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 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.