Saturday, July 30, 2011

This Week's Review -- July 29, 1972

Eight songs made their initial appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 this week, with five getting into the Top 40, and one reaching the Top 10. One song was about a failed high-profile gig, while another addressed staying in the spotlight long after the time has come to leave. One song was dedicated to the late Janis Joplin, and another told the story of the dying railroad. Brother harmonies are spotlighted on one song, while progressive art rock fusion colors another. A power pop tune surfaces for a short time, while a group that scored a #1 single just a year before was taking their final bow on the chart without realizing it.

Among the archive of past Billboard issues, the July 29, 1972 edition is available to check out. The full Hot 100 can be found on Page 52. An article beginning on the front page has Don Kirshner explaining that a recent upswing in "oldies" re-recorded by artists was a direct response to the rise of singer/songwriters at the time. Interestingly, the list of debut songs is quite heavy on performers who use their own material.


Bread - "The Guitar Man" Guitar Man - Guitar Man

(Debuted #62, Peaked #11, 10 Weeks on chart)

There's an underlying message in "The Guitar Man" that belies its melody. Like the great quote in Jim Bouton's book Ball Four about realizing that after all the years of gripping a baseball only to realize that it's been the other way around all along, there's something that draws musicians to keep walking out on the stage and putting on a show, even after the crowds no longer show up to hear it.

"The Guitar Man" is still in the David Gates pop-influenced mold, though. It mixes the band's soft rock sound with a great guitar line. Larry Knechtel played the distinctive "wah-wah" on the track. Aside from the #11 pop peak, it also became Bread's third #1 adult contemporary song.

Uriah Heep - "Easy Livin'" Easy Livin' - Demons and Wizards

(Debuted #82, Peaked #39, 12 Weeks on chart)

Over the years, I've come across several people who told me they were fans of Uriah Heep. I'm not a big fan of the group's mixture of British progressive rock and art rock, but enough have named them as a favorite band during their childhoods that I've taken notice.

"Easy Livin'" was the only really big hit Uriah Heep on the charts -- if you call a #39 peak a big hit -- and probably the only one most can name if pressed. The song made its way into my own music collection when I was a teenager as part of a CD compilation I bought of heavy rock classics. I used to skip it whenever it played, so it never really had the chance to lodge itself into my subconscious since the first few notes were usually followed by a short silence before the next song played. That gave me a unique chance to listen to it with a cleansed mental palate that I don't often get while doing this project.  I'm not a convert to teh group's cause, but it's an alright song with its organ/guitar attack that probably deserved to make the Top 40.

Uriah Heep is still together and performing today. They never broke up in the intervening years, either...which may have helped them keep many of the fans they picked up all those years ago.

The Bee Gees - "Run To Me" Run to Me - Best of Bee Gees, Vol. 2

(Debuted #83, Peaked #16, 12 Weeks on chart)

I have a buddy who reads these entries each week named Bruce who is also a knowledgeable music collector as well as a person who delves deeper into the music than most casual listeners do. I've mentioned him here before, and still appreciate his efforts in helping keep me straight when I get my facts wrong here. One of the things he's mentioned over the years is the way that certain harmonies are intrinsic to family acts. For whatever reason, there is something in the way that relatives harmonize that is incredibly difficult to capture anywhere else. I'm pretty sure he wasn't talking about the Brothers Gibb (his tastes run more toward the material of The Mills Brothers), but their harmonies are very well-regarded.

Barry and Robin Gibb both handle the lead vocals here, with Maurice adding a backing vocal in the chorus. However, that chorus showcases the harmonies that made the group famous. The three voices come together so well, it's often hard to determine which is which. It's a great example of the brothers' work between the 60s hits and the wildly successful R&B/disco-influenced material that marked the last half of the 1970s.

It was also their first Top 10 in U.K. in three years.

Arlo Guthrie - "The City Of New Orleans" The City of New Orleans - Hobo's Lullaby (Remastered)

(Debuted #86, Peaked #18, 16 Weeks on chart)

"The City of New Orleans" has had a much more lasting effect than one might expect from a song that spent a relatively long time on the charts for its era yet only managed to reach #18. However, the song has stuck around thanks to radio airplay, as well as a #1 country remake by Willie Nelson in 1984.

Written by Steve Goodman, the titular "City of New Orleans" was a passenger train that ran along the Mississippi River. Pulling out of Kankakee, Illinois, it wound its way South, and the lyrics spin a narrative story of passengers spending their time, workers doing their jobs and the scenes around the locomotive as it makes it way farther down the track. All the while, Arlo Guthrie delivers the lines as if he's reading a newspaper article, without embellishing the parts that may otherwise indicate the road ahead might become bumpy for the railroad company.

In short, it deserves its status as a modern-day folk piece.

Joan Baez - "In The Quiet Morning" In the Quiet Morning (For Janis Joplin) - Joan Baez: The Complete A&M Recordings

(Debuted #90, Peaked #69, 8 Weeks on chart)

Those who click on the YouTube video above may be a little confused. The video (and song) is credited to Joan Baez, yet shows several images of Janis Joplin. "In the Quiet Morning" was written by Baez's sister Mimi Farina about Janis Joplin, so her presence is no accident. The lyrics don't address Joplin by name, instead using metaphors.

For Joan Baez, the song was part of a change in career direction. After more than a decade at the small Vanguard label, she left for A&M, a sign that she might get more commercially-focused material. "In the Quiet Morning" was the first single under that arrangement. It only reached #69, one of only three singles she charted with the company.

Todd Rundgren - "Couldn't I Just Tell You" Couldn't I Just Tell You - Something/Anything?

(Debuted #96, Peaked #93, 2 Weeks on chart)

The Something/Anything? LP is considered to be one of the creative highlights of Todd Rundgren's career,  and "Couldn't I Just Tell You" was a part of that project. Despite getting only two weeks on the chart and a quick and merciful death as a single, it is considered to be a very influential track on the direction of power pop in the future.

Guided by his own inner voice, Rundgren played all instruments on the track.

Rick Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band - "Garden Party" Garden Party - Garden Party

(Debuted #99, Peaked #6, 19 Weeks on chart)

Some of the best songs are concieved out of failure. In the case of "Garden Party," the impetus was a crowd booing him off the stage at a Rock & Roll revival show when he began veering away from his teen-idol hits and beginning to share some more recent (and different, at least more unfamiliar) material.

There are several sites out there that break the song down and explain who the "players" are in the lyrics, so I won't bother rehashing that. However, the song has always had a different meaning to me as a message to his fans that it may be time to let the memory of that boy who starred on his parents' iconic TV show go. While the voice in the song is similar to what fans may have remembered from songs like "Poor Little Fool," "Stood Up" and "Traveling Man," the video above shows a more mature Rick -- not Ricky -- Nelson. He's a father himself, with longer hair and playing in a style that wasn't part of his earlier persona. In effect, Nelson was comfortable with the idea that he had matured and was asking that his fans allow him to do so.

