Saturday, January 30, 2010

This Week's Review -- January 29, 1977

A baker's dozen of new songs made their debut on the Billboard Hot 100 this week. Eight would go on to hit the Top 40, four would crack the Top 10 and one would go all the way to the top. Two songs were by former Beatles, both of whom were about to step away from music briefly to devote to film interests. A gentle song appeared by an actor who starred in one of the era's more violent TV series. A song with a gospel feel by a secular white group from upstate New York arrived, along with several that espoused more adult topics. The rise of disco was evident, as was the movement towards impeccable studio musicianship.

Many past issues of Billboard are available at Google Books. Click here to read the January 29, 1977 edition. The full Hot 100 can be found on page 78. Among the stories: the Blizzard of 1977 (I lived in northern New York then and remember that well) caused heavy snowfall and frigid temperatures across the Northeast, affecting record sales. In an example of news traveling in cycles, the record industry was figuring out what they were going to do with "piracy" even then...but in 1977 the scoundrels were recording copyrighted material onto cassette tapes. A doctor was urging discotheques to install vending machines dispensing earplugs for their patrons due to the noisy environment (no mention about whether he also urged them to consider having preemptive penicillin shots). Finally, a gospel group called The Oak Ridge Boys were looking to expand into country music. I wonder how that worked out for them?

Here's this week's review:

George Harrison - "Crackerbox Palace" George Harrison - Thirty Three & 1/3 (Bonus Track Version) [Remastered] - Crackerbox Palace

(Debuted #66, Peaked #19, 11 weeks on chart)

By 1977, much of the sheen surrounding The Beatles had subsided. Apple records had folded, Capitol was mining the group's back catalog but the live and repackaged LPs  -- that year saw both Love Songs and Live at the Hollywood Bowl -- weren't necessarily the blockbusters the company envisioned. Among the four former members, only Paul McCartney was scoring hits consistently. George Harrison and Ringo Starr were seeing diminished chart returns and were both becoming increasingly interested in film and other pursuits outside of music. John Lennon had gone into retirement to raise his young son.

"Crackerbox Palace" was the second single from the LP Thirty-Three and 1/3, which was both the speed of an LP and Harrison's age when it was released. The first hit, "This Song" (reviewed in this blog last November) was a disappointment on the charts compared to his earlier hits, but "Crackerbox Palace" had a better showing. One of Harrison's better-regarded solo songs, it featured a decent melody, Harrison's distinctive slide guitar work and a touch of his humor. However, once the song dropped from the charts, Harrison wouldn't return for another two years.

David Soul - "Don't Give Up On Us" David Soul - David Soul - Don't Give Up On Us

(Debuted #74, Peaked #1, 19 weeks on chart)

Police dramas were a big part of the 1970s TV landscape and many were violent due to their storylines. During the mid-1970s, Starsky & Hutch was often pointed out as one of the worst offenders when it came to displaying graphic action on the TV screen. It wasn't a true episode if there wasn't a victim getting beaten up or shot; furthermore, is seemed there had to be a 5-minute chase featuring the "Striped Tomato" red Ford Torino before the credits could roll. Ironically, one of that show's lead actors would notch an international #1 hit with a light love song at the height of the show's run. David Soul, who played detective Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson on the show, had been a frequent singing guest on The Merv Griffin Show even before his hit series. Although the song was a huge hit, there are still varying opinions among music fans about whether it's any good.

David Soul is considered a one-hit wonder in the U.S. due to scoring this big hit but never making the Top 40 again. However, he did score two minor followup hits in the Hot 100 and one of those ("Silver Lady") was also a #1 hit in the UK. However, he'll be remembered on this side of the Atlantic mainly for "Don't Give Up On Us." The song wasn't featured in any episode of Starsky & Hutch -- though he did sing the B-side "Black Bean Soup" in one segment -- but was still sung on-camera by Owen Wilson (playing Hutch) in the 2004 film treatment of the show.

The Ohio Players - "Feel The Beat (Everybody Disco)" Ohio Players - Gold - Feel the Beat (Everybody Disco)

(Debuted #79, Peaked #61, 5 weeks on chart)

In 1976, The Ohio Players released a greatest hits compilation called Gold. With its standard risque cover photo featuring a barely-clothed ebony model, the LP contained all the group's important hits (except for "Funky Worm," which hadn't been recorded for Mercury) and is a great starting point for anybody who wants a primer into the group's work. In addition to the hits, the group placed a newly recorded song at the very beginning of the album. The title alone informed fans that "Feel the Beat (Everybody Disco)" meant that even a seasoned funk band like The Ohio Players weren't above cashing in on the disco craze that was percolating at the time.

While the horn section is up to the standards of some of the Players' best songs, the song seems like it was rushed through to fill a necessary void. The vocals aren't all that clear, the lyrics are inane and repetitious. Placing this song on a greatest hits LP with songs that are clearly better just shows why the Ohio Players' hits dried up soon afterward.

Enchantment - "Gloria" Enchantment - If You're Ready: The Best of the Enchantment - Gloria

(Debuted #91, Peaked #25, 13 weeks on chart)

The title "Gloria" may make casual fans think of the 1960s classic written by Van Morrison and recorded by his group Them, but this song is entirely different. This "Gloria" is a smooth R&B ballad that fit well into the "Quiet Storm" format. Enchantment was a Detroit-based vocal group and "Gloria" was their first pop hit. The second single from their self-titled debut LP, it would be the first of three Top 5 R&B hits and their highest-charting pop hit.

Ringo Starr  - "Hey Baby" Ringo Starr - Ringo's Rotogravure - Hey Baby

(Debuted #90, Peaked #74, 3 weeks on chart)

Yes, this is Ringo Starr doing his own version of the Bruce Channel hit from 1962. That song has become a small part of the Beatle legend because Delbert McClinton, who played the distinctive harmonica on that single, gave some pointers to John Lennon about the "mouth harp" while touring England along with the group in 1962 and the instrument ended up on a few early Fab Four singles. Interestingly, Ringo's version of "Hey Baby" doesn't include a harmonica part at all. However, that's about all that's missing; there is a piano, bass, drums, guitars, horn section, what sounds like the Animal House frat party on backing vocals and perhaps a kitchen sink.

A disappointing effort, this would be the first chart single by the ex-Beatle to miss the Top 40 since his 1971 45 "Beaucoups of Blues." In fact, Ringo's hitmaking days were nearing their end. He would get just one more Top 40 hit in 1981 but even that would soon be forgotten. In 1989, he began his All-Starr Band tours after acting in films and portraying the role of the conductor in Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. The All-Starr Band concept has been continued in various lineups since its formation depending on the projects of its members and is expected to continue in 2010. Not bad for a guy who turns 70 this summer.

