Between The Grooves

SUNDOWN LADY – Lani Hall – A&M AMLS64359

One of the most pleasing records I have heard recently has been Sundown Lady by Lani Hall. It is this lady’s first solo outing, but you may find her voice familiar as she was lead singer with Sergio Mendes and Brazil ’66 for a number of years. (At present she is a ‘close friend’ of Herb Alpert.)

Now that she is starting a solo career, she manages to exhibit far more tenderness and maturity than was evident in the past. The choice of songs for this initial venture (an important matter for a first effort and also difficult if the majority of material being used is from other writers) is superb. Her capabilities, which are by no means limited, are especially suited to what she has chosen to sing here.

The album opens with Lesley Duncan’s Love Song. A very good beginning. Then follows Tiny Dancer by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. If you are not converted by these first two tracks, then one of Cat Stevens’ better songs, How Can I Tell You is next. And how beautifully she performs it. Also included are Don McLean’s Vincent, and an unaccompanied version of Paul Simon’s very lovely Wherever I May Find Her. Particularly of note too is Sun Down from which the album gets its title. This is written by Willis Alan Ramsey, a little-known but superb songwriter and musician. The rest of the material is as strong as that already mentioned.

Lani has a gentle, smokey, expressive voice. Completely relaxing and undemanding of the listener. Perfect for the quiet hours.

I highly recommend Lani Hall to you. The moods created, the sensitive singing and the sympathetic arrangements all combine to form a great addition to quality, intelligent but popular, music and entertainment.

DIANA ROSS GREATEST HITS – Tamla Motown STMA 8006

A must for Diana Ross addicts is her newly issued Greatest Hits compilation. It contains all of her hit singles, plus some of the best tracks from past albums. The twelve tracks selected make for very good value, and the inclusion of the full six minute version of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough is an added bonus.

There isn’t much to say about Diana Ross that hasn’t been said before. The freedom of now being a solo artist has meant the range of her talents has been vastly extended.And always the fully orches trated backings and faultless production are in perfect harmony with the songs and Diana’s singing.

This is a great collection by a great artist. It’s handy to replace those worn out singles and Remember Me and I’m Still Waiting will stand out as two of the best pop songs in recent years.

GRASS ROOTS — Dillard and Clarke – The Flying Burrito Brothers — A&M AMLB 51038

Grass Roots is a very interesting collection of material by two of the finest country/rock bands that have been around in recent years. They are the Flying Burrito Brothers and Dillard and Clarke. Both groups have now sadly gone their separate ways, but this record comes as an excellent reminder of their strength and achievements. And at the low price of 99p it is remarkably good value.

Each band has taken one side of the record. The material included is a selection of some of the better tracks from their past albums. Of note are Dillard and Clarke’s Don’t Come Rollin and their version of the Everly Brothers hit, So Sad, whilst the Flying Burrito’s are at their best on Dark End Of The Street and Cody Cody. All told there are eleven tracks, all of them perfect examples of what happened when rock musicians returned to their country roots.

An important reissue, this, and an essential buy for those who have an interest in the development of rock and roll.

IN SEARCH OF AMELIA EARHART – Plainsong – Elektra K42120

Plainsong are very much a neo-folk band, who occasionally stray into country music. And the sound they end up with is a very agreeable mixture that is both easy listening and relaxingly rewarding. In Search of Amelia Earhart is their initial album release, and is, for a first outing, both entertaining and competent, if not a particularly exciting effort.

The title of the record comes from the famous woman aviator who was believed lost whilst attempting a flight around the world in 1937. Recent newspaper stories, which are repeated on a printed insert that comes with the record, offer other ‘possibilities/probabilities’ of what happened to Amelia Earhart and her navigator. Two tracks refer to this heroine of the air and her disappearance. Of the other songs, those written by Ian Matthews, are handled extremely well, whilst the rest are never less than pleasant

Plainsong will sell well to folk enthusiasts and are good enough to attract other ears.

LOOKIN’ THROUGH THE WINDOWS – The Jackson Five – Tamla Motown STML 11214

Coming fairly quickly after their recently released Greatest Hits collection, is a new Jackson Five album.

Apart from the tracks which have already been single hits, there is a very good cross-section of other songs.The inclusion of Jackson Browne’s Doctor My Eyes is a particularly good choice, and their performance of this beautiful song is excellent. Also a version of Roy (Professor Longhair) Byrd’s classic Little Bitty Pretty One is a great success.

With each album the Jackson’s release they become more proficient, which in turn means more enjoyable, quality pop entertainment for us. These kids are really going to be something by the time they all reach their twenties, if they are still working together.

THERE IT IS — James Brown — Polydor 2391033

One of the most powerful and successful black men in America has just unleashed another album to keep ‘frenetic soulsters’ and discotheque people up and moving on their feet. For the ‘king of soul’, James Brown, has a new release, full of his tight, uptown brand of funk. There’s no stopping this guy, he keeps on bringing out hit after hit and in quantities to make any record company executive leap with joy. In the States he’s never out of the charts, although in this country he doesn’t receive the same amount of attention, and certainly does not get the fanatical adoration his North American fans lay upon him. But his records sell consistently well here and each new cut released is a must for every club and disco.

The basic format of a Brown album is the latest batch of single smashes he’s had. For instance, There It Is and Greedy Man are both included. Then there’s a few new tracks to fill the record out. Of these Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Nothing and I Need Help are the most outstanding and contain all the vibrating magic that Brown can instil into them. King Heroin and Public Enemy No 1 are both heavily anti-hard drugs and are the type of ‘message to society’ songs Brown is fond of experimenting with now and again. Hopefully they will reach the ears of those involved in that form of chemical self-destruction.

