Saturday, July 28, 2012

This Week's Review -- July 26, 1975

There were eleven new singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart this week. Only three of those would reach the Top 40, and one made the Top 10. While that might seem like there's not a lot to pay attention to, this week's list holds some surprises. In fact, one of the song this week that peaked in the 90s was (in my opinion) robbed of its chance to become a much bigger hit because of circumstances outside of its control. Another group in the list was forced to change its name because of an established American artist. One brother act appears with its biggest hit, and another shows up in the Top 40 for the last time. While there are artists here who put out better material, some of the songs here are worth a listen. 

This week's Billboard edition is missing from the archive over at Google Books, so I'll take a minute to once again point out the tabs that appear above (under the 8-track image). Each one links to a particular year, which is where I'm keeping track of the songs that get reviewed here. If you have a favorite year, check it out and see what else has been featured here.

Wolfgang's Vault

Paul Anka with Odia Coates - "(I Believe) There's Nothing Stronger Than Our Love" (I Believe) There's Nothing Stronger Than Our Love (feat. Odia Coates) - Feelings

(Debuted #68, Peaked #15, 13 Weeks on chart)

"(I Believe) There's Nothing Stronger Than Our Love" was the fourth of the run of duets between Paul Anka and Odia Coates -- though the first, "(You're) Having My Baby," didn't credit her -- and was also the last to reach the Hot 100. It was also the final appearance for Coates on the pop chart. Though she would continue to record with Anka and solo in the future, her further singles went nowhere. Sadly, breast cancer claimed her in 1991.

Anka wrote "(I Believe) There's Nothing Stronger Than Our Love" with his wife Anne in mind. She was also the inspiration of the polarizing "(You're Having My Baby)," which was both lauded and vilified for its embrace of the role of a mother. Unfortunately, the outpouring of love failed to keep the couple from eventually divorcing; the end of the line came in 2000, after 37 years and five daughters.

Linda Ronstadt - "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" It Doesn't Matter Anymore - Heart Like a Wheel

(Debuted #73, Peaked #47, 4 Weeks on chart)

Here's the second song written by Paul Anka in this week's slate of new songs. Though it's remembered as a Buddy Holly recording that was released shortly after his death, Anka has a much different perspective than the one he used on the song above. The lyrics here express the desire for two people to walk their own separate ways after reaching the end of their personal road together.

With Linda Ronstadt's remake, it was reworked from Holly's pop-flavored treatment for a country-rock feel. Originally the B-side of "When Will I Be Loved," the record was flipped over when that song fell out of the Hot 100 and reached #47 on its own strength.It also charted on the country and adult contemporary surveys.

The Osmonds - "The Proud One" The Proud One - Osmondmania! Osmond Family Greatest Hits

(Debuted #75, Peaked #22, 11 Weeks on chart)

The performance in the video above is short (at one minute and 28 seconds), but the single version of "The Proud One" was three minutes long. However, the length of the clip was a metaphor because the song was the final appearance in the pop Top 40 for the brother act.

Despite some rather edgy songs recorded by The Osmonds in the past, "The Proud One" is a ballad where Merrill Osmond sings that -- despite the title -- he's not too proud to get on his knees and plead with his woman not to leave. A symphony provides the accompaniment while his brothers back him on vocals. For what turned out to be a curtain call, it's a safe single, considering what the brothers were capable of (and by that I'm thinking of "Crazy Horses" and "Yo-Yo").

Tavares - "It Only Takes A Minute" It Only Takes a Minute Girl - Anthology

(Debuted #82, Peaked #10, 18 Weeks on chart)

Following up one brother act with another, "It Only Takes a Minute" would be the biggest chart hit by the five Tavares brothers of New Bedford, Massachusetts. It would be their only Top 10 pop single and one of the three #1 R&B singles they would notch. Written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter (who also produced it), the song led off the group's In the City LP and was the first single from it. While Saturday Night Fever has held out "More Than a Woman" in the public's memory of the group, that single wasn't as big a hit for them.

From the memorable opening instrumental to the funky beat, "It Only Takes a Minute" is a song that is meant to get people moving. Ironically, while the lyrics state that "it only takes a minute to fall in love," it still takes four of them to listen to the song all the way through.

Carly Simon - "Waterfall" Waterfall - Playing Possum

(Debuted #84, Peaked #78, 3 Weeks on chart)

Carly Simon's career was still going strong in 1975, and her LP that year, Playing Possum, continued her string of Top 10 albums. As usual, Richard Perry took the helm as producer and gave it his signature pop sheen, and the cream of the Los Angeles-based studio musicians were on hand to help perfect the music behind the words (largely written by Simon herself). However, the singles from that album told a different story. Out of three singles taken from the LP, only one ("Attitude Dancing") made the Top 40, and the album is better remembered today for its cover shot than for anything that is inside.

"Waterfall" was Simon's first song to miss the Top 40 since 1972, but it wasn't for a lack of trying. Co-written with Jeff Lynne, the song even brought out James Taylor, who is clearly heard in the background vocals. However, the tune was largely a repetitive chant and had less substance lyrically that what many would expect from a Simon composition.  

The O'Jays - "Let Me Make Love To You" Let Me Make Love to You - Survival

(Debuted #87, Peaked #75, 3 Weeks on chart)

When it comes to their hits, pop fans seemed to prefer when The O'Jays turned up the tempo. Since "Let Me Make Love to You" is a slower tune, it only reached #75. On the R&B chart, it gained more appreciation, reaching the Top 10 their eighth in that format.