Natalie Cole - "I've Got Love On My Mind" Natalie Cole - I've Got Love On My Mind - I've Got Love On My Mind

(Debuted #84, Peaked #5, 21 weeks on chart)

Nat "King" Cole's daughter was doing very well in 1977. "I've Got Love On My Mind" would be her biggest pop hit up to that point (bettering her #6 hit "This Will Be" by one chart position) and earning Cole her fourth #1 R&B hit. As the title suggests, the song is a romantic ballad and has a timeless quality that still sounds well today as it is missing gimmicks often found in 1970s music.

Taken from Cole's LP Unpredictable, the album title that ironically described her career beginning in the late 1970s. Though she really never went away and was an active performer through the entire period, her career was affected by issues with drugs and personal issues. Despite many modest R&B hits, she largely disappeared from the pop chart until her 1987/'88 comeback.

Boston - "Long Time" Boston - Boston - Foreplay / Long Time

(Debuted #62, Peaked #22, 10 weeks on chart)

"Long Time" was the second single from the Boston LP, which is perhaps the biggest-selling debut LP in history. How much was that album remembered? During the mid-90s I worked at an all-70s format radio station and every song from that LP was contained within the CD library sent from the California-based company that sent its "canned" programming our way via satellite feed. Though I don't recall ever playing "Something About You" on the air, the other eight songs from Boston were in the rotation. No other LP that wasn't a greatest hits compilation -- not Aja nor Rumours nor Bat Out of Hell -- had all of its cuts in the main CD library.

With a guitar hook and an organ line, "Long Time" unfolds before Brad Delp's lyrics explaining why he needs to travel farther down the road. Other songs referred to "traveling men" through the years, in rock, blues, country and other genres. This song is another example where the allure of the road is stronger than anything else that might make a man stay. It's a sharp contrast to the vocal in "Heard it in a Love Song" (another 1977 hit) where an emotional goodbye keeps the man from resuming his journey.

(Note: both of the downloads here are for the LP version of the song, a medley of the instrumental "Foreplay" and "Long Time." It appears the single version isn't available in a downloadable format. I suppose that's all well, however: even classic rock stations always play the two songs together.)

L.T.D. - "Love To The World" L.T.D. - Love to the World - Love to the World

(Debuted #100, Peaked #91, 3 weeks on chart)

L.T.D. was the band that introduced Jeffrey Osbourne to the public. Beginning in 1968 in North Carolina, the band (whose name means "Love, Togetherness and Devotion" -- all the biographies of the band add that, so here's the mention) added Osbourne a few years later after they watched him performing in Providence, Rhode Island. Their breakout came with their 1979 LP Love to the World. After a modest hit with "Love Ballad," they released the title song as a followup but didn't get a lot of success with it. It disappeared after three weeks on the chart.

As a song, "Love to the World" is okay in a Earth, Wind & Fire-meets-The Commodores in their funk roots days way but Jeffrey Osbourne was certainly a more powerful vocalist than what either of those bands had.

Orleans - "Reach" Orleans - Dance With Me: The Best of Orleans - Reach

(Debuted #85, Peaked #51, 8 weeks on chart)

For fans who know Orleans from their hit songs "Dance With Me," "Still the One" and "Love Takes Time," "Reach" may come as a surprise. While the song may seem like it expresses a desire to strive toward a better and brighter future (which it does), the words sound very much like a sermon or a gospel song tweaked for secular use. The last minute of the song -- led off by a false ending -- breaks into a gospel chorus to give credit to the song's roots.

Ironically, despite the positive forward-looking lyrics of "Reach," Orleans would fall apart due to internal dissension soon after the song's chart life. Singer and leader John Hall left the band, but the band reformed without him two years later to score another hit with "Love Takes Time." Hall eventually became a U.S. Congressman from the group's home base of Woodstock, New York.

Jennifer Warnes - "Right Time Of The Night" Jennifer Warnes - Best of Jennifer Warnes - Right Time of the Night

(Debuted #81, Peaked #6, 22 weeks on chart)

The last four songs in this week's review all have sexual undercurrents, whether implied or not. "Right Time of the Night" is the only one that comes right out and says so, however. The song was written by Peter McCann, who had his own hit later the same year with "Do You Wanna Make Love," another song in the same vein. From "the stars are winking above" to "we'll be bad if you don't mind" there really isn't a lot to figure out about what's on her mind.

While some may call the lyrics provocative, the fact that this was a Top 10 hit and #1 on the adult contemporary chart tells us it really wasn't. Not in an age where people were supposedly "liberated" in such matters and three years after "Let's Get it On" was a #1 hit. While the words would have raised some eyebrows during the 1950s, the kids of that era were the same adults who were buying the record in 1977. However, the lyrics are fairly genteel when compared to the words from many modern songs, which are much more direct about the matter and don't even bother to call it "making love."

Olivia Newton-John  - "Sam" Olivia Newton-John - Gold: Olivia Newton-John - Sam

(Debuted #72, Peaked #20, 13 weeks on chart)

"Sam" was a perfect example of Olivia Newton-John's crossover popularity in the mid 1970s. Besides hitting the pop Top 20, it made the country Top 40 and #1 on the adult contemporary chart. It also hit #6 in her native England. Perhaps the push from AC and country helped the single make the pop Top 20, as ONJ was somewhere in the middle of a foggy period between her mid-70s smashes and the phenomenal success she experienced after appearing in Grease.

The fact that "Sam" was a country hit really isn't a surprise when you read the words. She and Sam have both just gotten out of separate relationships and ONJ is suggesting in her cooing vocals for him to stop over and help each other get over what happened. "The door is open wide, come on inside." The only thing separating this from bigger 1976-'77 country hits like Dave & Sugar's "The Door is Always Open" and Johnny Paycheck's "Slide Off Your Satin Sheets" is that the female partner isn't still married to somebody else.

The Atlanta Rhythm Section - "So Into You" Atlanta Rhythm Section - 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Atlanta Rhythm Section - So Into You

(Debuted #89, Peaked #7, 19 weeks on chart)

"So Into You" was the first big hit from The Atlanta Rhythm Section after one song that barely reached the Top 40 and a few low-charting singles. It's still played frequently on radio stations that have AOR, A/C and 70s formats. Its easy-going beat and laid-back vocals make it something of a period piece that helps its lasting popularity. Although many think it's about a rendezvous, a quick look at the lyrics tell a different story: the narrator is so taken by the sight of a pretty girl walking past that he's dumbfounded. The rest is purely fantasy (or lust, depending on your point of view). According to the words, she doesn't notice him.