There It Is isn’t really meant to be analysed. It’s for dancing and grooving to, and on that level the album’s achievements are admirable.

ON STAGE – Richie Havens — Polydor 2659015 (2 record set)

Richie Havens has been around now for a number of years, and despite being a confirmed favourite at festivals and the like (also one of the ‘heroes’ of Woodstock) has never managed to catch the imagination of the majority of the record buying public. A slightly puzzling situation considering his talents, but one that also applies to many other excellent, original artists who find great difficulty in breaking through to a mass audience.

This new release, a double album, is made up of recordings from three ‘live’ concerts and contains many of the numbers Havens is well-known for. Plus there are a few new songs that haven’t appeared on his previous waxings. These include Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey and Bob Seeger’s immortal Where Have All The Flowers Gone? Amongst the old favourites are Freedom, Just Like A Woman, and Rocky Racoon.

On Stage captures the essence of Havens’ performances very well, but I’m afraid that its appeal will mostly be to the already converted, and stands little chance of reaching many new ears. But if you feel like taking the trouble to discover a most satisfying entertainer, this could well be a perfect introduction to a lot of rewarding musical experiences.

PLIGHT OF THE REDMAN – Xit – Rare Earth SREA 4002

Plight of the Redman is an explicitly biting album from a new Red Indian rock band called Xit. It is divided into two ‘phases’, each of which takes up one side of the record.

‘Phase 1’ describes Indian life before the coming of the white man, in what was then a vast, sprawling, unspoilt continent. ‘Phase 2’ is more intense and is concerned with the rape of the Indian people through countless atrocities, committed by the ‘invaders’. The last track is spoken condemnation of the ‘immigrants’ who destroyed the redman’s tribes, stole their lands, and humiliated them almost out of existence. The words are direct and simple and are filled with anger and frustration. At times they sound very pretentious, but, for me, the sincerity and truthfulness of the statements compensates adequately.

Musically the band are extremely proficient. Side two, which comprises exciting, extended pieces, and reaches two thrilling, rhythmic climaxes, is the most rewarding. The production and arrangements are also of a high standard.

Xit have produced a fine first album, and promise better things to cnme with subsequent releases. More experience should remove the limitations they saddle themselves with, in the form of repetitiveness and over stagey lyrics.

TWO WEEKS LAST SUMMER – Dave Cousins – A&M AMLS68118

Dave Cousins is lead singer and songwriter with the Strawbs, who with their last album, Grave New World, managed to achieve the success and popularity they had sought for some time. Two Weeks Last Summer is Cousins’ first venture solo, and to Stawbs fans it will come as a very welcome release.

Cousins has a soft, folky voice, and whilst never losing sight of his folk roots, is not afraid to experiment and to make use of all a modern 16-track studio has to offer. Thus we have an album that attempts to go further than The Strawbs have gone with their recordings, through the occasional use of electronic effects and the often bizarre songs. All the compositions incidentally, are written by Cousins. Also there are some very tasteful lead guitar breaks amidst the songs.

It all works very well, and as I said earlier, is sure to delight Strawbs devotees. Two Weeks Last Summer is also different and inspired enough to attract a lot more attention from people previously unreceptive to that group’s work.

Progressive Soul

19720914-10Still Bill – Bill Withers – A & M AMLS 68107

Bill Withers has a new album out. It’s called Still Bill and contains his hit single Lean on Me, that is currently riding high on the single charts.

I thought his first album disappointing, even though it contained a few good tracks. But this new set is a vast improvement on even the best of that initial release. There are very few other soul artists who can not only produce uncluttered, funky dance music, but also write extremely sensitive, adult songs.

Bill Withers succeeds in every way. Even the use of strings does not allow the sentiments to become syrupy – a fault that all too often happens with arrangers who permit the sound they create to swamp an artist’s talent and originality. The string arrangements used here either help to set a mood or bring in a needed tension to supplement the lyrics.

Soul music has been progressing considerably recently and this album is one of the best examples of this welcome trend. Listen to it a few times before forming any opinions, it really does need a little concentrated listening before you fully realise the amount of thought and perception that has gone into producing this very stunning and rewarding record.

Lean on Me is a very beautiful track, instantly appealing, as its chart success indicates. But songs like Another Day To Run, Take It All In And Check It All Out, and Who Is He (And What Is He To You)? further portray the maturity of Wither’s vision and musical accomplishments.

This record should prove to be one of the soul ballad albums of the year. Don’t miss out on it.

The Hits of Edwin Starr – Edwin Starr — Tamla Motown STML 11209

The new ‘greatest hits’ collection from Tamla Motown is the Hits of Edwin Starr. The album contains not only Starr’s recent chart singles, but also his earlier successes. These include numbers such as Headline News, 25 Miles and Agent Double O Soul, which previously only had limited exposure in this country when first released, although they have always been firm discotheque favourites

Of his later period, chart-toppers such as Time and the incredibly arranged and produced War still prove to be as exciting as ever.

Edwin Starr has shown over the years that he can produce consistently good soul sounds, which are both original in concept and fun to dance to.

The lyrics of his songs always make me think of him as the Chuck Berry of soul music. For while some may say the words are banal, if you listen closely enough they reveal valid reflections of space age society.

In conclusion, this is a top-rate, good value (14 tracks) collection of one man’s contributions so far to soul music. And it’s a must for parties or whatever you call the gatherings you attend.