Son Of The Melody Maker

SYREETA – Mowest MWS 7001
CHAMELEON – Franki Valli & The Four Seasons – Mowest MWSA 5501

New from the Tamla Motown Corporation is Mowest Records. The label was set up to handle artists emerging from the West Coast of America. It has been in existence for a year in the States, and has now been launched in this country. Whilst occasionally finding fault with Motown, I cannot deny that they are responsible for some of the most entertaining and satisfying popular recorded music available today. And with that in mind, I expect to be well rewarded with much fine music from Mowest.

The initial album releases are an interesting pair. One is the first solo venture of Syreeta, who may be better known as Mrs Stevie Wonder. The other is another first, but with another meaning, for it is Franki Valli and The Four Season’s first release since joining the Motown Corporation’s stable of artists.

Knowing that most reviewers have found the Syreeta album the most significant of the two recordings, I would like to reverse that trend by saying that I find the Seasons the most noticeable and certainly the most pleasing.

Syreeta’s album, whilst being an adventurous outing, leaves me unsatisfied, and no matter how hard I try to listen to it, my attention has usually strayed to other matters before the end of a side.

I cannot deny though, that an enormous amount of work and thought has gone into the making of the album, including the intelligent use of synthesisers, as programmed by Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil (perhaps better known as Tonto’s Expanding Head Band). Most of the cuts were written by Syreeta and her husband, and despite the successful pairing of talents, as heard on Stevie’s latest album, this time it doesn’t seem to work. The inclusion of Lennon and McCartney’s She’s Leaving Home, for instance, leaves me sadly unimpressed. Keep on trying though, Syreeta, next time it may all work.

On the other hand, Franki Valli and The Four Seasons’ Chameleon offers nothing but delights. The Seasons and Mowest have completely recreated the group’s old sound, and the new maturity in the lyrics, music and production of Bob Gaudio especially takes the whole project up to a high-powered, inventive musical level. The tracks spotlighting the talents of Franki Valli work well and the other standout cuts are The Night and the orchestrally magnificent A New Beginning.

Whilst Syreeta’s album is a good try, that will appeal to some, it takes the Seasons to really impress and to be a good travelling companions down the many avenues of music.

SPACE ODDITY – David Bowie – RCA LSP 4813 (US import at UK price)
THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD – David Bowie – LSP 4816 (US import at UK price)

Space Oddity and The Man Who Sold The World, re-issued by RCA, are the two albums that David Bowie recorded for Mercury Records a few years ago.

They are being re-released obviously because of Bowie’s recent rapid rise to success and self-imposed ‘stardom’. But it’s not just a matter of a record company cashing in with past ‘product’, for both these important albums were sadly ignored by the fickle record-buying public when they were first available. The trouble being that Bowie’s work on these albums was well in advance of the tastes or comprehension of the average listener to rock music at that time. Now they have caught up, as they have demonstrated by making ‘darling’ David a superstar and by buying his Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust records in vast quantities.

Space Oddity, first issued in 1968, contains the amazing single from which the album derives its name. This cut was a chartbuster on both sides of the Atlantic, and time has done little to dim the brilliance of this song. Other tracks of note are Cygnet Committee, The Wild-Eyed Boy From Freecloud and Memory Of A Free Festival.

1970 was the year that The Man Who Sold The World first appeared. This album contained no hit single with which to promote it, and with the frighteningly strange lyrics and the sheer, screaming ‘wall of sound’ that accompanied the words, it gave little for the average listener of the time to hang on to or to accept, because of the new levels of intensity the record was exploring. Recent concert appearances have shown that audiences are now ready to take such numbers as The Width Of The Circle, All The Madness and Saviour Machine. A difficult, brilliant recording this, but well worth the effort of coming to terms with.

These are two very important re-releases, maybe the world is ready for them now.

LIFEBOAT — The Sutherland Brothers — Island ILPS 9212

Lifeboat is the second album from The Sutherland Brothers, who originate from Scotland. Their first release received many good reviews and subsequent ‘live’ appearances by the Brothers and their backup musicians confirmed the growing interest they were attracting.

The Sutherlands retain much of their Scottish folk music roots, but have expanded their sound with electric guitars and contemporary, heavy folk/rock keyboard arrangements. Stevie Winwood plays piano and organ on a couple of tracks.