The Atlanta Rhythm Section is often lumped in with Southern rock bands like The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Marshall Tucker Band because of the fact that they happened to be from Georgia and were very popular in the Southeastern U.S. However, they really weren't comparable in that regard. As the house band for Studio One in suburban Doraville and made up partly of former musicians from The Classics IV, ARS was really more of a group of professional musicians than a Southern rock group. By honing their talents in the studio, they were more of a band like Steely Dan and shared musical styles with The Eagles and post-Peter Green Fleetwood Mac. Perhaps the distinction was lost because they were also a touring band (unlike Steely Dan for most of the 1970s), playing over 250 shows a year.

Jim Stafford - "Turn Loose of My Leg"

(Debuted #99, Peaked #98, 2 weeks on chart)

As one might expect from a song that only remained on the chart for two weeks and peaked at #98, few people remember this tune at all. After a string of six often humorous Top 40 tunes in the 1970s, Florida-born Stafford's chart fortunes took a wrong turn after 1975. "Turn Loose of My Leg" sounds like a poor attempt at returning to a formula that made "Spiders & Snakes" (reviewed on this blog last November) a surprise hit in 1973 but wasn't executed well. Where the earlier hit was a remembrance of growing up and realizing that dealing with girls wasn't always easy, this time the perspective is different. The narrator is talking about being an adult and staving off the ladies' advances...not exactly something many listeners can relate to. This would be Stafford's final pop hit.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

This Week's Review -- January 19, 1974

This may be the first week in the five months I've been writing this blog where every song has been available from both iTunes and Amazon as downloads. However, having only five new songs in total helps those odds tremendously. Of the five debuts in Billboard's Hot 100 survey, only two would reach the Top 40 and one was a #1 hit. Interestingly, all five acts had long and multi-faceted careers, even if there were some rough stretches along the way.

Many past issues of Billboard are available through Google Books, but the January 19, 1974 edition is not among them. It's a shame, as I've enjoyed reading through them and seeing that while technology has changed (back then, vinyl was king, cassettes and 8-tracks were considered inferior but were being improved and nobody yet knew what CDs or digital recordings there were things like cartridge television and other oddities), many of the business fundamentals have remained the same. After all, the bottom line is still the most important part of the business, no matter what era. Perhaps some of today's music executives could pay attention to the history lessons contained in some of these issues.

Ashford & Simpson - "(I'd Know You) Anywhere"  Ashford & Simpson - Gimme Something Real - Anywhere

(Debuted #94, Peaked #88, 3 weeks on chart)

Although the table linked above shows this as the first hit for husband/wife duo Nikolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, they had been enjoying hit singles for years as songwriters. During the 1960s they wrote "Let's Go Get Stoned" (along with former Ikette Josie Jo Armistead) for Ray Charles and later became staff writers for Motown. There, they wrote several hit duets for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell ("Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," "You're All I Need to Get By," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"). When Diana Ross parted from The Supremes, two of her earliest solo hits were Ashford & Simpson tunes: her #1 hit version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)."

Before becoming songwriters, Ashford & Simpson had tried unsuccessfully to work as a recording act. After having others hit with their material, they decided to try again in the early 1970s. Valerie Simpson had a minor hit as a solo artist in 1972 with "Silly Wasn't I" and began teaming with Ashford on record in 1974 when they left Motown for Warner Brothers. Their first LP Gimme Something Real contained "(I'd Know You) Anywhere," a song that began as a slow ballad and then picks up a little bit two minutes in. Opening with a piano and sparse instrumentation accompanying Ashford and Simpson as each do solo vocals, the full orchestra (complete with backing singers, which sounds to me like multitracked recordings of Ashford and Simpson) kicks in just as the song becomes a true duet. 

As an entrance for the duo as performers, the song was decent and should have been a bigger hit than its #88 peak would indicate. It hit the R&B Top 40, reaching #37. The duo would continue to score on the R&B chart and begin getting some Top 40 LPs before finally reaching the pop Top 40 for the first time in 1979. As they built their own career together, the duo also did commercial jingles, worked as DJs for New York's KISS-FM and worked with other artists like Quincy Jones (Simpson sings on "Stuff Like That"), Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle and Chaka Khan, among others.

Cher - "Dark Lady" Cher - 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Cher - Dark Lady

(Debuted #82, Peaked #1, 16 weeks on chart)

This is a fine example of what I call a 1970s melodrama: a song that tells a story, has music that wouldn't be out of place on a movie or TV show and has an ending that isn't exactly out of any storybook. The lyrics spin the tale of a woman seeing a fortune teller. The all-knowing seer says her man has been unfaithful and that the other woman is "someone else who is very close to you." Upon returning home, she catches the scent of the fortune teller's perfume, realizes she was the other woman, then goes back to catch her and the man together. A violent end follows.

The song was written by John Durrill, a member of The Ventures. He had submitted some of his songs to Cher's producer Snuff Garrett; "Dark Lady" was one of them but it hadn't been completed yet. Upon getting the gist of the song, Garrett suggested, "make sure the bitch kills him." Once he finished with it, Garrett had Cher record it and it was a hit single.

This was the third and final #1 single Cher had during the 1970s. All three came during the run of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, a variety show on CBS that achieved excellent ratings but wasn't actually considered to be much more than mindless TV with Cher's one-liner put downs of her husband and her elaborate but 1970s tacky clothing styles. The show would be canceled soon after "Dark Lady" fell off the charts, as Sonny and Cher began divorce proceedings. By an odd coincidence, Cher's next husband would be Gregg Allman and his band had a song debut this week as well.

The Dells - "I Miss You" The Dells - 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of the Dells - I Miss You

(Debuted #91, Peaked #60, 7 weeks on chart)

The Dells are a Chicago-based group that has weathered many decades and musical styles. Beginning in the mid 1950s, they have recorded in the doo-wop, soul, jazz, disco and R&B genres. More incredibly, they have had a consistent lineup for many of those years. From 1960 onward, the same core group of five remained together until Johnny Carter's death in August 2009. The group's peak hitmaking years spanned the late 1960s through early 1970s, and "I Miss You" was near the end of that run. It would be their last Top 10 R&B hit and second-to-last Hot 100 entry. Even after the hits stopped coming and new recordings became less frequent, The Dells continued touring.

"I Miss You" is a basic R&B song that isn't much different from other soul emanating from the radio early in '74. The music has the same urban quality heard on songs from The O'Jays, The Chi-Lites, The Spinners and the post-Norman Whitfield Temptations. The vocals sound almost like Levi Stubbs in The Four Tops' post-Motown material. It's a shame to say the song sounds like an imitation of other 1970s soul artists, as The Dells certainly held their own over the years adapting to many changes in styles.