By giving his account of a gig that he walked out on, the lines say more about the fans in the audience than it does the artist. That's a mark of a great introspective songwriter.

The Honey Cone - "Sittin' On A Time Bomb (Waitin' For the Hurt To Come)" Sitting On a Time Bomb (Waiting for the Hurt to Come) - Honey Cone: Greatest Hits

(Debuted #100, Peaked #96, 4 Weeks on chart)

The final pop hit for The Honey Cone marked the crashing of a peak that seemed to end as abruptly as it began. However, the end wasn't a factor of internal dissent or falling out of favor with the public; rather the group's success was a victim of its label. Hot Wax/Invictus was struggling financially, and wasn't able to promote their singles as aggressively anymore.

In that sense, the title was entirely appropriate. A good slab of 1970s soul, the song really deserved to get a better chance than it received. The group eventually split up in 1973, and its three members went on to other projects. Lead singer Carolyn Willis appeared again as the prominent backing vocalist on Seals & Crofts' 1976 hit "Get Closer."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

This Week's Review -- July 21, 1979

Nine new songs debuted in the Billboard Hot 100 this week. Five of those made the Top 40, with one getting into the Top 10 as well. A quick glance at the list of songs shows a much stronger rock sound than what had been largely hitting the charts up to that point in 1979. As for the non-rock acts, two of the three seem to adhere more toward R&B sounds than they may have just a few months earlier.Perhaps it was a sign that the musical acts were tired of disco and ready to explore new sounds as a new decade quickly approached. With that, there are several acts here that have names that will be familiar to 80s music fans: last names like DeBarge, Ingram and Bolton. Robert Palmer and Stephanie Mills get some nice early hits this week, while Journey and the Little River Band explore sounds that will get them additional hits in the future. Not to be outdone, Teddy Pendergrass even provides a solid reminder of what R&B legends like Barry White, Marvin Gaye and Al Green were doing before the full-frontal disco assault.

In fact, the subject of disco is addressed in the July 21, 1979 edition of Billboard magazine. The full Hot 100 can be found on Page 80. This was just a week and a half after the infamous "Disco Demolition Night" that occurred in Chicago between two games of a baseball doubleheader. It's mentioned on Page 72, and a couple of other disco-related articles portend of rough waters ahead. An article on Page 52 explains that L.A.'s top disco station (KACE) was looking to add some variety to its playlist, while another on Page 47 has Studio 54 owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager answering to charges of skimming off the top of their club's balance sheet. Three deaths are reported, including two tat were early exits due to cancer: longtime Boston Pops maestro Aurthur Fiedler on Page3, "The Hustle" writer/performer/producer Van McCoy on Page 6 and "Lovin' You" songbird (and future SNL star Maya Rudolph's mother) Minnie Riperton on page 72.

Where Rock Art lives

The Little River Band - "Lonesome Loser" Lonesome Loser - Little River Band: Greatest Hits

(Debuted #63, Peaked #6, 18 Weeks on chart)

The Little River Band can be considered to be something of an Australian "supergroup," as it was formed from the remnants of two bands Down Under that had tried to make their career in the U.K. but failed. Instead, they decided to target the U.S. for their international market and ended up doing quite well as a result.

"Lonesome Loser" was one of their biggest and most familiar hits. It would be the third of their six Top 10 American hits and buoyed In Under the Wire, the band's most successful LP here. Personally, I feel the song has probably been overplayed while others from the band have gotten overlooked.

Robert Palmer - "Bad Case Of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)" Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor) - Secrets

(Debuted #74, Peaked #14, 15 Weeks on chart)

"Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)" is probably the best-known Robert Palmer song from the era  before he joined the group Power Station. It contains a driving beat and a very distinctive guitar riff, as well as an easy lyric to sing along with.

The song was written by Moon Martin, who would have some minor hits of his own in 1980. Sadly, his career (and for a while it seemed Palmer's was, too) fell off rather quickly.

Sniff 'n' the Tears - "Driver's Seat" Driver's Seat - Fickle Heart

(Debuted #82, Peaked #15, 14 Weeks on chart)

Sniff 'n' the Tears is generally seen as a One-Hit Wonder due to the fact that few can name any other hits they had. While sometimes, those bands manage to get another single or two into the lower reaches of the charts, Sniff 'n' the Tears never even manged that in the U.S. Ironically, their song -- a hit in several countries around the world -- received little notice in their native U.K. due to issues at EMI's pressing plant there.

The group was led by Paul Roberts, who also wrote and sang the lead vocals. "Driver's Seat" is used as a metaphor for being in control, and that is usually the meaning it takes when it is included in movies. For example, the song plays during a scene in Boogie Nights set in 1979. As the song plays, the new stars of the next era are being introduced to Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds' character) while his own stars are busy living and getting messed up on their own lifestyle.

Sniff 'n' the Tears fractured shortly after the song dropped off the chart. A new lineup reformed later, but Roberts has been the only constant presence in the band.

Teddy Pendergrass - "Turn Off The Lights" Turn Off the Lights - Teddy

(Debuted #83, Peaked #48, 6 Weeks on chart)

Teddy Pendergrass certainly wasn't interested in doing any dancing with this song. Not vertically, at least...

In an era where many acts were using dancing as a form of foreplay, Pendergrass cuts right through the subject. "Turn Out the Lights" is a pure seduction. There is no way to mistake what he's singing about, as he uses his velvet voice to spell it out. If his words weren't delivered with all the subtlety of a hammer blow to the head, the lush orchestral music behind him is there to fill in the blanks. It missed the pop Top 40, but went to #2 on the R&B chart.

Blackjack - "Love Me Tonight" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #85, Peaked #62, 6 Weeks on chart)

If you've played the YouTube above, you may have picked up on the somewhat familiar voice of Blackjack's lead singer. And if you didn't recognize the voice or the face, you may not have been paying a lot of attention to music during the late 1980s or early 1990s.

"Love Me Tonight" was the only hit for Blackjack, but its four members went on to bigger and better things. The guitarist was Bruce Kulick, who later spent a decade with the group KISS. The bassist (and the guy who sang the extra "tonight" in the chorus of "Love Me Tonight") was Jimmy Haslip, who has been an in-demand studio musician due to his expressionistic playing. The drummer was Sandy Gennaro, who has also been a steady musician over the years. Then, there's the lead singer, whose name was Mike Bolotin.

