It’s all been done before

“Jesus Christ Superstar” Music by Andrew Lloyd. Words by Tim Rice. Directed by Jim Sharman, Palace Theatre, Cambridge Circus, London W1. Tel: 01-437 6834

05-197208xx-8To begin at the beginning. I was born a Jew but not brought up to follow the faith. When I reached the age of understanding it occurred to me that even though we weren’t supposed to believe in the existence of Jesus Christ, anyone who received that much publicity must surely have existed.

Therefore it was with much trepidation that I went along to the Palace Theatre not knowing quite what to expect. JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR has already been a big box office success in the States and it really wouldn’t matter if every critic in the land panned it because it is one of those ‘automatic hits’ that the public will flock to like sheep.

The fact that there were so many irreverent moments in the show didn’t bother me that much as I’d already been warned by fnends who had seen the show and heard the record. Indeed there were several very moving moments handled quite tastefully mixed up with all the other bits.

This ‘rock-opera’ deals with the last 7 days in the life of Jesus who is portrayed suitably poker-faced by Paul Nicholas. The role of Mary is filled by a last minute replacement Dana Gillespie who does fine with her big ballad ‘I don’t know how to love him’ even though she seemed a trifle nervous. But the emphasis in this show seems to be on Judas or maybe it was just that Stephen Tate in this part seemed to eat up the stage every time he came on. This was without doubt one of the most hammy performances in the entire history of the theatre.

The earliest song to score is ‘Everything’s alright’ but as the tricky rhythm beat of this number is then repeated in several later songs it becomes rather a bore. There’s one called ‘Hosanna’ which to my ears sounded like a steal from Kurt Weill. This song involves a big routine with a dozen red streamers which are first lowered for Jesus to walk over and at the end of the number are thrown every which way.

Any moment I expected them to throw in some of His most publicized stunts such as walking on the water, or wandering into the audience with the loaves and fishes, or at least pass the wine around as they so kindly did in ‘Godspell’.

In the second act ‘King Herod’s Song’ stops the show. Its a trite corny number but it comes as light relief just before the trial. I must admit the crucifixion was handled beautifully and as nothing can follow that I won’t try to.


“Moody Jr.” —J unior Walker and the All Stars – Tamla Motown STML 11211
“Bump City” – Tower of Power — Warner Bros. K46167
“MF Horn 2” – Maynard Ferguson – CBS 65027

05-197208xx-8The last month has seen the release of three albums whose basic ingredient, although used in different pop/musical contexts, is the use of horns, in the form of both trumpets and saxophones.

The first of the three is Moody Jr. by Junior Walker. Released last year in the States, Motown have finally acknowledged the small but ardent following Junior Walker has in this country. It is bound to please some, but I found it lacking in the ‘guts’ and ‘funk’ that has made his past albums so enjoyable. Gone apparently have the days of Junior Walker’s exciting ‘dirty’ sounding sax solos, that made albums like Road Runner such a success and which still remain immensely enjoyable despite the amount of time they have been available.

Jr’s latest offering is comparatively tame, with an over-indulgence in the use of strings and girly-group backings. Once in a while Jr’s unique blues/soul playing comes through unhampered by the excesses of over-production. This is more an album for late-night listening, unlike his hits from the past, such as Shake and Fingerpop or How Sweet It Is, which are still some of the most irresistibly danceable records Motown have ever produced. Moody Jr. is worth a listen if you have liked his last couple of albums. Standout tracks are Way Back Home and Don’t Blame The Children.

The second horn dominated album I’ve been listening to is Bump City by an American band known as Tower of Power. The band has a following in the States but is virtually unknown over here. This is their first release to be issued here, apart from a track or two on the Last Days of The Fillmore triple album set.

Tower of Power unfortunately don’t live up to their name though. The playing is good, as is the production, but it is all without anything original to distinguish them from the many bands into brass backed rock. Blood Sweat & Tears have done all of this before, and that particular band, by the time they had finished their first two albums, had run out of anything musically interesting to say. And why does every American band of this kind have a vocalist whose singing is so embarrassingly similar to that of B.S. & T’s or Chicago’s vocalist? (as it is the last two mentioned groups singers have always sounded extremely alike to me.)