Lifeboat is a hard, funky offering, with UK musicians working a musical area usually left to American artists. The Sutherlands incidentally play the first half of the Peter Straker concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 1st December.

ELEPHANTS MEMORY – Apple Sapcor 22

Any release by Apple Records is worth hearing and the album release by Elephants Memory is no exception. The band play heavy, raucous 1972 rock and roll, that steams its way through both sides of this record.

The album is produced by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, with whom Elephants Memory have been working. They were heard to good effect on Lennon’s recently released Some Time In New York double set.

The energy and uncompromising vitality of this first release of theirs on Apple, shows why they are worthy of Lennon’s interest, as well as his support and help in getting their own material on to wax.

An album to play loud and to rock to, anyway ya wanna.

FUMBLE – Sovereign SVNA 7254

Fumble are a new group who try hard to recreate pop hits of the late fifties and early sixties. Their album includes such classics as Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, Oh Carol, Teddy Bear, and Carole King’s first and only single of that period, It Might As Well Rain Until September. The Everly Brothers’ weepie Ebony Eyes is faithfully reproduced, and one of my pubescent passions, Bobby Vee, is remembered with Take Good Care Of My Baby.

Fumble capture the sound of the originals, but somewhere lose the fun and vitality that makes many of these songs perpetual favourites with rockers of all ages. Fortunately for me, I have copies of these songs by the artists who first recorded them and think I’ll stick to listening to those, leaving Fumble to turn on the generations who missed out on these numbers first time around. I hope that new converts to this golden period of rock and roll will treat Fumble only as an introduction and eventually get round to searching for the original versions.

Keep a look out for the album’s cover, it’s worth a nostalgic laugh.

RHYMES AND REASONS – Carole King – Ode 77016

Not much I can say about Carole King’s new album, Rhymes & Reasons, except that it’s as good, if not better, than her previous three albums. It certainly is up to the standard of Tapestry, which for me personally was her most outstanding venture until now.

With advance sales guaranteeing this record a chart-topper in this country as well as in America, it seems a little pointless to describe the songs.

They all speak for themselves, far better than any reviewer can do them justice. The lyrics seem more personally introverted than before, all touched slightly with an air of sadness, even the happy, light ones. Carole’s Keyboard playing is more to the front than before. It fits so perfectly with her singing, you sometimes wonder which is the instrument and which is the singer.

It would be difficult not to be delighted with this album. Romanticism, in the finest sense, is alive and well and living very near to Carole King.

CARAVANSERAI – Santana – CBS 65299

I quite liked Santana’s first two albums and found their third rather weak. Caravanserai is their fourth and latest offering, which I find over-long, often quite boring and the layers of rhythms that made their initial releases at times magical and exciting are insipid this time round when compared to previous outings.

Side one is reminiscent of the freaky experimenting of groups way back in 1966-7, and the blind alleys that many of those groups disappeared into then are now apparently leading Santana into the same wastelands of pretention. The second side is nearer to what they are usually noted for, but as I said before, it is barely a reflection of their past music. The vocals throughout make me wonder if they ever listen to themselves.

A very disappointing album. One is certainly entitled to expect more from a band of this stature.

FEEL GOOD — Ike and Tina Turner — United Artists UAS 29377

Despite the fact that for me Ike and Tina Turner’s greatest recorded moment was River Deep Mountain High*, thought by some to be the rock and roll cut of all time, I still get turned on, almost to raving point, by the frantic funk of Ike’s music and the roaring, sweating sexuality of Tina’s singing.

Any release of theirs means that the rocking dynamics of their sound are turned up full, and this album is no exception. Tina wails and screams out the passion and love in the lyrics, whilst Ike’s guitar and his band let loose with all that is wild and joyous in rock and roll.

Of the ten tracks on this release. Chopper, Feel Good, Kay Got Laid (Joe Got Paid), and She Came In Through The Bathroom Window are all outstanding, with Black Coffee taking the prize for setting up new highs in recorded excitement and deep, deep soul.

My only complaint is that the total playing time of the album is a mere 28 minutes and 16 seconds. Surely it wouldn’t have broken anyone to have included at least two more tracks on this release.

STEALERS WHEEL – A&M AMLS 68121

I’ve been playing this first album by Scottish group Stealers Wheel for just about a week now, and am finding that it becomes more rewarding with each new outing the record gets on my turntable.