After Blackjack split in 1980, Bolotin became a songwriter and a solo artist. He also changed his last name to Bolton. Yes, that's right...the same Michael Bolton that was the adult contemporary crooner and the subject of a very funny part of the movie Office Space is the same guy who once led a hard-edged rock group and even toured in support of Ozzy Osbourne.

And I hate to admit it, but as much as I really didn't care for a lot of Bolton's later material, I find "Love Me Tonight" to be a rather catchy tune. From the opening guitar jangle to the steady rhythm and even the seemingly goofy echo of the word "tonight" in the chorus, it's like candy for the ears. That's not to say it's an essential track; rather, it's like candy because it's good in a moderate dose and you know you'll feel guilty about it later, but you'll still do it.

Journey - "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin' - Evolution

(Debuted #86, Peaked #16, 20 Weeks on chart)

Journey had come a long way, both in style and in substance, since they began with some former members of Santana who decided to take their own musical direction. After switching up some members including lead singers, they finally began to formulate a sound that would take them into the next decade.

"Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" was the group's first Top 40 hit and perhaps the first time many outside the FM album-oriented rock stations or the band's fan base would hear from them. The delivery wasn't exactly the standard verse/chorus arrangement, and the "Na, na, na, na, na" refrain was likely seen as either memorable, or a bit much. Either way, it's safe to say that the group definitely made an impression.

Oak - "This Is Love" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #87, Peaked #58, 7 Weeks on chart)

Oak was a band from Maine led by Rick Pinette, who wrote and sang "This is Love." As a debut chart single, it made a little splash for the band, who would reach inside the lower reaches of the Top 40 a year later with "King of the Hill." By that time, however, the group was billed as Rick Pinette & Oak. Putting a leader in front of a band that wasn't originally set up that way is usually a recipe for disaster, and the band split up in 1981.

"This is Love" sounds a little like Styx, and elements of power pop are definitely there. It sounds more like a 1980s arena rock lighter-raising song, which indicates that Oak was likely a couple of years ahead of its time.

Stephanie Mills - "What Cha Gonna Do With My Lovin'" What Cha Gonna Do With My Lovin' - The Best of Stephanie Mills

(Debuted #96, Peaked #22, 14 Weeks on chart)

While "What Cha Gonna Do With My Loving" was a debut chart single, Stephanie Mills was only branching out into a new phase of her career. She had been recording since she was a teenager, but by 1979 she was best known for her role playing Dorothy in the Broadway production of The Wiz.

The song might get lumped with other disco tunes due to its 1979 street date, but the production was similar to early 80s R&B without the deep synthesized sound. In its own way, it was a bridge between the two eras: it was rhythmic enough for the new sound but still had a beat that could be danced to.

Switch - "Best Beat In Town"

(Debuted #97, Peaked #69, 8 Weeks on chart)

After a week full of rock tunes and more solid R&B tunes, we finally get to the one unabashed disco song of the group. That should have been expected, as it was still 1979, after all. It wasn't even a close call: the word "Beat" is in the title, the lyrics are about dancing (or, as it is in the chorus, "getting down") and the musical accompaniment has the slap bass, the high-hat beat and the whistles you'd expect in a disco song.

Switch was a Motown-based act that included the older brothers of two acts that would get notice in the 1980s: two elder DeBarge brothers were part of the group, as was the older brother of James Ingram. It was their second pop hit, after the Top 40 "There'll Never Be" from 1978.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

This Week's Review -- July 17, 1971

There were eleven new singles debuting on the Billboard Hot 100 this week, with several making a lasting impression. Seven went on to the Top 40, with four reaching the Top 10 and one going all the way to #1. That chart-topper would be a double-sided hit and the biggest hit of the entire year. Familiar names pop up like Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Who, groups who defined their own sound like Bread and Rare Earth are also represented. At the same time, there are also lesser-known names, like Audience and The Glass Bottle. Bill Withers makes his entrance, as Sonny James makes his exit (from the pop charts, at least).

Among the large archive of past Billboard magazines over at Google Books, the July 17, 1971 edition is available to read online. The full Hot 100 can be found on Page 52. Much of the magazine is a celebration of Johnny Mathis's 15th anniversary in the music business, but there are some reminders that life is precious and far too short for some. Page 3 reports the sad news of Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong's death, while Page 4 explains that Jim Morrison had died in Paris.

Classic Concerts

Creedence Clearwater Revival  - "Sweet Hitch-Hiker" Sweet Hitch-Hiker - Mardi Gras (Remastered)

(Debuted #68, Peaked #6, 9 Weeks on chart)

I've heard stories about how people once were able to simply use their thumbs to get somewhere when they couldn't afford  a bus ticket. That seems like a different time and place, as you'd be hard-pressed to find any mention of a hitchhiker as "sweet" today.

Creedence Clearwater Revival's final Top 10 hit was written and recorded by John Fogerty, as were most of the band's hit singles up to that point. However, Tom Fogerty had just left the band because of a disagreement in the direction of the group, which led John Fogerty to suggest that the other band members Doug Clifford and Stu Cook share in the writing and vocal duties. The LP that resulted was Mardi Gras, which included "Sweet Hitch-Hiker" despite not getting released until 1972. The result was uneven, and CCR was soon broken up.

As for "Sweet Hitch-Hiker," it features many of the things you'd expect from Creedence. It's a high-adrenaline guitar rush that contains a manic vocal by John Fogerty.

Bread - "Mother Freedom" Mother Freedom - Baby I'm a Want You

(Debuted #75, Peaked #37, 9 Weeks on chart)

When I was a kid, I took part in youth group at the age of 13-14. One day, one of the adult leaders (chaperones, actually) discovered I had an ear for songs from the 1960s and 70s. Since she grew up during that time, she would talk with me about some of the material she listened to back then.  One day, she mentioned she had gone to see Bread in concert. I knew the group from the few songs they played on the local "variety" radio station ("Make it With You," "If" and ""Baby, I'm-a Want You") and assumed that was what they sounded like. When she then told me she actually walked out because they were too loud, I thought it was hilarious.

Later on, I discovered that the single releases were always David Gates songs, which leaned largely in favor of soft, poppy arrangements. James Griffin was also a songwriter in the group, and his material was a little less poppy and often much less soft. Unfortunately, his material was relegated to B-sides or remained as album tracks. As a result, many fans of the group's singles (and even future generations of listeners, like me) never really got a good idea of the band's sound from the radio alone.

"Mother Freedom" was yet another Gates-penned song, but it was more of an indicator of how the band could rock out when they had a chance. However, it stalled at #37, which led the record company to revert to the band's softer material for singles. That decision soon began to fracture the group over its musical direction.