The Allman Brothers Band - "Jessica" The Allman Brothers Band - Brothers and Sisters - Jessica

(Debuted #90, Peaked #65, 6 weeks on chart)

As familiar as "Jessica" is to many listeners, a lot of people would be surprised to see that it only peaked at #65. It's a familiar instrumental that many will know by ear even if they don't recognize the song title. Despite its relatively poor showing on the Billboard chart, the song has lived on for years through radio airplay, use in movies (like "Field of Dreams") and as a theme song to shows such as Dr. Dean Edell's radio program and the BBC series Top Gear.

Written by Dickey Betts and named after his daughter Jessica, the song was a seven-and-a-half minute jam on the group's Brothers and Sisters LP. The single version only excised about 30 seconds from the tune, and its running time likely helped keep its chart position low. However, the longer version is the one that has been included on The Allman Brothers' greatest hits packages and is played on most radio stations.

Rick Derringer - "Rock And Roll, Hoochie Koo" Rick Derringer - All American Boy - Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo

(Debuted #100, Peaked #23, 14 weeks on chart)

Although it shows as Derringer's first chart single, he had already been part of two #1 singles, as a member of The McCoys ("Hang On Sloopy" in 1965) and The Edgar Winter Group ("Frankenstein" in 1973). He was also a guest guitarist for Alice Cooper ("Under My Wheels") and Steely Dan ("Show Biz Kids"). Originally named Rick Zehringer, his last name was changed to reflect the Derringer pistol in the logo of The McCoys' record company, Bang. 

"Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo" is probably best remembered as a classic example of 1970s guitar-driven rock, included on dozens of compilations and played incessantly on classic rock radio. It probably also sounds dated as a result of that saturation. At first, it sounds like a basic rock song with a great guitar riff propelling it...and in that sense it's a really fun song. That said, it also conveys all the excess and hard-living that went with the 1970s hard rock lifestyle even though it's a great song to crank the volume up whenever it begins playing.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

This Week's Review -- January 17, 1970

Of the nine songs making their debut during the third week of 1970, three would go on to make the Top 40 and two would be Top 10 hits. However, one of the songs that missed the Top 40 would come back later -- sung by the group's singer as a solo effort -- to become a huge hit. A wide variety of music is represented in the list: rock, blues, jazz, crossover country and several varieties of soul (Detroit, Philly, white soul and early funk).

When available, I provide a link to the Billboard issue for the week being reviewed but January 17, 1970 is missing from the online archive at Google Books.

The Cannonball Adderly Quintet - "Country Preacher" Cannonball Adderley Quintet - Country Preacher - "Live" at Operation Breadbasket - Country Preacher

(Debuted #98, Peaked #86, 3 weeks on chart)

Julian "Cannonball" Adderly was a well-regarded jazz musician. An alto saxophone player, he had worked with Miles Davis, John Coltrane and dozens of others as a sideman before forming his own quintet along with his brother Nat Adderly. Jazz artists are normally shut out of the Billboard Hot 100 but Adderly managed to score a few entries in his career, including one Top 40 hit (the #11 "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" in 1967). "Country Preacher" would be his final entry on that chart before his death in 1975.

The song was recorded live at a meeting of Jesse Jackson's Operation Breadbasket event in Chicago (The Reverend Jackson is the "country preacher" of the title).There are two different moods for the song; the first, slow and sad but the tempo picks up to a more hopeful sound. If there's anything negative to be said about the song, it's far too short at three minutes (the LP version is more than four minutes but includes a spoken intro by the Reverend Jackson). Granted, jazz gets precious little exposure on the Hot 100, but it would be nice if the few singles that do make the survey could feature more of the music.

The Chairmen Of the Board - "Give Me Just a Little More Time" Chairman of the Board - Semi-Pro (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - Give Me Just a Little More Time

(Debuted #85, Peaked #3, 15 weeks on chart)

"Give Me Just a Little More Time" was the first and most successful of six pop hits for The Chairmen of the Board. The group was part of the Invictus label, one of Holland/Dozier/Holland's post-Motown ventures. Sung by General Johnson, the song sounds much like a classic Motown single for a couple of good reasons: not only was it written by Holland/Dozier/Holland (under the pseudonym Ron Dunbar & Edyth Wayne) it also featured several members of Motown's house band The Funk Brothers to back up the vocals. Evidently, the "fake" pen names were an attempt to circumvent a contract that Holland/Dozier/Holland still had in place with Motown and using several members of the Motown house band went undetected at the time since that label still wasn't giving any credits to the musicians who played on their records.

Before joining The Chairmen of the Board, Norfolk, Virginia native General Johnson was a member of The Showmen, singing the classic "It Will Stand" in 1961. He was a songwriter as well as a singer, penning "Patches" (a big hit for Clarence Carter although The Chairmen did it first) and many hits for other Hot Wax/Invictus acts The Honey Cone and Freda Payne.

(edited Jan. 17 -- removed the inference that Johnson wrote "Patches" specifically for Clarence Carter. Thanks for the clarification, Bruce).

Nazz - "Hello it's Me" The Nazz - Open Our Eyes - The Anthology - Hello It's Me

Debuted #83, Peaked #66, 6 weeks on chart)

Fans who weren't around to experience the 1970s probably know "Hello it's Me" as a Todd Rundgren song that gets played an awful lot on oldies radio. However, Rundgren beganhis career as a member of a group called Nazz and "Hello it's Me" was one of their tunes. To fans who are only familiar with the 1972 Rundgren single (reviewed on this blog last October), the original Nazz version sounds quite foreign: slower, more low-key and using different instruments and vocal harmonies. The differences are subtle but make the two songs distinct.

This was actually the second time on the Billboard chart for "Hello it's Me." Originally issued in 1968 as the B-side to Nazz's first single, the acid-rock tinged "Open My Eyes," it gained some radio airplay when that side failed to chart nationally. Issued in its own right, it reached #71 in 1969 before dropping off the chart. After the band fell apart later that year and Rundgren began doing solo work under the "group" name Runt, "Hello it's Me" was given a re-release and earned a higher peak than it did a year earlier. Interestingly, Rundgren's '72 reworking itself took yet another year after its release to become a hit.

Glen Campbell - "Honey Come Back" Glen Campbell - The Legacy (Box Set) - Honey, Come Back

(Debuted #78, Peaked #19, 9 weeks on chart)

Glen Campbell was one of the more successful pop/country crossover stars of the early 1970s.While several country artists scored crossover hits as the 1960s gave way to the 70s -- Johnny Cash, Ray Price, Lynn Anderson, Merle Haggard, Charley Pride, Loretta Lynn -- Glen Campbell was perhaps the most consistent artist on both charts. In addition to his musical success, he was being seen on TV (The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour) and in the movies (True Grit, along with with John Wayne, and Norwood), which no doubt helped his chart fortunes.

