Blowing Your Mind (Soul February 1970)

The Cash Box Top 50 in R&B Locations for February 1970 was dominated by Sly & the Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”. The single’s massive success, a six week occupation of the #1 spot, caused a Top 10 logjam of seriously good records, songs that earned gold discs for a million sales, that are remembered & loved today. Eddie Holman, an artist enjoying the biggest hit of his career, stalled at the #2 spot for three weeks with “Hey There Lonely Girl”, a song that is still instantly recognisable .

 

 

Image result for eddie holman 1970Eddie Holman was a gifted child & that gift was his remarkably dynamic voice. He performed around New York, trained at a music school in Harlem &, after a move to Philadelphia, studied for a music degree at college. Eddie made his first record while still a teenager & was only 19 & still a student when “This Can’t Be True” made the Billboard Top 20 in 1966. He subsequently released a string of good singles, the quality of his voice never in doubt. In 1969 Eddie moved to ABC records, was given the opportunity to record an LP & one of the tracks became the one for which he is mainly remembered. “Hey There Lonely Boy” had been a US Top 30 hit for Ruby & the Romantics in 1963. A gender-swap, a pitch perfect falsetto delivery from a great singer, a deserved gold record hanging on Eddie Holman’s wall.

 

Image result for eddie holman hey there lonely girlEddie’s album “I Love You” was produced by Peter De Angelis, an old school record man, a veteran of the Philadelphia teen scene which flourished in the hiatus between Elvis joining the Army & the arrival of the Fab Four. The song choice displays the singer’s great range but is, as are the arrangements, conservative even old-fashioned. There was no successful follow up though “Since I Don’t Have You”, the old Skyliners Doo-Wop hit, could have been. It would be 1977 before Eddie got to make another album. “Hey There Lonely Girl” was the ideal last-dance-of-the-night smooch & over here in the UK it took us longer to fully appreciate its quality. In November 1974, during one of our periodic Soul revivals it was in the Top 3 of our chart. There are recent clips of Eddie performing his big hit at British holiday camp gatherings of Soul fans, his voice still a show-stopping precision instrument, his warmth & delight in performing it reflected in appreciative audiences.

 

 

 

Image result for delfonicsWell hello Ms Jackie Brown ! Steady at #5 on the chart for February 14th were the Delfonics (that’s the fabulous…) with “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” (that’s the fantastic…). In 1966 the Philadelphian trio, lead vocal William Hart, baritone brother Wilbert & tenor Randy Cain were introduced to Thom Bell, a young producer/arranger. It’s all there on the first single “He Don’t Really Love You”, William’s strong emotional falsetto matched to solid harmonies complemented by Bell’s symphonic, soulful arrangement, individual, dramatic but not overpowering. A record ahead of its time, an early indicator of the sweet Philly groove that would become a dominant strain of Soul music in the next decade. The following year “La-La (Means I Love You)”, a signature Delfonics tune, blew up big on the Pop & R&B charts & though the equally memorable “Ready Or Not Here I Come” was not as big a hit as it maybe should have been, the Delfonics established had themselves as a new force on the Soul scene.

 

Image result for delfonics didn't i advertThe confidence & talent of the group & the producer is evident on the self-titled LP released in February 1970, their third studio record. This time William Hart, by himself¬† or with Bell, wrote all but one of the songs. The exception, “When You Get Right Down To It” was donated by seasoned hit-maker Barry Mann (You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling'”, “We Gotta get Out of This Place & a 100 others) & the result was outstanding work. Soul had never been sweeter, orchestrations never more lush & impressive. There were 5 charting singles released from the collection & the other tracks, particularly “Delfonics Theme (How Could You)”, were just as good. “Didn’t I”, a triumph, was the biggest hit of them all, winner of the Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group that year. Just when their standing had never been higher Randy Cain left the group & Thom Bell moved on to work with the Spinners & the Stylistics as Philadelphia became a new hit factory. The same Philly studio guys, now known as MFSB, were around, William still wrote the songs & there were to be tracks that belong on any essential Delfonics collection but the group never again hit the heights they reached in 1970.

 

 

Image result for chairman of the board give me a little more timeThere’s no reason to leave the Top 10 for this month’s final selection. Rising rapidly from #15 to #9 was the 4th single to be released on the Invictus label, the new project for Tamla Motown writer/producer powerhouses Holland-Dozier-Holland. The Chairmen of the Board, a quartet based in Detroit, were one of the initial acts signed, released the label’s debut LP & scored its first major hit with the dynamic “Give Me Just a Little More Time”. H-D-H were lawyered up to negotiate their separation from Motown & they were not allowed to put their own names to their songs. That Chairmen’s LP has 5 credits for “R. Dunbar & E,Wayne”. While there’s no doubt that Ronald Dunbar made his contribution, Edythe Wayne was a collective pseudonym for the most prolific hitmakers of the 1960’s & you can tell. “Give Me…” & another success, “You’ve Got Me Dangling On A String”, would have been ideal for the Four Tops but the Chairman of the Board, with the urgent lead vocals of General Johnson, did a fine job.