The Who - "Won't Get Fooled Again" Won't Get Fooled Again - Who's Next (Remastered)

(Debuted #76, Peaked #15, 13 Weeks on chart)

"Meet the new boss...Same as the old boss..."

Revolution was a topic bandied about quite frequently in the late 1960s and early 70s. With anti-war protests and the realization that a new generation was getting ready to take the steering wheel, some people were quite scared for future prospects. In the midst of that, The Who came up with this gem that seemed to be a reminder that things tend to go around in cycles.

One thing that was pretty new was the heavy reliance on the synthesizer in the song. In both an extended intro and a long solo midway through the song (on the LP version, that is), they lead to one might be one of the great screams in rock & roll as Roger Daltrey returns to sing the final verse. The single version cut the 8 and a half minutes down to a more radio-friendly three and a half minutes, but the song is better known in its extended format.

Rare Earth - "I Just Want To Celebrate" I Just Want to Celebrate - 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Rare Earth

(Debuted #79, Peaked #7, 13 Weeks on chart)

While there were other white acts signed to Motown before them, Rare Earth was the first to get a significant string of hits. They even managed to have their imprint named after them. Despite the fact that the songs sounded a lot alike, it was a sound that was working.

"I Just Want to Celebrate" was a song with a somewhat positive message. After the events of the previous 5-6 years, there were a lot of people who were happy to say they were still able to enjoy life. When the song went to #7, it was their third Top 10 pop hit and it seemed they would keep them coming. However, they never manged to get higher than #19 with any further singles. By 1976, they were no longer on Rare Earth records.

Buddy Miles (and the Freedom Express) - "Them Changes" Them Changes - Them Changes

(Debuted #86, Peaked #84, 2 Weeks on chart)

"Them Changes" charted four separate times during the 1970s, and this was the third go-round on the Billboard Hot 100. This time, it fell short of its previous #81 peak from 1970, though its next run later in '71 would take it to #62.

Buddy Miles was still in his early twenties, but he had certainly been busy. Before going solo, he was a member of the Electric Flag and then part of Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsies. While playing in that band, he wrote "Them Changes" but it never manged to get in onto a record before Hendrix's manager fired him.

"Them Changes" is generally considered to be Buddy Miles' signature song, or at least the one most associated with him. Featuring an arrangement that is both a relic of the days of psychedelia and of Stax
era soul, it is a shame that more people didn't get to hear it. The song definitely had enough chances for it to happen.

Audience - "Indian Summer" Indian Summer - The House On the Hill

(Debuted #87, Peaked #74, 5 Weeks on chart)

When I was a kid growing up in Upstate New York, "Indian Summer" was the name given to what was often the last great week or two of temperate conditions around the early autumn when we got to go outside without wearing our jackets (at least, during the afternoons...mornings were still frosty). In any case, we enjoyed it, because anybody who's had to deal with winter in northern New York knows it was going to be several months before it ever got that good again. While I always associated that time with the late harvest season, I always assumed that the term came about due to the period when native tribes made their final arrangements before settling down for the winter. However, I've since learned that there are other definitions used for the term in other parts of the country, and not all are complimentary.

This rendition seems to be a memory of times gone by, similar to the images of the leaves changing that pops up in my mind when I hear the term. "Indian Summer" was the only hit on the Hot 100 for Audience, a British art-rock band. The song was produced by Gus Dudgeon, best known for his work with Elton John. Of course, that makes me wish Sir Elton could have given it his musical flourish. Soon after the song disappeared from the charts, the band split up.

Bill Withers - "Ain't No Sunshine" Ain't No Sunshine - Just As I Am

(Debuted #88, Peaked #3, 16 Weeks on chart)

This was Bill Withers' first pop hit, but he wasn't exactly a fresh-faced youngster on the scene. He had served for nine years in the Navy and was moonlighting as a singer while working at an aircraft factory. In fact, when "Ain't No Sunshine" was a hit, he wasn't ready to give up his day job until he was sure his music career would last.

The lyrics express disappointment about being left alone, but the part most people remember is the repeated use of the words "I know" (I counted 26 times) in the third verse. Originally, Withers planed in filling in that part with more words, but his backup musicians convinced him to leave it the way it was. It was probably good advice, as I can't imagine "Ain't No Sunshine" without that part.

Beginning with a sparse arrangement, an orchestra kicks in with the second verse and provides a sufficiently melancholy mood. What's interesting is that the song is only about two minutes long. It somehow doesn't seem that short.

Steppenwolf - "Ride With Me" Ride With Me (Single Version) - Gold: Steppenwolf

(Debuted #90, Peaked #52, 8 Weeks on chart)

Steppenwolf seemed to like the image of the motorcycle in its songs. Their best known song is "Born to be Wild," and their music is identified with the film Easy Rider. With that, "Ride With Me" was probably a title that just jumped out when it was offered to the group. The song was written by singer Mars Bonfire, who had also written "Born to Be Wild."

The song was a cut on the band's then-forthcoming LP For Ladies Only, which would be the final recording by the band's "classic" lineup before the members began to leave. They have reunited several times since, but lead singer John Kay has been the only consistent member of the group over the past 40 years.

The Glass Bottle - "I Ain't Got Time Anymore" I Ain't Got Time Anymore (The Glass Bottle 1971 Side A Produced By Dickie Goodman) - The Many Heads of Dickie Goodman

(Debuted #94, Peaked #36, 13 Weeks on chart)

The Glass Bottle was a  band led by Gary Criss, but had been put together by Dickie Goodman, a man whose biggest success had come in comic "break-in" records. However, the group's biggest hit wasn't funny at all; in fact, it was a lamentation of heartbreak with a bitter outlook.

The group followed up its Top 40 hit with another single by the end of 1971. Unfortunately, no further hits followed and Criss was soon free to pursue a solo career as a disco singer later in the decade.

Rod Stewart - "Maggie May" Maggie May - Every Picture Tells a Story b/w "Reason to Believe" (Find A) Reason to Believe - Every Picture Tells a Story

(Debuted #98, Peaked #1, 21 Weeks on chart)

Here's the YouTube video for the other side of the record (I'm not calling it the "B-side," and you can read why below):

For those who think the "cougar" phenomenon is a recent fad, here's an example from 40 years ago that it's not. It wasn't a new thing then, either, if you consider the film Summer of '42 that same year. Not only did Jennifer O'Neil's character stay lodged in the minds of several viewers for years afterward, "Maggie May" would become the biggest single for the year 1971.

The funny thing is that the song wasn't even considered to be a possible hit when it was released. "Reason To Believe" was listed all by itself for its first four weeks before "Maggie May" was even listed as the B-side. The next week, the songs were reversed. It wasn't long until it sprung upon the Top 40 and spent five weeks at #1. Its success was a surprise to everybody, since the subject was somewhat taboo and there wasn't really a melody to it. The name "Maggie May" never appears in the song (Stewart merely refers to her as "Maggie").

