captain. He grew up on three Indian reservations and is half-Seminole. The liner notes say he was raised “on a ranch adjacent to the Seminole Indian Reservation at Hot Springs, Sonoma.” So … could that mean northern California, where there are Calusa-Seminole Indians?

Greaves moved to England when he was 19, There, the story goes, he got into music, having some modest success as Sonny Childe with a group called the TNTs.

OK, then … how did he get from there to cutting an album on Atco Records under his real name in his mid-20s, and doing so with an A-list production set-up — recording at Muscle Shoals in Alabama and at the Atlantic studios in New York with Ahmet Ertegun producing the album, Muscle Shoals fixture Marlin Greene co-producing four cuts and doubling as the recording engineer and Arif Mardin doing the string arrangements?  No wonder there were two Top 30 hits on that album.

The trail dries up pretty quickly and ends in 1977 with Greaves recording for Bareback Records. I’ve seen at least one other R.B. Greaves LP, but couldn’t tell you its name or label.

If R.B. Greaves is still with us, he’s 65.

Another little mystery.

Revisiting that green-eyed lady

December 31, 2009

It’s hard to believe that The Midnight Tracker is into its third year. It’s just a little blog, taking up a tiny corner of the Web, drawing an exceedingly modest number of page views.

Our most popular post was Side 1 of “Sugarloaf,” the 1970 debut album from the band that came out of Denver and hit it big.

There’s all kinds of good stuff on Side 1. There’s “Green-Eyed Lady,” of course, which everyone seems to be searching for. There’s also a cover of “Train Kept A-Rollin’,” one of my favorite old R&B tunes, done long ago by Tiny Bradshaw.

So to thank you for two good years, here’s Side 2 of “Sugarloaf.”

“West Of Tomorrow,” “Gold and the Blues” and “Things Gonna Change Some,” Sugarloaf, from “Sugarloaf,” 1970. This is Side 2. It runs 18:56. (The buy link is to a 2-on-1 CD also featuring the “Spaceship Earth” LP from 1971.)

This side is much in the vibe of the time, with some extended rock/blues/jazz jamming throughout. It’s perfect for late nights. “Things Gonna Change Some” is a little bit Dave Brubeck, a little bit Frank Zappa, if the liner notes are to be believed. As always, you be the judge.

It’s just right for The Midnight Tracker, which resurfaces at the end of every month. It emerges from the haze of time, reviving an old late-night FM radio show on which one side of a new or classic album would be played.

Hope you will stop by again.