Tower of Power’s music is a mixture of rock/soul/jazz, just like all the other bands working in this popular musical area. Give this a miss and wait for Chicago’s new album or try and get a listen to an import copy of one of the sadly under-rated Sons of Champlin records.

The trumpet playing of Maynard Ferguson is the main ingredient of MF Horn 2. This is not strictly a rock album, for the music is of the big band jazz variety. But much of the material Ferguson is working with here has been successful in the pop world. Numbers like Hey Jude, Lennon’s Mother. B.S.& T’s Spinning Wheel and an outrageous version of Theme from “Shaft” are included on the album. I’m not a big band devotee, but I found the record had a consistency in it’s inventive arrangements and the production is faultless. My only complaint is that after hearing the album through a few times, one track tended to sound much the same as another; possibly because I’m not into jazz enough to appreciate the finer points of Maynard Ferguson’s playing.

The Queens’ Delight

“What’s Up Doc?” Directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Starring Barbara Streisand, Ryan O’Neal. 93 mins. Distributed by Columbia-Warner

05-197208xx-9Have you ever seen a funny film and then attempted to repeat it to your friends. You stand there explaining every funny moment, working yourself to a frazzle doing it, and all the time having a ball reliving those moments. Then you glance at your friend’s face, sitting there with a bored expression, and you realise you’re “dying a death”. Well each of us has surely done this in the past, and therefore I’m not going to waste time repeating each and every gag that occurs in this very funny film. Suffice to say that it involves four identical travelling bags and the chase that ensues involving a large cast of mostly new faces to the screen.

First and foremost one must mention Peter Bogdanovich the director of that telling saga of mid-West America ‘The last picture show’. This is about as far removed from that film as can be. Its almost as if he intentionally proves he can handle a comedy as well as he handled the latter drama.

The picture stars the delightful, delectable (apply your own adjective according to your admiration) Barbara Streisand again playing a crazy kook of a girl which she managed to perfection previously in ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’. She’s lumbered with Ryan O’Neal for a co-star and as rumour has it that he left his wife for Miss Streisand in real life I suppose we must expect to see him again in other films whilst the romance is on. He might be dishy to look at but personality he hasn’t.

But SHE has . … and how. Wearing some pretty ghastly outfits she manages once again to confuse the brain in that she looks one moment a raving beauty, and the next moment downright ugly.

These days she is known as ‘The Queen’s delight’ and indeed there are precious few personalities around in films to rival her. With the passing of Judy Garland, the rare screen appearances of Bette Davis, and mere memories of Mae West in her hey day, we are ever hopeful that other new personalities might emerge in the coming years.

Apart from her brilliant comedy playing she warbles Porter’s “You’re the tops” over the credit titles, and later on a few bars of “As time goes by”. Let us hope that she can be persuaded to make more screen appearances soon whilst we are waiting for future star personalities to arrive.

Not for Trendies

“Greatest Hits” — Simon & Garfunkel — CBS 69003

05-197208xx-9Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits album is a fine memorial to a great duo who over the last six or seven years have produced some of the best and most pleasing popular music. It is a pity that they have finally decided to split up, although Paul Simon has already released a promising solo album. S & G’s musical roots are in folk but with the passing of time and with the gaining of experience and production knowledge they have moved into the less limiting world of rock, and in the last year or so have been into what could be called ‘symphonic’ rock. But without losing sight of the simplicity and directness of folk music.

And as they have progressed, so has their following grown. But without them having to sacrifice their ideas and experiments to please this wider audience. In other words, they are one of the few acts to incorporate the wide spectrum of musical styles available and at the same time have been able to bridge the gap between peoples peculiar likes and dislikes.

Now-a-days, S & G are usually put down by the hipper-than-thou trendies, who seemingly need a new ‘superstar’ to worship every few weeks, and not artists who get better as they develop their talents. Not for them anymore is the singing duo who once only used to turn them on, for now S&G manage to communicate to Mums abd Dads, ‘squares’ and ‘straights’, skinheads and greasers, and all the other social groups that aren’t in the seventh heaven of hip-dom. And that’s a shame for them because they have missed out on much good music and words; words that are more than just romantic sentiments and are valid, realistic comments and descriptions of the emotional states that are part of us all.