The basis of the group’s music is the excellent bass of Tony Williams and the drumming of Rod Coombes, with guitars and keyboard completing the overall sound. The songs rock along, without becoming excessive, ably assisted by the tasty lead guitar flourishes of Paul Pilnick.

But it is the Stealers’ singing, harmonies and arrangements that really make me take notice. To say they sound like the now quartered Beatles is the nearest I can get to describing them. And the group deliberately seem to be inviting such comparisons. These similarities are uncanny but in no way detract from the enjoyment of their music.

Surprises aren’t exactly unexpected though when one learns that those masters of rock and roll, the writing and producing team of Leiber and Stoller are responsible for production. And one wonders what else. Leiber and Stoller, for those who don’t read the credits on records, have collaborated on such a large number of hits, it would be a difficult task to count them all

Stealers Wheel may well be set tor a big future if enough people pick up on them. It all depends on how listeners react to their Beatlish melodies. Maybe the group’s name has something to do with what one ends up hearing. I don’t know, listen and judge for yourselves.

ROCK OF AGES – The Band – Capitol E-STSPJ1 (2 record set)

The Band’s latest album, a double, is titled Rock Of Ages, and is made up of tapes made during a concert on New Years Eve, 1971. All the songs have appeared on previous releases, but the capturing of their ‘live’ sound adds much to their material. The double set is reasonably priced at £3.25.

All their most respected numbers are here, including The Weight, Chest Fever, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Rag Mama Rag and Life Is A Carnival.

At the concert they were ably assisted by a first rate brass section, led and arranged by Allen Toussaint, who has worked with The Band in the past on studio recordings.

Here are four very fine sides of important American modern music, making it an absolute must for the group’s large following, as well as an excellent introduction to those who have missed out on one of the most original bands writing and performing today.


* Recently re-released by A&M Records on a maxi-single, with two other Spector/Turner classics, A Love Like Yours and Save The Last Dance For Me.

Between The Grooves

ROCK AND ROLL QUEEN – Mott The Hoople – Island ILPS 9215

Following the success of Mott The Hoople’s All The Young Dudes hit single and the critical acclaim they received for their first CBS album, Island Records have issued a record made up of tracks from the four albums they recorded whilst on that label. Now who said anything about recording companies cashing in?

It is understandable why Island have released this album though. Firstly, the Motts never sold that well in the past, and this is the way that the company can try to recoup some of its losses. Secondly, now that a lot more interest is being shown in the group, many people who have only recently turned on to them may want to hear their previous efforts.

Some of the tracks included on this album are Rock and Roll Queen, the old Kinks hit You Really Got Me and Keep a Knockin’, all of which were very popular at the Mott’s live gigs over the last few years. In fact some of the tracks here are from tapes made of live performances.

In comparison to the Mott’s CBS album, this record doesn’t come off that well. No David Bowie for one thing. But many of the tracks radiate an energetic raviness that makes it fun to listen to if you play it loud enough. Basically though, Rock and Roll Queen is for newly acquired fanatical converts and the group’s new legion of groupies.

SECOND TAKE – The Searchers – RCA SF 8298

Pye Records have in their catalogue a record titled A Golden Hour With The Searchers, which contains all the tracks they were well known for, including all their hit singles from the group’s mass popularity days.

This RCA album also contains their hits, such as Sugar and Spice, Needles and Pins, and Sweets for my Sweet. But the songs have been re-recorded. Unfortunately the lead singer of the days when the group first released these big sellers, Tony Jackson, left them many years ago, and his voice is at times sadly lacking from these new recordings.

The present Searchers do their best though. Some cuts don’t equal the originals, despite better recording facilities, whilst others gain considerably from being re-recorded.

Generally a pleasant enough album. But it is only likely to attract those who remember the Searchers from their golden past.

ALL TIME GREATEST HITS – Tony Bennett – CBS 68200 (2 record set)

If you are an admirer of the silky, romantic voice of Tony Bennett and you don’t possess many of these tracks on other albums, this double set is very good value.

Reasonably priced at £2.99, you get twenty of the numbers Tony is best known and loved for. Included are I Left My Heart In San Fransisco, I Wanna Be Around, The Shadow Of Your Smile, Stranger In Paradise, Who Can I Turn To and For Once In My Life. Also there is his version of (Where Do I Begin) Love Story.