As somebody who was so successful on the pop charts, it's safe to say that Campbell's music wasn't always "country" in the same sense as contemporaries like Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty or George Jones. Being a former L.A.-based session musician who made his living playing a lot of diverse styles in recording studios (he played on records by The Monkees, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Elvis Presley and even toured in 1965 as a member of The Beach Boys), his range went well beyond what many would assume from a man who grew up in rural Arkansas. "Honey Come Back" is a example of his dual identity: it has the "I miss you since you left me" and "I'll walk away because I can't give you what he can" lyrics that fill many country songs but has an orchestra behind Campbell's vocals. In other words, the fiddles are played as violins and there are no steel guitars or dobros to be found.

Little Milton - "If Walls Could Talk" Little Milton - Blues - Gold - If Walls Could Talk

(Debuted #97, Peaked #71, 5 weeks on chart)

A well-respected bluesman, Little Milton was part of the staple of artists at Chess records through its Checker imprint. In addition to being a singer/guitarist, he was also a manager and producer of other acts. While never a big hitmaker like B.B. King, he gathered some modest but respectable R&B hits through the 1960s and '70s. Some, like "If Walls Could Talk" were excellent examples of soul/blues mixes, sounding a lot like they could have been capably performed by Wilson Pickett. "Walls" has a great organ line punctuated by a horn section that drives the song.

The Temptations - "Psychedelic Shack" The Temptations - Gold - Psychedelic Shack

(Debuted #95, Peaked #7, 11 weeks on chart)

After replacing David Ruffin with Dennis Edwards, The Temptations began using Norman Whitfield as their producer. Taking a cue from the music of Sly & the Family Stone, Whitfield made The Temptations into Motown's "psychedelic soul" act with hits such as "Cloud Nine," "I Can't Get Next to You" and "Ball of Confusion." With its new lead singer, the band took a very different direction than its pre-1968 lineup had and helped usher Motown into the new decade.

"Psychedlic Shack" contains one of the first instances of sampling. At the beginning of the song (often cut for radio play to avoid listeners thinking the DJ was late cueing up the song), a record is heard dropping onto a player and the opening to "I Can't Get Next to You" is heard before that song is "interrupted." The song is heavy on wah-wah guitar, distortion and deep bass and uses the range of other singers in the group, notably Eddie Kendricks' high register and Melvin Franklin's deep voice.

Despite becoming one of Motown's best-charting groups with its "psychedelic soul," the group began suffering internal struggles. After 1972, they would part ways with Norman Whitfield, Eddie Kendricks (who preferred the group's ballads) would leave for a solo career and Paul Williams would take his own life. A totally different Temptations -- with a revolving door of members -- would soldier on to the present day, even after the hits stopped coming.

The Flaming Ember - "Shades of Green" Flaming Ember - The Best of Flaming Ember - Shades of Green

(Debuted #100, Peaked #88, 3 weeks on chart)

A white soul group from Detroit, The Flaming Ember was a group that -- true to its name -- would enjoy a few decent hits for a short time and then simply fizzled out. From late 1969 through late 1970 the group had three Top 40 singles and one minor hit. That minor hit was "Shades of Green," which had two short runs on the chart but never got higher than #88. Compared to the three hits ("Mind, Body & Soul," "Westbound #9" and "I'm Not My Brother's Keeper"), "Shades of Green was an inferior, almost generic record. That's not to say the song was was merely a rehash of material they did better on the other tunes.

Donny Hathaway - "The Ghetto (Part 1)" Donny Hathaway - A Donny Hathaway Collection - The Ghetto, Pt. 1

(Debuted #99, Peaked #87, 4 weeks on chart)

Chicago-born Donny Hathaway was a bright star on the horizon as the 1970s began but wouldn't  live to see the decade end. His singing was an inspiration to many but his personal struggles with depression would alienate him from many of his friends (including duet partner Roberta Flack) and often require hospital stays. Although hindsight gives Hathaway's records some added context, his music is both hopeful and tragic because it hints at what might have been. Sadly, because his biggest hits have been his Flack duets his solo material hardly gets heard by casual fans (unless they happen to watch TV, that's his voice doing the theme for Bea Arthur's show Maude).

One of Hathaway's earliest singles was "The Ghetto," a glimpse into an inner-city landscape released several months in advance of his debut LP Everything is Everything. On that LP the song was a six-and-a-half minute epic, but on the single it was divided into two parts. The song is mostly instrumental, with few lyrics beyond a chant-like repetition of the song title except indistinct "street corner" talking and a baby. Handclaps and Latin percussion keep time for Hathaway's electric piano and the funky rhythm.

Brenda and the Tabulations - "The Touch of You" Brenda and The Tabulations - The Top & Bottom: Singles Collection 1969-1971 - The Touch of You

(Debuted #84, Peaked #50, 8 weeks on chart)

One of the better-regarded Philly soul acts of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Brenda & the Tabulations was a vocal combo led by Brenda Payton. As the 1970s dawned, the group was made up of Payton and three male singers but later in 1970 the men left and were replaced by two female singers. "The Touch of You" was a single released before the personnel change, as there are definitely men singing the background harmonies.

A great example of late 1960s Philly soul before the Thom Bell/Gamble & Huff  material of the 1970s supplanted it, "The Touch of You" was a modest hit. Besides peaking at #50 on the Hot 100, it reached #12 on the R&B chart and would be the group's second-biggest 1970s single.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

This Week's Review -- January 7, 1978

Ten new songs made their debut in Billboard's Hot 100 this week. Four would go on to reach the Top 40 but only one would get into the Top 10. After the success of the film Star Wars (still running in many theaters as 1978 began), science fiction had become mainstream. To mirror that, three of the songs in this week's review have "outer space" imagery. Another big trend as 1978 was getting underway would be disco, which had just become huge with the release of Saturday Night Fever. While no songs from that movie were among the debuts, several have a dancefloor beat to capitalize on the sound.

This issue of Billboard magazine is available online. Read the issue at Google Books. The full Hot 100 chart can be found on page 104. For those who like to read the articles, the scan of page 3 has a tear-out subscription insert blocking much of the page that prevents reading some of the industry news.

Heatwave - "Always And Forever" Heat Wave - The Best of Heatwave - Always and Forever - Always and Forever

(Debuted #78, Peaked #18, 20 weeks on chart)

While not their biggest-charting pop hit ("Boogie Nights" was a #2 hit and "The Groove Line" would reach #7), this may be Heatwave's best-remembered because it's been played often on adult contemporary radio and in wedding receptions for more than 30 years. A romantic ballad expressing true devotion, it's become a wedding-day standard for its timeless quality. Released at the height of disco, it proved that people still sometimes liked to dance slow.