Simon & Garfunkel songs like Bridge Over Troubled Water and America are very much anthems of the times we live in. The two people in the latter song are looking for America – for an identity, and aren’t we all looking so very hard for something, something that this materialistic, automated world is unable to provide. And with a song like Bridge Over Troubled Water, there aren’t many people who, in a serious loving relationship with another, couldn’t have applied the words in the song to themselves.

If you have S & G’s other albums, you may find it unnecessary to get this album, although ‘live’ versions of some of their hit singles are included here, but without them losing any of the power of the studio recorded versions.

Also, despite their age, songs like The Sound of Silence and I Am A Rock still sound as convincing as ever, for me the imagery of The Sound of Silence is even more provocative and intriguing than it was before. Personally, I miss the non-inclusion of At The Zoo and Baby Driver, but all the other hits and well-known songs are there.

Greatest Hits albums quite often don’t make it because the songs are out of context from the original way they were presented, or time doesn’t allow songs from different periods in an artists career to jell well together. But with this album none of these problems arise. If you don’t know S & G’s earlier material this album is a good way of getting to hear it, and if you feel like rediscovering past favourites this is an ideal medium to do So. For me, this album will be regularly played for some time to come.

Up Frankie Howerd

“Up The Front” Directed by Bob Kellet. Starring Frankie Howerd, Dora Bryan, Lance Percival, Bill Fraser, Zsa Zsa Gabor. Distributed by Anglo-EMI. Cert ‘A’ – 88 mins.

05-197208xx-9Oooh. No. what? Ah. yes ….. No, Listen. Poor soul, no, don’t laugh. Who else but Francis Howerd, master of the double entendre and the camp gesture. Not seen much these days on television, and in danger of being knocked off his throne in that media by Larry Grayson, having now transferred his talents to celluloid. Let me put it on record, before I continue, I have been a fan since Variety Bandbox (whoops, me age is showin’). So when I blatantly state that he is wasted on film it is for genuine concern for him as an artist. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I have always preferred him as a stand-up comic, and do not think that situation comedy is his forte. I do of course understand his desire to progress, remembering him so long ago pleading with Johnny Speight to write a film script for him. I wish he had. It was obviously a market he wanted to conquer, and did, his first two films being box-office hits. But I always thought he was selecting his material with a care for his image. Like the late great Tony Hancock whose intention to move in a more artistic direction failed and tragically lost him his public and eventually his soul, maybe Frankie Howerd saw the moral. Although I would much rather sit through and enjoy the underrated ‘Punch and Judy Man’ than ‘Up the Front’.

The plot, as with the laughs, is thin, woven around Lurk (Howerd) as a loser, but under hypnosis, from a nice cameo role by Stanley Holloway, whose assistant has the most liquid jellified boobs I have ever seen, seeks to save England and become a war hero, which of course he does, by having the German master plan tattooed on his bum. Bill Fraser as ‘Groping’ (not just his name it’s his hobby) is excellent and has better lines than the star, as does Lance Percival as a German Officer. Dora Bryan plays Dora Bryan again, constantly squeaking the appalling title song … they don’t write ’em like that any more, in fact they wrote better. But despite a few asides Frankie Howerd has little or no comic lines; the only high-camp high-spot where he has a chance to shine is the scene with Zsa Zsa Gabor, as Mata Hari. So as ‘Carry Ons’ do, so will the ‘Ups’, continuing ad infinitum. Me?

I’m still diggin’ the Runaway Bus……

Biograph review

Last issue Julian was a little peeved, in this one he’s as cross and annoyed as someone with piles in Tangiers. Ooh, those silly people at Gay News who are responsible for the pasting up of the paper. No doubt you know what I’m talking about, just in case you don’t, take a look at my last Bio review and see what those naughty people did with it. The beginning is alright, but the second paragraph is a passage from the middle of my piece, the paragraph that ties in with my opening is somewhere in the middle, and my review of the first films showing that fortnight somehow ends up at the end of the whole article.