"Reason To Believe" was written by Tim Hardin and originally recorded by him in 1965. A song about looking beyond the obvious faults in a lover and seeing the beauty even when it isn't there at all, it has been recorded by scores of artists from a wide range of genres over the years, including The Carpenters, Bobby Darin, Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Cash.

Sonny James, the Southern Gentleman - "Bright Lights, Big City" Bright Lights, Big City - Capitol Collectors Series: Sonny James

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

This song refers to the time-tested topic of country folks in the big city and having to adjust to the change. And in 1971, country songs about life in the city weren't usually happy songs. Since James took it to the top of the country charts, it definitely fit the template.

Actually, "Bright Lights, Big City" predated James's version. It was originally written by bluesman Jimmy Reed in 1961, who took it to #3 on the R&B charts that year. It was also recorded by The Animals in 1965. While James was in the midst of a long career on the country side and enjoyed additional hits for years to come, the song would be his final run on the Hot 100.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

This Week's Review -- July 9, 1977

This week's review is the 100th list of Billboard Hot 100 debuts to be covered on the 70s Music Mayhem blog. In an interesting bit of synergy that took a few months to plan and execute, the years are evenly distributed. Each of the years from 1970 through '79 has exactly ten weeks that have been reviewed (if you want to see which ones and which songs are involved, click on the dates that appear underneath the 8-track banner at teh top of this blog). Hopefully, I can keep the balance as I continue writing this blog.

Eleven new singles made their debut in Billboard this week, with six of them reaching the Top 40 and three getting inside the Top 10. The list includes familiar material by Fleetwood Mac and Bob Seger, as well as some occasionally-forgotten material by Glen Campbell and Leo Sayer. There is a wildly popular movie theme by John Williams, as well as a surprise hit by The Floaters and a change of pace by War. A surprising point of view by Mac McAnally deserves a fresh listen. Even the three low-charting songs have some merit: Johnny "Guitar" Watson lays down a funky groove, Engelbert Humperdinck tries his hand at country crooning and Hodges, James & Smith attempt to rework a jazz standard.

This week's issue of Billboard is missing from the archive over at Google Books, so I'll once again recommend checking out my other blog, 80s Music Mayhem. That blog travels through the 1980s one year at a time, and last week finished up a look at some songs from 1988. Next week is '89, before returning to 1980 the following week. If you're a fan of 80s music as well, feel free to stop by often. I certainly won't mind the company.

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Fleetwood Mac - "Don't Stop" Don't Stop - Rumours

(Debuted #72, Peaked #3, 17 Weeks on chart)

While many critics and music scribes like to point out that the Rumours LP was recorded during a period of high stress for most of the group's members (and that the collection of songs was a reflection of that), "Don't Stop" has a very positive vide. In fact, the lyrics are saying that what's in the past can't be changed, so it's better to just keep moving forward regardless. As if to punctuate the optimism behind the words, the music has a bounce to it as well. Though sung by Lindsay Buckingham, it was actually written by Christine McVie.

Often mistakenly attributed as "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow," the song would get a second life in 1992 as a campaign theme song for Bill Clinton as he ran for U.S. President. His subsequent election reunited that lineup of the band, as they performed for his Inauguration. Despite the fact that the song would have been remembered anyway as part of one of the biggest albums of all time and a part of Fleetwood Mac's legacy, it has also been irrecovably linked with Clinton as well.

Leo Sayer - "How Much Love" How Much Love (Remastered) - Endless Flight

(Debuted #77, Peaked #17, 15 Weeks on chart)

When you just scored two straight #1 singles, so you may as well go for the hat trick. Or so the idea went when Leo Sayer's "How Much Love" was issued as teh thirs single from his Endless Flight LP. However, despite its bubbly lyrics, it's impeccable production and that catchy piano line, it just managed to reach the Top 20. It fared better in Sayer's native U.K., reaching #10 on that side of the Atlantic.

"How Much Love" was co-written by Sayer and Barry Mann and was well-suited for 1977's general "sound," but perhaps the radio audience was getting a little tired of Sayer. It had a definite ebullience that went well as a pop song; in fact, some who remember the song from when it played may be surprised to see it wasn't a Top 10 hit.

The Floaters - "Float On" Float On (Single Version) - Number 1's: '70's Soul

(Debuted #81, Peaked #2, 16 Weeks on chart)

Astrology was something that seems to be a part of the 1970s. In fact, one of the stereotypical things a jump-suited swinger will do after approaching a lady at the bar in the movies is to ask her what her sign is. Personally, I never got into the whole astrology thing (in fact...if I did, I'd have never bothered getting into a relationship with my wife, since our signs aren't compatible at all).

For the Floaters' only pop hit, four of the band's members (for whatever reason, James Mitchell doesn't join in even though he wrote the song) introduce themselves by astrological sign, first name and a short explanation of his ideal companion. With the New Age-type sonic landscape playing behind the words, the song comes off as an early video dating ad. On the LP, the song was eleven minutes long, which made it ideal for a late-night DJ to put on to allow for a smoke break (or another necessary function). The single version was cut down to three minutes and change.

The Floaters were a side project for James Mitchell after The Detroit Emeralds fell apart; in fact, the members all lived in the same Detroit neighborhood. After "Float On" became one of the biggest hits of 1977 -- #1 R&B for six weeks, #1 in the U.K., #2 pop -- the band didn't capitalize. They had one more R&B hit but nothing else, and disappeared after three LPs.

Mac McAnally - "It's A Crazy World" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #83, Peaked #37, 9 Weeks on chart)

During my time working in a country radio station (in 1994), I heard a song by Mac McAnally I thought was great. It was called "Down the Road," and while it wasn't part of our song rotation, it sat there in case one of the jocks felt like putting it on. I worked the overnight shift and had a little leeway about deviating from the rotation, so I'd occasionally put it on. That song made me look McAnally up, and I found that he'd written Ricky Van Shelton's "Crime of Passion" (a song I was familiar with, even if I wasn't exactly wild about it) as well as Alabama's "Old Flame" (which I still adore). Then I found out that he had a minor pop hit in 1977.

Mac McAnally was still 19 years old when "It's a Crazy World" debuted on the Hot 100. Listening to it now, it still has a timeless quality because it doesn't sound like something that came out in 1977 (at least, not as much as other songs on this week's chart). The YouTube video above has images from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which supports my own belief that this song could be applicable today as much as it was when it came out.

An acoustic guitar is the main instrument, with a soft orchestra joining in on during the first chorus. The lyrics are really mature to be coming from somebody so young, with lines about young men taking up arms for somebody else's cause and how there are certain truths that can't be helped. It's a very introverted but psychological view that I'd have never had when I was 19.