The story of Heatwave begins with two brothers who were stationed in West Germany with the U.S. Army. Johnnie and Keith Wilder sang at local bars and venues with various German bands and remained there once they were discharged from the service. Eventually they moved to London to collaborate with Rod Temperton and built a multiracial, multinational band.  Heatwave's first single ("Boogie Nights") was a huge smash in several countries and they were able to follow up that success with more hits. However, tragedy struck the group. Singer Johnnie Wilder was paralyzed in a car accident in Dayton, Ohio and bassist Mario Mantese was stabbed by an unknown assailant in London. Other members quit, including Temperton. By 1979, the band was very different and the hits dried up.

Temperton would go on to write many hit songs afterwards, especially Michael Jackson ("Rock With You," "Off the Wall," "Thriller"). Among his other hit compositions were George Benson's "Give Me the Night," "Stomp!" by The Brothers Johnson and a couple of James Ingram duets ("Baby Come to Me" and "Yah Mo B There").

Al Green - "Belle" Al Green - The Belle Album (Expanded Edition) - Belle

(Debuted #98, Peaked #83, 5 weeks on chart)

Al Green had an exceptional run of Hot 100 singles during the 1970s and this would be his final hit of the decade. It was the lead song from The Belle Album, which marked some major changes for the star. It was his first album away from producer Willie Mitchell* and the Hi Records Rhythm Section, which shaped many of his big hits. It also marked the end of his R&B era; Green had a religious awakening and the album was his last secular LP before he began a new phase of his career as a gospel performer. Unfortunately, "Belle" didn't pack quite the punch of many earlier songs and wasn't around long.

Without the horns that flavored nearly all of Green's familiar hits, "Belle" sounds like a decent R&B song but not one that's distinctively Al Green. Instead, there is a synthesizer, an electric piano and some sparse guitar strumming. There is some indication of Green's newfound religious direction in the lyrics "Belle, it's you I want but Him that I need." Since religious fervor wasn't exactly in vogue during the hedonistic disco era, fans weren't as likely to listen as they might have been earlier in the decade when Jesus Christ Superstar was a hit, The Staples Singers were scoring hits and "Spirit in the Sky" extolled the virtues of having "a friend in Jesus."

*- Willie Mitchell passed away this week from cardiac arrest at the age of 81. May he rest in peace.

The Pockets - "Come Go With Me"

(Debuted #94, Peaked #84, 9 weeks on chart)

The Pockets were a group from Baltimore that was under the wing of Earth, Wind & Fire member Verdine White (brother of EW&F frontman Maurice White). "Come Go With Me" was an uptempo number with forward-looking lyrics and a bright outlook that wouldn't have been out of place on an EW&F LP from that era, but that's not saying it would have been a standout track. However, the record-buying public didn't really see the need for another Earth, Wind & Fire when that group was still cutting their own albums. After two more Pockets LPs and no more hit singles, the group called it quits after 1979.

Heart - "Crazy On You" Heart - Dreamboat Annie - Crazy On You

(Debuted #82, Peaked #62, 6 weeks on chart)

This was a return to the charts for a song that reached #35 in 1976. After the success of that year's LP Dreamboat Annie, a dispute between the group and its record company (Mushroom) caused them to leave for Portrait records in 1977. By 1978, Mushroom Records was trying to get as much money out of Heart as possible so they re-released "Crazy on You" as a single in advance of the LP Magazine that was at the heart -- pun intended -- of the dispute with the company. It didn't do as well the second time around, missing the Top 40 but it didn't stop the song from remaining one of the group's best-known tunes.

Beginning as an acoustic guitar solo, a blistering guitar riff takes the song to Ann Wilson's lyrics. Beginning with little more than a whisper, she builds to a crescendo where her delivery of the chorus near the end of the song is nearly maddening. All the while, the music fuels the fire. It was an interesting song in its day, as female singers generally weren't as hard-edged. There were exceptions to the rule (like Fancy or Patti Smith), but by early 1978 Janis Joplin was dead, The Runaways couldn't get a break and punk bands hadn't yet gained a toehold on American radio. The 1980s would see more female acts that weren't afraid to crank up the volume (Pat Benatar, The Go-Go's, ex-Runaway Joan Jett, among others) so Heart was a trailblazer in that respect.

War - "Galaxy" War - The Very Best of War - Galaxy (Edit Version)

(Debuted #79, Peaked #39, 9 weeks on chart)

War was a very underrated 1970s band. Despite their influence on later artists from several different genres, the band gets little recognition beyond their fan base. To make it worse, there are some music fans out there who assume they were little more than Eric Burdon's backup group on "Spill the Wine." However, the L.A.-based group was a blend of many different sounds -- rock, jazz fusion, funk, reggae, Latin and R&B -- that gelled when they added two white Europeans (Burdon and Danish harmonica player Lee Oskar). Burdon left after two LPs but the band was more than up to the task of continuing without him.

"Galaxy" was War's final Top 40 hit of the 1970s. With a spacey sound, there are some added sound effects that sound like they came from the Cylons in the old Battlestar Galactica TV show (which hadn't yet debuted when the LP was recorded). Although given a somewhat danceable beat for disco play, dance music wasn't really War's forte. Their laid-back California beat and socially-aware lyrics weren't a good fit with the superficial disco scene and their music soon fell out of favor on Top 40 radio. Even though the records stopped coming out, the group has soldiered on through the years and still tours regularly (even though only one original member is left in the lineup).

Eric Clapton - "Lay Down Sally" Eric Clapton - Slowhand (Remastered) - Lay Down Sally

(Debuted #75, Peaked #3, 21 weeks on chart)

Many fans know that "Lay Down Sally" was a big pop hit for Eric Clapton. But few know it was a Top 40 country song, peaking at #26 on that chart as well. The song is performed with a shuffle and is much more of a country-style song than may of Clapton's fans may realize. Clapton wrote the song with two members of his backing band: guitarist and Southern native George Terry, and singer Marcy Levy (later known as Marcella Detroit), whose voice is clearly heard behind Clapton's. Rather than being a country fan, Clapton has acknowledged the influence in writing "Lay Down Sally" to J.J. Cale, an Oklahoma native who contributed another Clapton staple (and "Lay Down Sally" B-side), "Cocaine" as well as his 1970 hit "After Midnight."