I will have to forgive them I suppose, especially after giving me an absolutely divine lettering for Biograph Review. And that little illustration of my favourite bag at the end by my signature is very nice. One wonders what else of my personal attire will end up there. So ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ of Gay News, watch, or else Julian will do a number of you, know what I mean ‘loves’.

05-197208xx-9Now let me tell you of the films showing at the end of August and at the beginning of September at our little haven, the Biograph. On Thursday 24th August, for three days. Jean Seberg (lovely lady) and David Jannsen star together in Macho Callahan. God knows what this is about. I’ve never heard of it, and even I can’t think of something witty to say about it Macho Maudling perhaps? Support feature is Rider On The Rain, an exciting thriller, if the beloved Bio staff can manage to get the reels in the correct order. I wonder if anyone would notice though? The cast of this little beauty are Charles Bronson and Marlene Jobert.

Sunday 27th August is Western Sunday at the Bio. Henry Fonda pops up again, ably supported by James Stewart (what a man!), in Firecreek, whilst Stewart Granger (another old man of the West) stars in Flaming Frontier. If you’re into cowboys, this is for you.

When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth with Patrick Allen and Victoria Vetri is showing for three days commencing on Monday 28th August. Times have changed, it’s my friend who thinks he rules earth now, and me especially. But I like it. Really though, it’s a super film if you like that sort of thing. Hammer films produced this historic piece. Also showing is Me,Me,Me And The Others What others? Gina (don’t say it when you’re tipsy) Lollobrigida and Walter Chiari are the principle actors in this bit of nonsense.

Thursday 31st August, for three days, has The People Next Door and C.C. And Company playing together. Well they might. Eli Wallach and Julie Harris do their thing in the former, whilst Ann-Margret (again) and Joe Namath perform together in the latter. Both portray middle-class America, are made by middle-class Americans, for middle-class Americans. Sure you’ll love them dears.

Treats on Sunday 3rd September for us. Richard (throb) Egan stars in Chubasco. But even more thrilly is another appearance by Rod Taylor, this time in Hotel. Rod shares acting credits with his friend Melvyn Douglas, and have they got their claws sharpened!

Sunflower, with Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastrioianni (Fellini’s friend), is showing for three days starting Monday 4th September. Not such a bad film, it certainly hasn’t deserved the limited screenings it has had so far. One up for the Bio. Support is An Eye For An Eye starring Robert Lansing, who lances his way through this second feature attempted thrill-maker. Good B movie, ideal companion for the rather soft main feature.

Future delights at the Bio in early September are the ‘wicked’ Baby Love, and Cosa Nostra – Arch Enermy Of The F.B.I., with our old friend from Burke’s Law (remember?) Efrem Zimbalist Jnr. in the starring role.

Before I leave you let me say “knickers” to Mr. Copeland and his sergeant-at-arms Mr.Nespit (or something like that). Seriously though, please gentlemen don’t take things so seriously, everything can be fun, really. And please Gay News staff try and get my para’s in the right order (no offence soldier). Bye for now loves.

Ed. Did you notice Julian’s deliberate mistake?

Thursday 24th August
Macho Callahan : AA : David Jannsen & Jean Seberg
Rider On The Rain : AA : Charles Bronson & Marlene Jobert

Sunday 27th August
Firecreek : A : James Stewart & Henry Fonda
Flaming Frontier : U : Stewart Granger

Monday 28th August
When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth : A : Patrick Allen & Victoria Vetri
Me, Me, Me And The Others : A : Walter Chiari & Gina Lollobrigida

Thursday 31st August
The People Next Door : X : Eli Wallach & Julie Harris
C.C. And Company : X : Ann-Margret & Joe Namath

Sunday 3rd September
Chubasco : A : Richard Egan
Hotel : A : Rod Taylor & Melvyn Douglas

Monday 4th September
Sunflower : A : Sophia Loren & Marcello Mastrioianni
Eye For An Eye : A : Robert Lansing Thursday 7th September
Baby Love : X : Ann Lynn & Linda Hayden
The Hell Benders : X : Joseph Cotten

The Biograph,
Wilton Road, Victoria, SW1.

