Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rewind -- January 17, 1970

(This is part of a series where I take one of the posts from the first year of this blog and give it a makeover.)

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.

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 began his 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.

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