The lyrics are straightforward ("stay with me tonight, lay here and talk") but the music is what propels the song. The shuffle beat sounds like a locomotive chugging down the tracks, Clapton's guitar solo is understated but terrific and the band is in fine form. While it's little surprise that "Lay Down Sally" wasn't a bigger country hit, it's worth noting that in 1978 there were many country artists -- Kenny Rogers, Anne Murray, Dolly Parton -- having crossover success and artists like Linda Ronstadt who courted both audiences, there were also pop and rock artists (Clapton, The Carpenters and Neil Diamond, among others) earning modest success on the country charts as well.

George Duke - "Reach For It" George Duke - Reach for It - Reach for It

(Debuted #87, Peaked #54, 6 weeks on chart)

This song was the only Hot 100 single George Duke would get, but that doesn't begin to show his wide-reaching influences. Duke had been a collaborator with Jean-Luc Ponty, Frank Zappa and Billy Cobham. From his beginnings as a jazz keyboardist, Duke explored R&B, funk and Latin rhythms as he began recording his 1977 Reach For it LP. Although the LP was more an R&B groove than jazz fusion, it wasn't exactly a "sell-out" like critics were tagging George Benson with at the time. The song "Reach for it" sounds a lot like something from Parliament from its instrumental interplay and female vocalization or The Gap Band (and their song "Oops" in particular) in its male lead vocal.

Prism - "Take Me To The Kaptin" Prism - Best of Prism - Take Me to the Kaptin

(Debuted #90, Peaked #59, 7 weeks on chart)

Here's a song that is nearly four minutes of pure power pop. It has many of the requisite ingredients: the guitar attack, the tight production, the disposable lyrics, even a cowbell. While not memorable, it isn't a bad song and sounds similar to some harder-edged but still inoffensive corporate rock hits from the early 1980s. Perhaps the similarity has a little to do with the fact that the song's producer was the same person who crafted many of those 80s arena rock anthems.

The five-member Vancouver-based Prism was the first group produced by Bruce Fairbairn, who would go on to become tremendously sought-after by bands in the 1980s and '90s for his hard-edged style. Fairbairn produced multiplatinum LPs (and later CD releases) for Loverboy, Bon Jovi, AC/DC and Aerosmith.While critics often considered Fairbairn's production to be antiseptic and sterile, artists usually paid attention to the fact that they often had their best-selling LPs under his direction.

David Castle - "The Loneliest Man On The Moon"

(Debuted #89, Peaked #89, 2 weeks on chart)

This was one of the shortest-lived chart hits for all of 1978: it debuted at #89, held the same position a week later and then disappeared. The song's quick death on the charts also marked the end of Castle's short career as a prospective hitmaker. While songs that took place in space like David Bowie's "Space Oddity" and Elton John's "Rocket Man" were big in the early 1970s, the fact that the Apollo program was still going on at the time may have helped them. Unfortunately, by 1978 astronauts weren't going to the moon anymore and the public wasn't buying a lot of records that took place beyond the stratosphere. Of course, any mention of the moon in the song is purely metaphorical; the lyrics mention waiting for a lover to return and a feeling of loneliness.

David Castle was a staff writer for United Artists during the mid-1970s and released his debut LP Castle in the Sky in 1977. Although he hailed from Texas, he recorded his album at the famed Abbey Road studios in London and had some help in the background from the London Symphony Orchestra (who provide much of the "spacey" music in this song).

Meco - "Theme From Close Encounters" Meco - The Best of Meco - Theme from Close Encounters

(Debuted #61, Peaked #25, 10 weeks on chart)

For the second time in less than a year, Meco did a discofied version of a movie theme composed by John Williams. The first time out, Meco's version of the Star Wars theme (with "Cantina Band" inserted into it) went to #1 while Williams settled for a #10 peak with his original. Fans of Star Wars -- so often easily agitated in regards to "authenticity" -- weren't overly thrilled by the result, but disco was hot enough in 1977 to vault Meco's version into the #1 spot even if it was seen as a novelty. For Close Encounters of the Third Kind however, it was Williams who won the race, peaking at #13 with his film score as Meco stalled at #25.

Meco was the stage name of Domenico Monardo, an Italian-American born in Pennsylvania. While in high school, he jammed along with friends Chuck Mangione and jazz musician Ron Carter. After being in a service band during his Army hitch, he became a studio musician and arranger. Among his contributions: the horn section on Tommy James & the Shondells' "Crystal Blue Persuasion" and Neil Diamond's series of Coca-Cola commercials. As a producer, he handled Gloria Gaynor's "Never Can Say Goodbye" and Carol Douglas's "Doctors Orders." After going platinum with his first LP Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk, he decided to see if lightning struck twice with Encounters of Every Kind. It didn't sell as many copies, but Meco continued with movie-themed singles, including selections from The Wizard of Oz, Superman, The Black Hole, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

This Week's Review -- January 1, 1972

Seven new songs debuted on the first Billboard Hot 100 of 1972. While that's a low number of first-timers, the songs had hit power. Six would go on to make the Top 40 and four would be Top 10 hits. The Billboard magazine from this week can be found at Google Books and the Hot 100 List can be found on page 19.

T. Rex - "Bang a Gong (Get it On)" T. Rex - Electric Warrior (Remastered) - Bang a Gong (Get It On)

(Debuted at #87, Peaked at #10, 15 weeks on chart)

Over the years, many groups from England have been hugely successful in their own country only to have limited success in the U.S. One of those acts was T. Rex, a group led by Marc Bolan that was very influential in the Glam rock scene of the 1970s. Despite their heavy influence on later artists, they only managed four U.S. hits and only "Bang a Gong" managed to reach above #67.

The song was a #1 single in the U.K. and was called "Get it On" there (and everywhere else in the world). However, a minor 1971 hit of the same name by the group Chase caused the record label to alter the title to "Bang a Gong (Get it On)" to avoid any confusion. As a three-minute piece of disposable pop, the song is really good. The lyrics are about a girl, but critics have debated whether there's any meaning behind them, with mentions of teeth of a hydra and eagles on her shirt.  Others say it's merely a song about sex.

A remake by The Power Station (featuring singer Robert Palmer, two members of Duran Duran and Chic drummer Tony Thompson) would reach #9 in 1985, with the reverted title "Get it On (Bang a Gong)."

Apollo 100 - "Joy" Apollo 100 - Boogie Nights #2 (More Music from the Original Motion Picture) - Joy

(Debuted at #100, Peaked at #6, 14 weeks on chart)

In 1969, an LP called Switched-On Bach (by Walter -- now Wendy -- Carlos) brought the compositions of Johann Sebastian Bach to a new audience and showed how electronic devices like the Moog synthesizer could be used to make music. It was a surprise million-seller. After that, other artists (most notably The Who on "Baba O'Reilly") began to experiment with the new instrument and it was only a matter of time before somebody decided to issue a Bach composition as a single. As 1972 dawned, an English studio group called Apollo 100 released a single called "Joy," a take on "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." Though it didn't use a synthesizer (Apollo 100 used an organ), it was clearly inspired by the Carlos record.