By the way...I wasn't the only one who noticed "Down the Road" over the years. In 2008, Kenny Chesney brought McAnally in to do the song as a duet. It quickly became a #1 country hit.

War - "L.A. Sunshine" L.A. Sunshine (Single Version) - The Very Best of War

(Debuted #84, Peaked #45, 10 Weeks on chart)

War was a group known for its diversity, and as the 1970s wore on, they were willing to experiment with the various styles they put on record. For instance, in 1977 they issued the Platinum Jazz LP for Blue Note. It would be their only record with the noted jazz label. The title told most of the story, and many of the compositions were extended instrumentals.

On the album (and on the YouTube video above), "L.A. Sunshine" was an 11-minute plus workout. It was trimmed down to a more radio-friendly length for the single. A celebration of the band's home city, it stopped just short of making the Top 40. Following three straight Top 10 singles, it would be the first chart single to miss the Top 40 in nearly seven years.

Bob Seger - "Rock And Roll Never Forgets" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #85, Peaked #41, 8 Weeks on chart)

After several years of building a rabid following around his hometown of Detroit and around the Midwest, Bob Seger finally broke through to national stardom in 1977 with his Night Moves LP. "Rock and Roll Never Forgets" was the track that opened the album, before giving way to the reminiscence of the title song. It was quite an opening number, opening with a guitar solo and ending with a lively horn section. It remains a favorite of Seger's on AOR and classic rock radio formats.

However, like all of Seger's music, it isn't available on any digital format. Seger remains one of the last major rock stars who hasn't embraced digital music. Whether that affects his marketability to a new audience remains to be seen (though I doubt it will, since his hit material is fairly familiar to anybody who listens to certain radio stations).

Glen Campbell - "Sunflower" Sunflower - Southern Nights

(Debuted #86, Peaked #39, 11 Weeks on chart)

"Sunflower" was written by Neil Diamond and sung by Glen Campbell. In 1977, that meant it should have been a big adult contemporary hit. It managed to live up to the legacy and crossed over to boot, hitting #1 on the AC chart, in addition to #4 on the country chart and making the pop Top 40. It was Campbell's eight -- and last -- #1 adult contemporary single.

While the song carries an ubeat, happy melody, whistling at the fade and innocent lines about falling in love using the sunflower as a metaphor, a cursory reading of the song's lyric sheet without the music could be seen as pretty creepy. In fact, it can be interpreted as the words of a stalker. But then again, lyrics can often be taken way out of context...even if you look past the fact that Campbell himself was about to carry on a relationship with Tanya Tucker, who -- while not a minor -- was more than 20 years his junior.

The London Symphony Orchestra/John Williams - "Star Wars (Main Title)"

(Debuted #89, Peaked #10, 17 Weeks on chart)

I turned five years old in 1977 and can barely remember what life was like before Star Wars. In my case, I still remember the first time I saw a couple of the kids in my neighborhood playing with the action figures. Intrigued that the characters had names (they called them "Chewbacca," "Luke Skywalker" and "Darth Vader"), I found out that there was a movie with them and was really quick convincing my parents to let me watch it. Over the years, I've lost count of how many times I've seen the film and its sequels (as for the "other" trilogy, I watched those one or two times each).

In 1977, Star Wars was a phenomenon. By the end of that summer, it was the biggest movie of all time and its dramatic score became some of the most beloved classical-influenced material to kids this side of the Warner Brothers cartoons. I've often wondered how many people were turned on to classical music thanks to movie composers like John Williams.

Williams was a show business veteran by then, having contributed to films since 1958. Being part of a blockbuster wasn't even new to him, either. When Star Wars broke box office receipt records, it overtook Jaws, another film with a distinctive "sound" that Williams composed. He made his mark in other films such as Valley of the Dolls, Fiddler on the Roof, The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno.

While the cinematography of Star Wars itself was influenced by John Ford, samurai films and World War II dogfight scenes, the music was also composed with nods to past films as well as to the music of Richard Strauss (who composed "Also Sprach Zarathustra," another song that is heavily identified with a movie). To this day, the Star Wars soundtrack is still the biggest selling symphonic soundtrack of all time.

Johnny "Guitar" Watson - "A Real Mother For Ya" A Real Mother For Ya - The Funk Anthology

(Debuted #90, Peaked #41, 12 Weeks on chart)

Though his name doesn't usually show up on a lot of lists, and his hit singles are small in number, Johnny "Guitar" Watson was a deeply influential stage presence. While many fans point to George Clinton and Sly Stone as pioneers of the funk sound, it should be noted that both paid attention to Watson as they developed their acts. His guitar work influenced musicians of other styles as well, such as Frank Zappa and Stevie Ray Vaughan and even non-guitarists like Etta James. His stage character "The Gangster of Love" was an inspiration for Steve Miller, who referenced it in several of his songs including "The Joker."

"A Real Mother For Ya" is a really funky tune. Watson wrote the song and played all of the instuments except for the drums on the record. It gets into its groove pretty quickly and showcases his blues-influenced fingerwork nicely. It's one of those songs that has been done many times but doesn't ever seen to match the original. Such was the talent of Johnny "Guitar" Watson.

Hodges, James & Smith - "Since I Fell For You/I'm Falling In Love" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #97, Peaked #96, 6 Weeks on chart)

Back in March, I mentioned the story behind "Since I Fell for You" in this blog when I wrote about Laura Lee's 1972 version. Given the fact that so many songs at the time had been given the disco treatment, it was only a matter of time before "Since I Fell for You" would find itself in the crosshairs as well. I'll preface my review by pointing out that I really was knocked out by Lee's version when I wrote that review, and this one comes across as a weak attempt in comparison. So, take that as you read the next couple of paragraphs.

Hodges, James & Smith was formed by 1960s Motown A&R man Mickey Stevenson. They were originally a quartet called Hodges, James Smith & Crawford and were formed to be a new version of The Supremes and primed to work the nightclubs and upscale gigs. That didn't work out and the group was eventually reduced to a trio.

"Since I Fell For You"  was written in 1945, but the song that joined it in the medley -- "I'm Falling in Love" -- was written by Stevenson. It was the trio's only Hot 100 single and one of the three R&B hits they would have.

Engelbert Humperdinck - "Goodbye My Friend" (Not Available on iTunes)
(Debuted #98, Peaked #97, 3 Weeks on chart)

What a great title for the last song of this entry.