Fear Into Falsehood

04-197208XX 09Sex and Dehumanization, by David Holbrook. (Pitman, £2)

During the last few years. David Holbrook — poet, educationalist and now Writer-in-Residence at Darlington Hall College of Art – has signed innumerable letters and articles in the popular press, all highly critical of aspects of our culture today, aspects that may be bundled up under the heading of “permissive tendencies”. His name is, in fact, automatically associated with those of Lord Longford and Mary Whitehouse. And though undeniably thoughtful and intelligent, he does share with all the critics of the permissive society a faculty for making blanket generalisations, for overestimating a situation and for exaggerating a fear into a falsehood.

Few people, I feel, would contest David Holbrook’s basic thesis in this book. That there is an increasing divorce between sex and love and that in our society, advertising, pornography and entertainment often place undue emphasis on people as sex objects, especially women.

However, the method he uses to explore this not particularly original thought, and the conclusions he draws over 212 pages are highly debatable. Most important is method.

Expressed simply, what Holbrook has done is amass on one side evidence of what he calls dehumanized sexuality, and on the other side support for his own views. His targets are sexologists such as Masters and Johnson, writers such as Alex Comfort and Wayland Young, events like “Oh! Calcutta!” (which drives him into some kind of frenzy every time he thinks about it) and publications such as Man and Woman (A weekly magazine which builds up into an encyclopaedia of sexual knowledge), and sex technique manuals.

Evidence for the prosecution, as it were, is drawn almost entirely from the writings of a small body of psychoanalysts from what is known as the ‘object-relations’ school. Of course this imposes very rigid limits on his thesis. It would not matter particularly if Holbrook has made it absolutely clear that this was one particular view. But over and over again he asserts that the insights of his team of pet psychoanalysts are, in fact, something amounting to eternal truths.

Let us see how this works. Suddenly we come to a chapter, inserted for no good reason as far as I can see, and called with an arrogance only matched by its inaccuracy: “The truth about Perversion”. Sorry, but we have to pause a minute here to find out what he means by ‘perversion’. This is not easy. According to the glossary, the definition he prefers is that of Rycroft: “Any form of adult sexual behaviour in which heterosexual intercourse is not the preferred goal”.

Perversion should then, include such activities as masturbation, exhibitionism, homosexuality, bestiality and so on. However, his chapter which is going to tell us the truth about perversion seems to refer entirely to homosexuality and in particular to female homosexuality.

He begins by attacking two articles on lesbians one by Victoria Brittain in The Times and one by Virginia Ironside in 19. His complaint about the latter, among other things is that the writer “did not consult any independent authority on psychosexual disorders. She merely consults lesbians (his italics, p. 97).

Holbrook then turns (presumably for independent evidence) to a group of papers by Masud Khan who is the Editor of the International Psychoanalytical Library. Khan is a highly respected, and to those who know and work with him. a truly charismatic figure. And his work is, naturally, highly valued in his field. However, the special study of perversion (ie. homosexuality) he has made is the result of “twenty years experience of a dozen pervert patients”. This I would have thought amounted to, in the wider context, an extremely limited and definitely biased view of the homosexual. To justify his use of Khan’s material as a statement of general truth, Holbrook writes: “… this conclusion was reached from what perverts in analysis told the therapist, it is their truth, not one imposed upon them”, (p. 99).

Setting aside the extremely debatable idea that a patient in analysis is quite free of imposed views, Holbrook is saying in effect that what a well-adjusted lesbian tells a writer is inadmissable, yet what an unhappy individual tells his psychologist (after twenty years of analysis?) is on the other hand true and acceptable, not just for that person but for all other gay people.

(And a passing note that on page 9S, Holbrook refers to an organisation for lesbians called Kensic. This could be attributed to a proof-reader’s oversight, yet Kenric is similarly misspelled in the index. Indicative that in the most literal way Holbrook doesn’t know what he’s takling about and, moreover, has done none of that essential independent research himself).