 

Image result for chairmen of the boardGeneral Johnson had been about the record industry for a decade or so. In 1961 his group the Showmen had been in New Orleans with Allen Toussaint, the Rock & Roll manifesto “It Will Stand” was not the only memorable track that arose from these sessions. The General flourished in the freedom afforded by his new bosses, becoming the featured vocalist & taking on a greater share of songwriting duties. One track from that first LP, a rather, in my opinion, maudlin Country Soul lament “Patches” written with Ronald Dunbar, was picked up by Clarence Carter & won a 1971 Grammy for Best R&B Song. In 1971 Johnson had a co-credit on the effervescent “Want Ads”, a #1 Pop hit for Honey Cone, another successful act from the Invictus stable. There were just 3 LPs from the group, solo efforts from each member too & singles that made a bigger impression in the UK than at home. The final record for the label, “Skin I’m In” (1974) is a very strong funked-up collection employing the talents of the Parliament/Funkadelic posse who were often around the Invictus studio. The Chairmen of the Board were not around for too long but they made their mark.

 

 

That’s What I Like About Joe South

 

 

 

 

Image result for joe south posterJoe South was having it pretty good in 1970. His debut LP “Introspect” had failed to make an impression but one track, “Games People Play” (you know it), eventually found an audience on both sides of the Atlantic & Joe was about to receive a couple of Grammy awards including Song of the Year. “Games…” was covered by artists right across the musical spectrum. Freddy Weller had a #2 Country hit, The Staple Singers & Lee Dorsey souled it up while Petula Clark took it to the middle of the road. Everybody did a good job too, it’s difficult to mess up a song with such smart, straight-forward, lyrical social commentary & a tune that has you la-la-la-ing along after just one hearing.

 

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Joe had first come to my attention with the sprightly Pop hits he made with singer Billy Joe Royal. “Down in the Boondocks” (whatever a boondock was), “Hush”, later a hit for Deep Purple, & others were fine mid-60’s American Pop, memorable enough to keep Billy Joe in work for many years. Joe’s reputation spread & he found himself in Nashville to provide bass on Dylan’s “Blonde On Blonde” sessions then in New York adding guitar to Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools”. Time spent in the studio with such big hitters surely influenced & inspired his own music. Both “Introspect” & a slightly shuffled collection named after the hit feature considerate, candid, cosmopolitan lyrics matched to a skillful mix of Folk, Country, Gospel, a touch of Psychedelia (You cannot, in my opinion, ever have too much electric sitar) & always those radio-friendly choruses. “Introspect” is a fine example of Joe South’s mature songwriting & his Country Soul ambition, there’s much more to it than “Singing glory hallelujah & they’re tryin’ to sock it to ya”

 

 

 

 

Image result for joe south walk a mile in my shoes“Before you abuse, criticize and accuse then Walk a Mile in My Shoes”, another great song, another Top 20 Pop hit. Later in 1970 Elvis included it alongside other contemporary songs on his “On Stage” LP, In 1974 Bryan Ferry off of Roxy Music selected “Walk A Mile…” for his second solo collection of cover versions “Another Time, Another Place”. Built to last, in 2006 Coldcut transformed the song into a House anthem. Of course I prefer Otis Clay’s Deep Soul version from the following year. The LP “Don’t It Make You Want to Go Home” was more of the same from Joe, though not all the songs, written over a shorter period than “Introspect” were of the same high standard. Similarly the two LP’s released in 1971 were of variable quality. “So the Seeds Are Growing” is a little over-produced with more covers of other people’s songs. His contemporaries on the swampy Southern music scene like Tony Joe White & Leon Russell showed their roots a little more obviously than Joe who always retained his Pop sensibility but when Joe South did it right & he often did, his varied influences came together in a very distinctive way & his guitar flourishes were always original & delightful.

 

 

 

 

Image result for joe south so the seeds are growing"Joe may have been enjoying less success with his own records but in 1971 Lynn Anderson had a super-smash crossover hit with his “Rose Garden”. It earned him further Grammy nominations, including Song of the Year & Joe South had another much-covered standard in his portfolio. In 1972, depressed by the suicide of his younger brother Tommy, drummer for Joe’s group the Believers, disillusioned with the star-making machinery, often surly on stage & increasingly drug dependant South poured it all out into the confessional, stripped down “A Look Inside”. As succinct & honest about his own situation as his earlier worldly-wise songs had been, tougher than the rest, a slice of Southern Gothic & it’s the best record of his career. The radio wasn’t playing songs about coming down alone or giving all your money to drug dealers, Country singers were certainly not covering them & it was all but ignored.

 

Despite a comeback LP in 1975 little was heard about Joe South as he struggled with his personal problems. He seemed well when, in 1994, he shared a London stage at an American songwriters concert with contemporaries including Allen Toussaint & Dan Penn. Solo, with just an acoustic guitar, a short set only allowed time for his greatest hits. A full house appreciated his contribution to an evening of enduring, classic songs & there was, before Joe’s death in 2012, increasing recognition of the quality of his work.

 

 

 

Let’s finish this with one of my favourite Joe South tracks. “Yo Yo” was first recorded by Billy Joe Royal in 1966 then, two years later, Joe produced a Soul floor-filler with R B Hudman, When, in 1971, the Osmonds went to Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals it was one of the two songs they recorded & “Yo Yo” was a Top 3 hit for the group. Joe’s own version, from his 1971 eponymous LP, is an energetic, rocking, Southern Pop Soul toe-tapper & I can listen to stuff like this all day.