Saturday, December 18, 2010

This Week's Review -- December 16, 1972

What lacks in quantity is made up for in quality this week, as the seven new singles produced five Top 40 hits and three that made the Top 10. There is quite a variety of sounds in those few songs as well: A jazz-infused R&B song, a blues boogie, a rocker from an ex-Beatle, a rock song with a religious overtone, a song from a made-for-TV band, a pop tune and the final song for The Miracles while Smokey Robinson was still part of the group.

Several past issues of Billboard magazine can be read online at Google Books, including the December 16, 1972 edition. The full Hot 100 can be found on Page 59. There are a couple of pages missing near the front, but an article on Page 36 has a case of a bar realizing that having a TV on site was costing money. They even took the TV out to confirm the results. It's interesting to read, since looking at it today, there's little chance that any bar would consider removing their TVs from the premises.

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Marvin Gaye - "Trouble Man" Trouble Man (Single) - Every Great Motown Hit of Marvin Gaye

(Debuted #81, Peaked #7, 12 Weeks on chart)

After entering a new career phase with his What's Going On? LP, Marvin Gaye began handling some outside production duties for other artists as well as his own projects. Among those side projects was the film score for a "blaxploitation" movie, which were noticeable for using superstars like Isaac Hayes (Shaft) and Curtis Mayfield (Superfly). Called Trouble Man and starring Robert Hooks as a private investigator/loan shark known as "Mr. T," the movie was a failure, with its soundtrack being most of what has been remembered about it.

Some of Gaye's other projects at the time included a jazz album, an instrumental project and an aborted "socially aware" concept album called "You're the Man." All of these projects played into the score for Trouble Man: most of the songs were instrumentals, an element of ghetto reality was included in the sound, and jazz elements are evident in the title song in the vocal phrasing as well as the music.

Even though it was a title given to a film project, "Trouble Man" would have sad implications for Gaye later on, given his personal issues and tragic death.

The Partridge Family - "Looking Through The Eyes Of Love" Looking Through the Eyes of Love - Come On Get Happy! The Very Best of the Partridge Family

(Debuted #82, Peaked #39, 8 Weeks on chart)

A week before Christmas, what's better than a partridge? Had there also been a group called The Pear Tree, this could have been really interesting.

In keeping with the band's status as a TV entity, all the albums from The Partridge Family had some type of theme to them. "Looking Through the Eyes of Love" was taken from The Partridge Family Notebook, an LP that was designed to look like a piece of lined white paper used in schools. It followed other concepts like an "album" that was designed to look like a photo album, another that was modeled after the popular teen magazines, and another that was a shopping bag. They would come out with later albums having a crossword puzzle and a bulletin board, but neither of those produced any hits. "Looking Through the Eyes of Love" would be the band's final appearance in the Top 40.

"Looking Through the Eyes of Love" was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and originally a hit for Gene Pitney in 1965. Like all Partridge Family songs, this is essentially a recording of David Cassidy with studio musicians and Shirley Jones as one of the backing voices. As such, it has quite a professional sound for a group that purported to be a family act employing a DIY philosophy.

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles - "I Can't Stand to See You Cry" I Can't Stand to See You Cry - Smokey Robinson and The Miracles: The 35th Anniversary Collection (Box Set)

(Debuted #89, Peaked #45, 8 Weeks on chart)

"I Can't Stand to See You Cry" was the final hit for the band as Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, since Robinson had left the group to concentrate on his duties as Vice President of Motown and the occasional solo recording. Smokey made a farewell appearance with the group at a concert in July 1972 and issued his last LP with them, called Flying High Together. For the final record, they even brought back early member (and Smokey's wife) Claudette Rogers Robinson for the project. Her voice is among the backing vocals in "I Can't Stand to See You Cry."

While not one of the better-remembered songs in the group's long list of hits, it's a lush ballad that features a string section and an arrangement well-suited for an early 1970s song. As always, The Funk Brothers (Motown's criminally overlooked house musicians) show that they are among the best in the business.

The Doobie Brothers - "Jesus Is Just Alright" Jesus Is Just Alright - Toulouse Street

(Debuted #97, Peaked #35, 11 Weeks on chart)

In previous blog entries, I've mentioned the phenomenon I call "God Rock" from the early 1970s.The sudden upswing in songs with a religious component came after the flirtation among may in the late 1960s with Eastern religion and philosophy, a well as a period marked by violence. In the case of "Jesus is Just Alright," the history stretches back a little farther.

Though most commonly associated with The Doobie Brothers, "Jesus is Just Alright" was a low-charting 1970 hit for The Byrds. Originally written by Art Reynolds in 1966, it was first released by his group, The Art Reynolds Singers. The Doobie Brothers began playing it onstage after hearing The Byrds' version because of its groove, not because of any epiphanies or spiritual beliefs held by members of the group. However, not many record buyers pay any attention to the original intentions, so the song likely benefited as much from the religious aspect as it did from the guitar sound.

There are two versions of the song. The album version from Toulouse Street is the one that is most familiar to listeners, as it's still played frequently on radio stations today. The single version edited down the bridge and guitar solo to better fit into Top 40 radio.

Edward Bear - "Last Song" Last Song - Lost Hits of the 70's

(Debuted #98, Peaked #3, 18 Weeks on chart)

 Edward Bear was the name of a Toronto-based band, not the name of a single person. Sometimes this causes confusion, because people looking for the band try to look under "B" instead of "E" where it belongs. Over the years, I have even received a couple of emails for the parent website of this blog, because somebody couldn't find Edward Bear in the "B" section (by the way, the name above is linked to the listing, so if you forget, you'll never need to worry, as it's there).

This is a song that has a distinct 1970's "sound," which may explain why it still gets played occasionally. A watery guitar line and brassy backing band punctuate a song where the narrator is about to give up on his love returning to him after two years of waiting. The horns seem contradictory, since they add an upbeat feel to the song, as if convincing yourself it's time to move on doesn't mean that you don't carry someone around in your heart from that point forward.

Fun trivia: Edward Bear is an early name for what became Winnie the Pooh.

Ten Years After - "Choo Choo Mama" Choo Choo Mama - Essential Ten Years After Collection

(Debuted #99, Peaked #89, 6 Weeks on chart)

Speaking of the origin of band names, Ten Years After was given its name in 1966. That was "Ten Years After" the 1956 breakout of Elvis Presley.

Ten Years After made a big impression with their performance of "I'm Going Home" in the Woodstock film, followed by a somewhat positive-looking single "I'd Love to Change the World" in 1971.  By 1972, the band's style of blues boogie was beginning to sound stale, and "Choo Choo Mama" -- yet another blues-based guitar boogie tune -- would be their final hit on the Hot 100. They recorded one more studio album and broke up in 1974. Later in the decade, leader Alvin Lee started a new group, which he named Ten Years Later.

Wings - "Hi, Hi, Hi" Hi Hi Hi - Wings Greatest

(Debuted #100, Peaked #10, 11 Weeks on chart)

The first three singles released by Paul McCartney & Wings were all non-album issues. "Hi, Hi, Hi" was the third of these.

Despite the way it's spelled, I'm guessing that when Sir Paul sings "were gonna get Hi, Hi, Hi," he's not really welcoming friends into his house. The song was banned by the BBC, not because of the thinly-veiled drug reference but because of some lyrics they claimed were sexually suggestive. In an interview, McCartney claimed they misheard the lyrics, but the fact that the song is a straight rocker suggests that there's some heavy petting going on anyhow.

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