For his follow-up to his career-reviving hit "After the Lovin'," Engelbert Humperdinck went with a song that was firmly rooted in the "countrypolitan" sound that was bringing country music to a new, supposedly more sophisticated audience. While not a big hit on either the pop or country chart, it actually had a better showing on country (#93 country, #97 pop). While this seems like a misdirected career trajectory, it's worth pointing out that another U.K.-based crooner whose hits had died down, Tom Jones, had recently performed to the country audience and did rather well.

All the hallmarks of a country song circa 1977 are there: steel guitar solo? Check. Lush female backup singers? You bet. Adultery in the lyrics? Perhaps, considering how you understand the "love affair" in the lyrics. In the end, the song is about pouring water on an old flame that's gone out. That's a time-honored topic that's familiar to many audiences.

While not a bad song from an adult contemporary point of view, it may appeal more to country fans whose idea of the sound skews more toward Ray Price (his 1970s persona, not the 1950s version), Kenny Rogers and Barbara Mandrell and less toward Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Gary Stewart or Mel Street.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

This Week's Review -- July 4, 1970

On the surface, it may seem like there are a lot of misfires this week. In all, twelve new singles appeared on the Billboard Hot 100, with only one reaching the Top 40. However, many of the songs that missed the pop Top 40 were bigger hits on other charts. Two were #1 country songs, others were R&B hits, two were nice examples of early funk and one was a Top 10 adult contemporary hit. For those who say that there's sometimes more interesting things to uncover when you get past the hits, this week's entry is a way to test out the theory.

Before getting to the songs, I'll take a moment to once again mention that past issues of Billboard are vaialable to read over at Google Books, including the July 4, 1970 edition. The full Hot 100 list can be found on Page 79. Page 6 has an interesting article. It seems some executives were looking into the idea of using a CATV system to offer pre-recorded music. This was 11 years before MTV began. An article beginning on Page 1 mentions that a Sesame Street LP was coming out at the same time as albums on separate labels by two of the show's cast members, Loretta Long and Bob McGrath. That cast album included the song "Rubber Duckie," which many of us who were kids in the 1970s will remember well (even if not necessarily fondly).

(By the way, there are references that say that this week is the first one used on Casey Kasem's inaugural broadcast of the American Top 40 radio program...but it wasn't. While the first show aired the weekend of July 4, 1970, the chart he used on that first show was actually the survey from the following week.)

Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.

Glen Campbell - "Everything A Man Could Ever Need" Everything a Man Could Ever Need - The Legacy (1961-2002)

(Debuted #80, Peaked #52, 8 Weeks on chart)

I'm not sure why somebody hasn't put a YouTube video out there featuring this song. It's performed in a similar style that Campbell did for many of his hits of that era. In other words, he was in possession of a good formula for hit-making as seemed determined to use it until it ran dry. Or, to put it more succinctly, what you think about this song will depend on what you think about Campbell's music in general. Although this song ended up falling short of the pop Top 40, it managed to reach the Top 10 on Billboard's adult contemporary chart.

"Everything a Man Could Ever Need" was from the movie Norwood, which starred Campbell as a singer who was just getting out of the Marines and ready to try his hand at the music business. He was reunited with his True Grit co-star Kim Darby, and Jet quarterback Joe Namath played his buddy from his days in the Corps. I never saw the movie, but the song seems to be well-suited for the part where the opening credits play before the action gets underway.

The Ides of March - "Superman" Superman - Common Bond

(Debuted #83, Peaked #64, 4 Weeks on chart)

It appears the YouTube video above has no images, just the sound. That's okay, though...for the purpose of this blog, the sound is all that is needed.

When it comes to The Ides of March, most casual fans only know them for their one huge hit, "Vehicle." "Superman" was the followup, and it's not going to make anybody forget the previous hit. At first listen, the group incorporated a lot of the elements of "Vehicle": a vibrant brass section, a strong guitar line, a vocal that was obviously inspired by Blood, Sweat & Tears' David Clayton-Thomas, even the interjection "great Caesar's ghost!" where the earlier hit used "great God in heaven..."

Unfortunately, it's hard to catch lightning in a bottle the second time, especially when BS&T were still racking up the hits and Chicago was just getting warmed up. On its own merit, it's a good song that deserved its status as a regional hit. However, as a followup to "Vehicle" it was probably considered a disappointment. 

Jose Feliciano - "Destiny" Destiny - Light My Fire - The Very Best of José Feliciano b/w "Susie Q" Susie-Q (Digitally Remastered) - Light My Fire - The Very Best of José Feliciano

(Debuted #84, Peaked #83, 2 Weeks on chart)

The B-side of the single is also available via YouTube:

Jose Feliciano is considered to be a ground-breaking artist, but his chart success was short-lived. He had sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" before one of the games of the 1968 World Series, but his radical reworking of the familiar tune caused him to be banned from several radio stations. He never had another Top 40 pop hit after that. His chart action consisted of this two-sided single and his recording of the theme for the TV show Chico & the Man. He also recorded the perennial holiday classic "Feliz Navidad" in 1970.

"Destiny" was a declaration of love. It's a wistful tune whose lyrics explained that he was irrevocably stuck in his relationship, but he wasn't complaining about it. A light brass section punctuates the outro nicely. "Susie Q" was a remake of the song most associated with Creedence Clearwater Revival but originally written and performed by Dale Hawkins in 1957. As expected with an interpreter like Feliciano, he took the song and gave it his own flavor, giving it a different arrangement even changing some of the words.

Kenny Rogers and the First Edition - "Tell it All Brother" Anthology - Kenny Rogers & The First Edition

(Debuted #86, Peaked #17, 11 Weeks on chart)

By the end of the 1970s, Kenny Rogers was one of the biggest stars of country music. At the beginning, he was a member of The First Edition and had tried his hand at several different musical styles. The band's first hit was a psychedelic song, but soon the group was moving around to pop, country and adult contemporary sounds. It was almost as if Rogers was figuring out his surest way to the crossover success he would later have. It took nearly a decade, but he reached it.

"Tell it All Brother" sounds like something you might hear a preacher say at a Christian revival, and the lyrics definitely sound like they could have been delivered at the pulpit. While it was hardly the only song of its time (or, frankly, the best) to try and inspire listeners to be better, it definitely had a philosophical component that wasn't normally heard on Top 40 radio. That alone gives it a little leeway.

The Archies - "Sunshine" Sunshine - Absolutely the Best of the Archies

(Debuted #87, Peaked #57, 7 Weeks on chart)

 A little diversion...I'm too young to have experienced The Archies as a TV act, but the YouTube video above is taken from an episode of the show. Wow, that must have been something for kids to watch if they've been sugared up with Frosted Flakes or Pop Rocks.

The final hit for The Archies featured vocalists Ron Dante and Donna Marie, as well as the studio pros who provided the backing music for the "band." It was done in the same bubblegum style that they were known for. There were five singles released through 1972, but while the "group" was still getting exposure on Saturday mornings, none would make the Hot 100.