This method, and the unconscious attitudes it reveals, pervade the entire book. At times a touch of egregious colouring inhabits his prose as when he refers to “naked couples (having) sexual intercourse publicly on rafts in the swimming pools” (p. 21). Would it have been better for them to be clothed? or naked but not having sex? or not on a raft? or on the sea and not a pool? And when he remarks on “some photographs of a nude dancer, complete with pubic hair and all” (p. 27). Better if she was depilated? or not dancing? and what on earth is “and all”?

The book is extremely difficult to read because Holbrook uses so many quotations from his psychoanalytical reading. It is as if he lacks all courage to state his own views boldly without dragging in such support. A dependency problem, maybe?

All this said. I would advise everyone to try and read this book. For two main reasons. First a great deal of what he says should be said. Holbrook is concerned about dehumanisation by separation of sex from love. One of the points of gay movements, in my understanding. is to try to bridge this gap in the homosexual world. Homosexuals, above all, have been still are – victims of this, revealed in the often expressed view that homosexuality is just a sexual thing (ie. a genital activity) and does not involve the whole person. Gay movements prove this wrong.

The second reason for reading Sex A Dehumanization would be as an exercise for the individual to articulate his thoughts on the subject of sex. It is absolutely no good tossing this book aside with little cries of “rubbish!” just because Holbrook is offensive. He projects a forceful argument forcefully. It needs to be answered forcefully – and thoughtfully.

‘Since Time Immemorial’

04-197208XX 09The Other Love, by H. Montgomery Hyde.
An Historical and Contemporary Survey of Homosexuality in Britain. First Published 1970 — Republished in Mayflower Paperback 1972. Price 75p.

When talking about the trials of Oscar Wilde at the time, many people said how fortunate the country was to have been purged of the horrible corruption that had been going on for so long. What they failed to realise was that it had been going on since time immemorial and that it was universal and not a product of the country or the time. Many people still think that trial to have been a product of Victorian prejudice and hypocrisy and people talking about it today often say that it would never happen again. It can. It does and Harford Montgomery Hyde in his splendid book on the subject of Homosexuality tells how and why.

With such a difficult subject to approach without prejudice, it is refreshing to find a writer who simply presents us with the facts and leaves us to draw our own conclusions. On the other hand it is perfectly obvious that he has a.very strong bias towards a more tolerant society, who do not prejudice people because of their sexual inclinations. The history of Homosexuality is dealt with in detail and is mainly recorded in the trials that have punctuated our history- It rarely concerns women as they seldom seem to fall foul of the laws dealing with anal penetration or sexual acts with animals – these acts covered by the blanket legal term of buggery. These trials are set out in the sections dealing with the historical survey, but are of more interest to the historian. The more relevant parts are those describing the ‘contemporary scene.’

Mr. Montgomery Hyde relates in a matter-of-fact way, defines his terms and clears misconceptions. There he covers all ground, from the idea that this century has seen a massive increase in homosexual activity, to its ‘treatment’ as a curable disease, and the ‘homosexual professions.’

“Another widely held but erroneous belief that homosexuality is peculiar to members of particular professions and trades such as actors, boxers, interior decorators, sailors waiters. Turkish bath attendants and musicians …..”

The law and its contemporary attitude is portrayed as being particularly hypocritical – the punishment by prison for any ‘sexual offence’ is ludicrous. Montgomery Hyde shows that, far from acting as a deterrent, it actually encourages homosexual behaviour, many judges being oblivious to the fact. The first-hand reports in the opening and latter chapters give a great insight into the law’s two-faced attitude, with their wholly believable details about ‘bent’ coppers and prison ‘screws’. One of the most amusing incidents on this topic tells of the ‘Hammersmith’ queen, who, robbed by a guardsman of her fur coat, flew out in a rage and found a policeman, who quickly recovered the conspicuous garment and went to bed with the grateful owner himself.’ On discrimination, the author says that the social structure pressurises the single man into thinking in terms of marriage.

“A batchelor is liable to be regarded as eccentric and unstable, or even unfit for posts of responsibility.”

But as Montgomery Hyde says later;

“Of course, there are bachelors of unblemished character in public life, such as Edward Heath, the British Conservative Party leader, and J. Edgar Hoover, the late Director of the U S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, but they are the exception and certainly in Heath’s case the lack of a wife has been in some ways a handicap.”