The tracks cover the twenty odd years Tony has been recording, and are an interesting way of hearing an artist’s development.

As I said before, this is great value for the lover of well-sung and arranged sentimental music, from a singer who has proved his worth over the years.

THERE IS SOME FUN GOING FORWARD – Various Artists – Dandelion 2485021

John Peel’s Dandelion label is alive and well and is still producing sounds from the outer limits of rock/pop/folk/weird music. This 99p sampler displays some of the talents currently recording for Dandelion and is a delightful collection of oddities and goodies.

If you want to hear examples of the work of Tractor, Medicine Head, Coxhill-Bedford Duo and Bridget St John then this record is for you. Even if you think you can live without knowing the wonders performed by these artists, give them a listen. You may be pleasantly surprised/amazed.

ALREADY HERE – Redbone – Epic EPC 65072

After having a couple of albums released in this country, Redbone finally broke through with their smash hit single Witch Queen of New Orleans.

Since then though, they haven’t managed to produce anything as popular, and this album isn’t going to help matters. It contains all the time worn musical cliches, with very little else. The songs are weak and the music is much the same as what they have produced before. Even the Red Indian rhythms they incorporate into their sound do hot help the album out of the depths of mediocrity. Their version of the Coasters classic Poison Ivy makes one yearns to hear the original, whilst the extended track that follows it is just long and boring.

Production is good, but with uninspired arrangements, light weight material and poorly delivered vocals, the album stands no chance of attracting anyone’s attention except their staunchest fans.

THE BEST OF OTIS REDDING – Atlantic K60016 (2 record set)

This double set of Otis Redding’s finest recording; is a must for any collector of soul music. And if, like me, you have only battered singles, and worn-out mono albums of Otis, this collection of twenty-five tracks is essential.

Otis’s untimely death robbed soul music of one of its greatest performers. Not only did he lay down some of the best music in this field, but also through his work, with brass sections, changed the whole concept of soul music. His influence also did much for rock, for as a direct result of his pioneering with the use of horns, many of the ideas he developed in his music, helped expand the range of rock and roll generally.

Otis died in 1967, so ooviously these recordings date back well into the 60’s, but despite their age they still sound as exciting, moving and original as they did when first released. You will see by looking at the album’s sleeve that this set really does contain the Best Of Otis Redding.

BEDTIME STORY — Tammy Wynette — Epic EPC 66186

Although extremely popular in the States, Tammy Wynette has only recently gained a wider audience here. The inclusion of some of her biggest US hits, such as Divorce and Stand By Your Man, on the soundtrack of the film ‘Five Easy Pieces’, helped considerably in bringing her to the attention of the public.

Tammy Wynette is the archetypal white female country and western singer, and this new album of hers. Bedtime Story, very much shows why. Most of the songs are of the sad, tearful variety, with a few numbers in a happier vein included for a little light relief.

This type of music is very much a matter of personal taste. So to those who are part of the growing number of devotees to C & W, Tammy’s singing is as good is ever, and there are some very fine snatches of steel guitar throughout the album.

PRIVATE PARTS – Peter Straker – RCA 8319

What may well prove to be one of the most important releases of 1972 is Private Parts by Peter Straker.

The term ‘concept album’ is an apt title to describe the record as a whole, for although the songs can be played separately they are all inter-related. The content of the album deals with, as the title suggests, the personal and intimate sides of life, and the awareness of someone coming to terms with their sexuality. Explicit references to bisexuality and impotence will add further to the controversy Private Parts is likely to cause. But the sincerity and openness with which the lyrics deal with these subjects can be seen as an example of the seriousness of the work.

Private Parts is not the sort of project you can classify or categorise. Musically the album draws from many styles, rock being the underlying factor, but the use of full scale orchestration takes it above the limits or classification of that genre.

The music and lyrics were written by Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley especially for Peter Straker, who they saw as the ideal choice for conveying the important relevance they feel the album will have. Ken and Alan who are highly professional and experienced writers in the pop world, have been responsible for a large number of hits. Recently Elvis Presley had considerable success with one of their songs. For them, Private Parts is a very personal statement and has been a venture they have been planning for some time.