While a classical piece usually doesn't excite fans of rock and pop, "Joy" was a Top 10 hit. It's a song that many might not know by seeing the title but often remember upon listening. It has been featured in films like Boogie Nights (in a scene showing a pan of Eddie/Dirk Diggler's bedroom with all its period pieces) and The 40-Year Old Virgin. The group's success was short-lived, though; a followup single with music from Mendelssohn's 4th barely dented the Hot 100. Future releases missed the chart altogether and the group folded in 1973.

Climax - "Precious And Few"  Climax - Big Hits of the 70s Volume 4 - Precious & Few (Original Single Version)

(Debuted at #81, Peaked at #3, 19 weeks on chart)

Here's a tune that people love or hate, depending on their musical tastes. To some listeners, this is one of the 1970s' romantic favorites. For other, this is the reason people stopped listening to AM radio stations. Regardless whether you think it makes a great wedding song or belongs on selection B15 in the Jukebox from Hell, it was a big hit and still finds its way onto romantic hit compilations like the ones you see getting shilled on late-night TV by some past-his-prime singer from 30 years ago.

Climax was formed out of the ashes of The Outsiders (who hit in 1965 with "Time Won't Let Me") after that group split up around 1970. Former Outsiders Sonny Geraci and Tom King both formed new bands and began using the name The Outsiders, and when King sued as the owner of the group's name, Geraci changed the name of his band to Climax. The newly renamed band released its first LP late in 1971 and "Precious and Few" was the first single. The slow, romantic love song was a #3 smash and its followup "Life & Breath" was a minor hit. Despite the encouraging success of their first LP, Climax recorded but never released a second and broke up shortly afterwards.

Listening to "Precious and Few" it's hard to imagine that the smooth voice belonged to the same person who did "Time Won't Let Me." The songs are from different perspectives as well. The earlier one was a plea for the lady to give in to his desire and with the later's safe to say she finally let it happen. From the lyrics, this guy is thinking of her as he's away from home, or else he's drinking ("If I can't find my way back home..."). But in either case, the guy is now p-whipped.

The Faces - "Stay With Me"  Faces - A Nod Is As Good As a Wink to a Blind Horse - Stay With Me

(Debuted at #56, Peaked at #17, 10 weeks on chart)

After reviewing a song like "Precious and Few," "Stay With Me" is an interesting contrast.The lyrics couldn't be more direct: "let's have a one night stand, but you need to be out the door before I'm awake." Further lines like "it won't take much persuading...but with a face like that you've got nothing to laugh about" point out that this is definitely not a love song. Beginning with electric piano before Ron Wood begins playing his guitar and Rod Stewart opens up with his distinctive vocal, the song is straight-ahead rock & roll and is among the group's best performances.

While The Faces were recording their LP A Nod is as Good as a Wink...To a Blind Horse, Rod Stewart hit huge with his solo LP Every Picture Tells a Story and the #1 hit "Maggie May." The resulting success was good for the band because it brought some exposure but it also helped fracture the lineup once Stewart's solo career demanded his time. They would record one more LP before breaking up. Rod Stewart would become a superstar, two other members joined iconic groups (Ronnie Wood to the Rolling Stones and Kenney Jones to The Who), keyboardist Ian McLagan became a heavily-sought after session man and bassist Ronnie Wood formed his own band. Their time was relatively short, but The Faces would contribute to the face of music for years to come.

Robert John - "The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh)" Robert John - Hit Singles, 1958-1977 - The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Single Version)

(Debuted at #89, Peaked at #3, 17 weeks on chart)

This is, of course, a remake of the #1 song done by The Tokens in 1961. While that version is probably the best known, it's not the original. First written and recorded in 1939 by a South African Zulu named Solomon Linda as "Mbube" (the Zulu word for "Lion"), the song was a hit during the 1940s in its native country. In 1951, folk legends The Weavers did a version of the song and called it "Wimoweh" because they misheard the background vocals (uyimbube - "You're a lion"). For the #1 record in 1961, new lyrics were written for The Tokens by three American writers. As a result of the various additions to the original song and a lawsuit filed by Linda's heirs, it is often listed as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh) (Mbube)." For a more complete version of the events, read this article from Bob Shannon's "Behind the Hits" website.

Robert John was a Brooklyn-born singer who had been recording since he was 12 (in 1958) but had only gathered a handful of hits. With "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" he finally earned his first Top 40 single and also his first gold record. The song was done in a slightly different style from The Token's version; while there is still a doo-wop chorus, John's version adds a slide guitar in the background and the sax solo with a female soprano voice behind it has been replaced by -- of all things -- a tuba solo with a slide guitar.

The 5th Dimension - "Together Let's Find Love"  The 5th Dimension - Up, Up and Away - Together Let's Find Love

(Debuted at #90, Peaked at #37, 10 weeks on chart)

"Together Let's Find Love" was a single from The 5th Dimension's LP Live!! and even though it just made the Top 40 as a concert recording it was considered a poor chart position for a group that usually scored Top 20 with their singles. The single fared a little better on Billboard's R&B (#22) and Easy Listening/Adult Contemporary (#8) charts. Despite the vocal harmonies that marked the group's big 1960s hits, their 1970s songs tended to be more of a spotlight for its vocalists to sing solo and this song is no exception. Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. do what is essentially a duet before the crowd while the other three members are relegated to background support and that isn't evident in some parts unless you really listen. Even though they're in fine form vocally on the song, it's easy to see why this is often forgotten in favor of hits "One Less Bell to Answer" or "(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All."

Van Morrison - "Tupelo Honey"  Van Morrison - The Best of Van Morrison, Vol. 3 - Tupelo Honey

(Debuted at #99, Peaked at #47, 8 weeks on chart)

Van Morrison is one of those performers who is a favorite of music fans, critics and other musicians. Judging by his reputation, it would be assumed that his list of hit singles would be longer -- or at least have higher peak positions -- than it is. Neither this or any of Van the Man's subsequent 1970s singles would reach the Top 40 even though his albums were consistent sellers. Perhaps his fans were content to simply buy the long-players and shun the singles, especially when they were often edited down for radio play.

"Tupelo Honey" was the title track from Morrison's 1971 LP. The album cover showed his wife on a horse and this song was likely written about her. The hymn-like delivery of the song sets a mellow tone. As Morrison seems to be channeling both Bob Dylan and Otis Redding, his band backs him up superbly.