This book is informative, readable and a must for anyone who is gay and has bewildered parents who want to know more. The first and last chapters arc strongly recommendeded. This survey covers all aspects of homosexuality from legal reform, drag queens and small Ads. in International Times to continental social clubs, which have made some headway in social enlightenment.

A book as good as this will help dispel a great deal of fear and prejudice and will help towards greater tolerance and understanding making. I hope, for a happier society.

Wake up Tamla Motown

04-197208XX 10Standing Ovation: Gladys Knight & The Pips: Tamla Motown STML 11208

Gladys Knight is one of the most underrated artists from the Motown stable. Even by Motown themselves, who only rarely put much effort into the promotion of her records. And the songs and arrangements Gladys is often saddled with do not allow her to show the full extent of her vocal capacity.

This is really a shame for an artist of her calibre. The quiet un-nerving power with which she delivers her vocals have at times made the most mundane of material seem inspired. And when Gladys occasionally has all the necessary ingredients she never fails in producing a minor soul classic. ‘Friendship Tram’ and her version of ‘I heard it through the grapevine’ are fine examples of her artistry, who’s roots are, deeper into blues and spirituals than most of the company’s other artists. These two tracks, although monstrous single hits in the States, meant very little over here except to Motown freaks. Even they though have managed to ignore many other great sides Gladys has put out.

One of the main problems is that Motown usually fails to bring out an album that is consistently good throughout its two sides. Marvin Gaye, now that he has broken loose from the company’s strictly self enforced production confines, has managed to release one of the best soul albums ever. What’s Going On’. Usually the only albums of Motown to make it are the ’Greatest Hits’ packages, of which Gladys’s is one of the better ones, for it contains all the most memorable tracks she has laid down whilst being with this company.

On ‘Standing Ovation’, Gladys succeeds in making a fairly well balanced album. The outstanding tracks are ‘It takes a whole lotta man for a woman like me’ and ‘Help me make it through the night’. Whilst most of the other tracks are memorable, the inclusion of ‘Fire and Rain’ is a great mistake. It’s a good song, but completely the wrong sort of material for Gladys. It is also a great pity that ‘He ain’t heavy, He’s my brother’ and ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ are sung as a melody. Both songs are powerful enough on their own, and this type of severely restricting arrangement loses much of their potential.

If only Gladys would break away from the confines of her recording company, then we would hear her true worth; that of a gutsy evocative blues-based singer who would turn each song she sang into something personally her own, and stamped with her special brand of soul. But till this happens, ‘Standing Ovation’ is worth getting into, despite its limitations.


04-197208XX 10“Garbo” M.G.M. 2353 059 (Mono)
“The Dancing Years” Sunset SLS 50313 Stereo

Initially, the soundtracks from the inscrutable Garbo’s famous films, most of which are featured on the record, seem quite camp and entertaining. Some of the lines are poignantly modem in their political comment – “Don’t make an issue of my womanhood”. (About Russia) “I have been fascinated by your five year plan for the last 15 years.” Nevertheless, I began to get rather bored about half way through the first side. Seemingly, film soundtracks, music excepted, rarely transfer successfully to records, seeming to lose their impetus when devoid of the visual accompaniment they were written for. I will concede however, that I am not really a Garbo fan, and the real addicts will probably find the record a lot more compelling than I did. The introduction by Walter Pidgeon on Side one sounds exactly like an American television commercial trying to sell the newest and whitest washing powder to middle-aged housewives.

“The Dancing Years – Evergreen Songs from the movies of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, played by the Sunset Dance Orchestra,” is a selection of well known bouncy numbers from Fred and Ginger’s 1930’s films. While the sleeve states the record is approved by the “Official Board of Ballroom Dancing”, most of us I expect, won’t be dancing the foxtrot while listening to the record, but just relaxing and hoping the person in our arms, can’t remember that far back. Most of the universally enjoyable evergreens are featured – “Top Hot White Tie and Tails, Cheek to Cheek Lets face the Music and Dance, Smoke gets in your Eyes,” etc. etc. The sound quality is exceptionally good for a cheap label record and the sound of the orchestra fairly authentic 1930’s.