As a slow burner (appropriately, given the song's title), it was performed as a seduction, with Eddie Levert showing off his vocal abilities by begging and pleading to satisfy his need. It just proves the point that people sometimes get into singing in order to get the girls.

Ace - "Rock And Roll Runaway" Rock'n'roll Runaway - Five-a-Side

(Debuted #88, Peaked #71, 4 Weeks on chart)

Ace is best remembered for its tune "How Long," as well as being one of several groups to feature Paul Carrack as a member. Carrack is here for "Rock and Roll Runaway" (he co-wrote the song), but isn't the singer. In fact, the followup to that classic single and the group's only other charting song song has a different vibe. Instead of the smooth bassline and jealous vibe of the earlier hit, this has a rhythm that is more of a country and western pace at first but leads to a more pop-inspired bridge.

The sound might come as a surprise to those who judge a record by the name on its label.    

Reparata - "Shoes" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #94, Peaked #92, 2 Weeks on chart )

"Shoes" is an odd song, and has an even odder story behind it. A song about a wedding, it features some rather weird instrumentation that isn't usually found in 1970s music: a bazouki (which is named in the lyrics), a harpsichord, a Jew's harp. Add a guitar solo into the mix and a children's chorus, and you get a mixture that should be terrible but somehow comes out a lot better than it reads on paper. The lyrics are delivered in an emotionless method, with the lead singer often being drowned out by the backing vocals, as if the wedding guests have joined in by singing with the band at the reception. However, the listener is left wondering if the couple who just got married aren't trying to figure out whether the day wasn't going to turn out to be a waste.

This should have been a much bigger hit (and deservedly so), but the legal process reared its ugly head and forced the withdrawal of the single. During the 1960s, there had been a "girl group" called Reparata and the Delrons. By 1973, the members had gone their own way; however, one former lead singer (Lorraine Mazzola) was working as part of Barry Manilow's backing group Lady Flash, while another (Mary O'Leary, who actually founded the band) was singing the vocal on "Shoes." To complicate matters, each was calling herself Reparata.

As you might expect, the lawyers got involved and the record was recalled. Not only was there a question about who was supposed to be Reparata, O'Leary's old record company was claiming that she recorded the song while still under contract with them and wanted a cut of the profits. When the dust cleared, "Shoes" was re-released on two different labels. As a result, the song only reached #92. It's a shame, though, because its quirky, unusual sound could have helped it stand out among competing music. It was robbed of being a classic; instead, it had to settle for being a cult favorite.

The Fantastic Four - "Alvin Stone (The Birth and Death of a Gangster)" Alvin Stone (The Birth and Death of a Gangster) - Alvin Stone / Night People

(Debuted #95, Peaked #74, 8 Weeks on chart)

The final hit for the Detroit-based 1960s/70s R&B group The Fantastic Four was a fictionalized account about a gangster named Alvin Stone, complete with a dialogue and sound effects of a police shootout. The song marked a change in the group's sound to a more dance-oriented beat. It was a groove they would explore for several years, but success didn't follow them as the Disco sound rose later in the decade.

The group was formed in 1965 and were also known as Sweet James and the Fantastic Four, after lead singer "Sweet James" Epps. Even after the hit singles stopped, they continued to perform until Epps suffered a fatal heart attack in 2000.

Merry Clayton - "Keep Your Eye On The Sparrow" Keep Your Eye On the Sparrow - Keep Your Eye On the Sparrow

(Debuted #97, Peaked #45, 9 Weeks on chart)

"Don't do the crime if you can't do the time." Quite a memorable line.

"Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow" was the theme song to the TV show Baretta, which starred Blake as an unorthodox New York City cop. The show was a retooled version of Toma (named after the real-life officer David Toma), after that show was ridiculed for its gritty violence -- tough even by the standards of 1970s TV police dramas -- that added a pet cockatoo as a way of toning it down. The show's theme was originally an instrumental, with lyrics by Sammy Davis, Jr. added in during later episodes.

Merry Clayton's version of the song was never used on the show. Instead, it was released as a single in the U.S. after Davis' wasn't. It became her highest-charting solo effort to date, hitting #45 on the pop chart, but not her most famous performance. That honor would go to her background vocal on The Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter," a song she would also release as a single under her own name.

Smokie - "If You Think You Know How To Love Me" If You Think You Know How to Love Me - Smokie: Greatest Hits Collection - 60 Tracks

(Debuted #98, Peaked #96, 2 Weeks on chart )

In July '75, "If You Think You Know How to Love Me" managed to make the Hot 100 but peaked at #96 in its short two-week stay. Two months later, it reappeared for a second shot but still couldn't make a better showing than it did the first time. In the band's native England, however, the song was a #3 single for them.

Despite having roots in psychedelic pop from their 1960s genesis and glitter rock due to writer/producer team Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, "If You Think You Know How to Love Me" would be a slowed-down ballad. Featuring electric piano and light strings accompanying singer Chris Norman's tender vocals, it was something different from what the band had offered before. When first released in Europe, the single was credited to the band as "Smokey" but there was some trouble when plans were made for U.S. release due to the presence of Smokey Robinson. Opting to alter the band name to Smokie for all further recordings both at home and in the U.S., they began a very successful phase of their career.

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