Jamaican born Peter Straker had a much acclaimed starring part in the original London production of ‘Hair’. Since then he played one of the leading roles in the film ‘Boy Stroke Girl’, and earlier this year had a minor hit single. Peter incidentally will be performing the whole of the album live at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Friday 1st December. He will be accompanied by a forty piece orchestra and a choir.

Private Parts is much more than just another pop album. In a society where standards are continually changing and an individual’s morality depends more on that person’s insight, rather than accepted norms, the word content of this album becomes highly pertinent to those aware of the altering structures within their own lives. Peter Straker’s talents communicate the worth of the lyrics and in a world which often fears explicitness, it should not be difficult for many to realise the importance of this recording.

JOHN DAVID SOUTHER – Asylum SYL 9003

The newly formed American Asylum label has so far produced some of the best recordings of singer/songwriters and groups around at the moment. The most successful artists to date being Jackson Browne and The Eagles, John David Souther is the latest addition to this growing roster of extremely professional and developed performers.

Souther sings all his own material and plays guitar on most tracks. The songs and singing could be described as country/blues, with a fair amount of rock thrown in for good measure. That’s not really a classification, for attempted categorisation of the work of solo musician/composers is an injustice to the individuality of such artists.

Like the Jackson Browne album, this first album of Souther needs to be heard a number of times before its worth is apparent. That can be a disadvantage to an artist nowadays, particularly in an industry where new talents are having their records released fast and furiously by disc companies.

But if the initial attraction of Souther’s voice and gentle, thoughtful backing inspires you to buy the album, you will find that continued listenings will bring out the rewards.

TAKIN’ YOU THERE – Various Artists – Stax 2369008

Without a doubt the Stax Takin’ You There sampler is the best soul compilation album to come out this year. And priced as it is at 99p, it is also the best value.

Amongst the hit soul cuts included are Isaac Hayes Shaft, Frederick Knight’s I’ve Been Lonely For So Long, Jean Knight’s biggie from earlier this year, Mr Big Stuff, and the recent chart-buster In The Rain by The Dramatics. Other standouts are Rufus Thomas’s Funky Penguin. The Sould Children’s chart success Hearsay, the most underrated soul track of the year, I’ll Take You There by the Staple Singers and a funky reggae cut from William Bell titled Lonely For Your Love.

Of the other tracks Booker T & The MG’s Melting Pot, which opens side one, is guaranteed to get your feet tapping, if not dancing. Love Means by Carla Thomas is another great song, that should have received more attention than it did.

In all there are twelve excellent slices of contemporary soul. And at such a low selling price it is a must for collectors of good pop music and for the parties that’ll be happening in December and the New Year.

SMOKESTACK LIGHTNING — Mike Harrison — Island ILPS 9209

Smokestack Lightning is the second solo album of Mike Harrison, and is a vast improvement on his first.

Originally a founder member of Spooky Tooth — a sadly unerrated and missed, by some, rock group – Harrison should at long last get the recognition for the excellent rock and roll singer he is.

This album was recorded at the famous American Music Shoals Studios, and the use of that studio’s session musicians adds the sort of backing that is completely in sympathy with Harrison’s voice.

Side one contains four fairly lengthy tracks. The highlights being the old Fats Domino song What A Price and Joe Tex’s Wanna Be Free. But the outstanding cut of the album is the extended version of the classic blues number Smokestack Lightning.

Island Records (and Chris Blackwell’s) faith in Harrison has been instrumental in allowing him the chance of showing us what modern rocking and rolling is all about. They have been well repaid for their continued support of this fine, expanding talent.

RIVER DEEP MOUNTAIN HIGH – Ike & Tina Turner – A&M AMS 7039 (maxi-single)

Although I do not usually review singles, I think it is necessary to let you know that one of the all time classic pop cuts is available again. It is River Deep Mountain High by Ike and Tina Turner. On the flip side are A Love Like Yours and Save The Last Dance For Me. No serious collector or lover of pop music should be without these tracks, especially the former. All three were produced by Phil Spector and all demonstrate the incredible ‘wall of sound’ that was so distinctive about the recordings he was involved in.

Ike and Tina Turner are still one of the most exciting acts around, but I doubt if they will ever equal the magnificence of River Deep and the other tracs recorded from their period of involvement with Phil Spector. It’s about time that the other Spector masterpieces of modern music were re-issued too.