Conway Twitty - "Hello Darlin'" Hello Darlin' (Single) - Conway Twitty: The #1 Hits Collection

(Debuted #88, Peaked #60, 8 Weeks on chart)

If something can be said for the show Family Guy, it's the way they introduced Conway Twitty to a new audience. In several episodes, when something goes incredibly wrong, a live clip of Twitty singing one of his songs is introduced as a sort of "distraction." As a result, I have a 12 year-old daughter who recently asked me to play my Conway Twitty compilation CDs in the car one day while we were out taking care of some errands. While that may seem weird -- especially having to explain the sometimes adult subjects in his songs -- there's little doubt about the way Twitty could rope the ladies in with his velvet voice. And my little girl is evidently no exception.

My daughter (born five years after Twitty passed away) absolutely loves "Hello Darlin'." The lyrics about a man who meets his old love and is trying not to let on that he still grieves over the breakup (it was his fault, after all) likely travel over her head, but they make a compelling story. However, she's gone and the narrator still has to accept the cold hard facts of life on his own. However, he's still keeping a fire for her if she ever returns.

Although "Hello Darlin'" never made the pop Top 40, it was a huge #1 country hit and one of Twitty's signature tunes. His delivery of those first two words -- spoken, not sung -- would become a trademark of his and appeared in several songs he recorded in the future.

Charley Pride - "Wonder Could I Live There Anymore" Wonder Could I Live There Anymore - The Essential Charley Pride

(Debuted #90, Peaked #87, 3 Weeks on chart)

JB over at the blog called ...And the Hits Just Keep On Comin' mentioned this song a couple of months ago. Go ahead, read what he had to say about it...I'll still be here when you're finished.

For people who grow up and find their fortunes away from home, this song will be familiar. Even for those who may not have lived on a farm, it's a common occurrence to go back to a world that was once familiar but suddenly seemed to be different after the passage of time. In my own case, the farms around my little hometown in Upstate New York were dairy farms, but I didn't live on one. However, the quiet, small-town feeling there drove me crazy enough to be ready to go as soon as school was over for me. And soon after I graduated, I was on a bus as soon as I was able to leave.

A couple of years later, I went back for a short time before beginning college. The place was still like I'd remembered, but the people went on about their lives without me...the saying about never being able to go home again once you leave came true. Now, growing up is a fond memory (otherwise, I'd never be writing blogs about the nostalgia music brings), but I don't imagine I'd really want to go back there.

I just realized I haven't said anything about this song. "Wonder Could I Live There Anymore" missed the pop Top 40 but was a #1 country hit. However, the topic is universal enough to be understood by other audiences as well. It's a shame it didn't get to reach those larger audiences.

Paul Kelly - "Stealing In The Name Of The Lord" Stealing In the Name of the Lord - Let's Celebrate Life

(Debuted #92, Peaked #49, 9 Weeks on chart)

"Stealing in the Name of the Lord" is probably the best-known song that Paul Kelly ever recorded himself (although he did write "Personally," a 1982 hit for Karla Bonoff), it wasn't originally the side of the single he was promoting. While visiting a Baltimore radio station, the DJ turned over the disc and then played it several times in a row. It ended up being a decent R&B hit even if it wasn't able to duplicate that success on the pop charts.

A song about hypocrisy among certain church leaders, the title was a line in the song "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" a couple years later.

The Meters - "Hand Clapping Song" Hand Clapping Song - Struttin'

(Debuted #93, Peaked #89, 4 Weeks on chart)

The Meters aren't always given the credit they deserve, but they are probably as important to the development of funk as James Brown or Sly Stone. The New Orleans-based group was fronted by Art Neville and used some of the guitar rhythms and bass lines that formed the backbone of the music in years to come.

"Hand Clapping Song" was a cut from the LP Struttin'. Largely an exercise of instrumentation and vocal harmonies, it features a part where Neville scats along with a guitar solo, much like George Benson would do on some of his hits later on. Largely respected by their peers, The Meters were asked to join the Rolling Stones on their tour of the U.S. in 1975 and Europe the following year. Internal struggles broke the band apart in 1977, but the original members occasionally reunite for one-off shows from time to time.

Daybreak - "Good Morning Freedom" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #94, Peaked #94, 1 Week on chart)

This was a re-entry for "Good Morning Freedom" (reviewed here last year) after a couple of weeks spent on the chart in June. Unfortunately, it didn't get any help with its second chance and fell off the Hot 100 for good the next week.

There isn't much info to be found about the group Daybreak. They appear to be an R&B group recording for Uni Records and had both male and female singers. The three weeks they spent on the Hot 100 in two separate runs with "Good Morning Freedom" would be the only chart action they'd ever get. According to the song's lyrics -- written by Albert Hammond -- it's time to leave the hustle and bustle of the city and the responsibilities of a job. The bags are packed, and it's destination Malibu. The female singers sound especially influenced by gospel (which is underscored by a line saying "love thy neighbor").

Kool & the Gang - "Let The Music Take Your Mind" Let the Music Take Your Mind (Single Version) - Gold

(Debuted #95, Peaked #78, 6 Weeks on chart)

If you were to play a name-association game, the look and sound of Kool & the Gang would probably be tied to when you grew up. In my case, I didn't know about the group before "Celebration" -- unfortunate, I know -- so I would think of the 1980s hit machine the group became. However, for those who still remembered the band as a R&B/funk combo, "Let the Music Take Your Mind" will likely appeal to them.

In fact, you can hear the genesis of the groove that coursed through "Hollywood Swinging" and "Funky Stuff" in the song. The band members play the song as an extended jam, with several different members coming out to show what they can do before taking it to another level. In essence, they followed the title of the song as they played it.

Turley Richards - "I Heard The Voice Of Jesus" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #99, Peaked #99, 2 Weeks on chart)

This was another song re-entering the chart after falling off. In fact, it was reviewed here a couple weeks back.

Turley Richards grew up in Charleston, West Virginia. Blinded in the left eye at the age of four in an archery accident, he rose above the disability to become a folksinger who played in the Greenwich Village scene during the 1960s after a failed try to make it in Los Angeles. In 1970, he released his debut LP and "I Heard the Voice of Jesus" was the first single.

While there was no shortage of songs about religious themes in 1970, "I Heard the Voice of Jesus" was no newcomer. It was a traditional song/hymn written by Horatius Bonar in 1846, with music composed by John Dykes in 1868. Richards sang in a hymn-like manner, complete with an organ. That may account for part of the reason it didn't become a bigger hit; there was no "cool" element like a fuzz guitar line or gospel choir behind him.