At the beginning of 1972 Cash Box featured a rising young artist on their cover & spelled his name wrong! Al Greene was just 20 in 1967 when his debut single “Back Up Train” was an R&B hit & made the US Pop Top 50. The following 45s & album were not as successful. In 1969 bandleader/saxophonist Willie Mitchell hired Al to sing with his band then took him along to a new thing he had going making records for the Hi label. By the end of 1972, after dropping an “e”, Al Green had the fasting rising record on the Cash Box R&B Top 60 for November 12th 1972, he was the biggest new star on the Soul scene & when he appeared on the cover of Cash Box for the second time this year the magazine used the correct spelling.
The three Hodges brothers, Teenie, guitar, Leroy, bass & Charles, keyboards were central to Willie Mitchell’s plans at Royal Recording Studios in Memphis. Together with this Hi Rhythm Section he created a velvety, seductive sound, smoother than the sharp-edged abandon from across the city at Stax, still warm, soulful & perfect for the label’s new featured vocalist. In his youth Al Green had aimed to emulate Sam Cooke & Jackie Wilson, Mitchell encouraged him to find his own voice, to express himself in his own songs like the super hits “Tired of Being Alone” & “Let’s Stay Together”. You know these songs, I don’t have to tell you about the special appeal of Al Green, the new star of the 1970s to match those of the previous decade.
Commercial success brought great creativity & confidence. There were two albums in 1972, both #1 R&B, Top 10 Pop, & “You Ought To Be With Me”, rising a big 16 places from #29 to #13 on the R&B chart of 50 years ago this week, is the first of three 45s from the upcoming album to make the Top 10. The song, written by Green, Mitchell & Al Jackson Jr, the nonpareil drummer off of Booker T & the M.G.’s, is perhaps not as well remembered as the other two, “Call Me (Come Back Home)” & “Here I Am (Come & Take Me)” but it’s classic Al Green, you hear it & you know who it’s by. Here, on “Soul Train” it’s showcased in it’s full glory, while other guests were happy to lip-synch to their latest record Al brought his band, his song, his voice, his charisma & it’s a stunning joyous performance. As host Don Cornelius says in his introduction, ” there are many stars in the sky, Al Green is the moon & there is only one moon, there is only one Al Green”.
Texan Johnny Nash had made a mark as an actor/singer without consolidating his progress. A starring role in a 1959 movie didn’t lead to the parts that went to Sidney Poitier or Harry Belafonte while in his career as a Rock era crooner aspirations to emulate Nat “King” Cole & Johnny Mathis were unfulfilled. A 1965 R&B hit encouraged a move to Jamaica where studio costs were more affordable & Johnny entered a creative local music scene. His company signed the four Wailing Wailers to publishing deals & in 1968 his own fluent Rock Steady “Hold Me Tight”was an international hit. With Bob Marley in the US & Bunny Wailer in Richmond Farm prison it was Peter Tosh who had two songs on the LP that followed. Johnny’s subsequent records were more popular in the UK, we liked Reggae over here, & he continued to promote the talent of Bob, taking him to London to perform & record. By the time his version of Marley’s “Stir It Up” was another British hit CBS had taken notice & picked up his contract.
Now with better promotion “I Can See Clearly Now” rose 11 places to #36 on this week’s R&B charts. Recorded in London , backed by the Fabulous Five Inc, with a lyric of perseverance & optimism to a loping Reggae rhythm, the song was on it’s way to #1 R&B & the same position on the Pop charts of the US & the UK. It’s a smash, you know the words.It’s not Burning Spear, there’s no 7″ Disco-Dub version, it’s smooth, uplifting Pop-Reggae & was very, very popular. The accompanying Platinum-selling album included four Bob Marley, soon to be signed by Island, songs. Johnny continued to have UK hits with his sweet Reggae-inflected records, he was certainly an agent in the spread of Jamaican music & a champion of Reggae’s international star.
Listed as a new entry at #59 is “You Got the Magic Touch” by Limmie & Family Cookin’, a song I was not aware of by a group that I was. I went to the usual places, Y-tube, Discogs, Wikipedia, to find out more about Avco release number 4602 & found nothing about touches, plenty about magic. Limmie Snell, from Canton, Ohio, had been recording as Limmie B Good since he was 11 before forming a vocal group with his twin sisters Jimmy & Martha. Their first 45, “You Can Do Magic” (it was that all along) didn’t make any major impression on the US charts but here in the UK in 1972 the popular Northern Soul dance clubs were picking their own favourites & buying enough copies of them to gain the attention of radio stations so this unknown group had a Top 3 hit on this side of the Atlantic with their catchy bit of Pop-Soul. 18 months later they were back in our Top 10 with “A Walking Miracle”. Folk here remember dancing to Limmie & Family Cookin’ but a bigger impression was left by the writer/producer of “You Can Do Magic”.
Sandy Linzer & his writing partner Denny Randell worked with producer Bob Crewe & songs including “Dawn (Go Away)”, “Opus 17 (Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me)” & the almost perfect “Let’s Hang On” contributed to the maintenance of the Four Seasons’ popularity in the face of the Beatles-led British Invasion. In 1966 their own operation found success with the classically inspired “A Lover’s Concerto” for girl group the Toys then, two years later a pattern was started when “Breakin’ Down the Walls of Heartache” by the Bandwagon was recognised as a classic breathless rush of energy & made our Top 10. After Limmie & Family Cookin’ Sandy worked with Odyssey. “Native New Yorker” hit on both sides of the Atlantic while, in 1980, “Use It Up & Wear It Out” spent two weeks at #1 in the UK. Finally, I know, it’s a list & there are others, an old Four Seasons tune was re-made, re-modelled by the Spinners & “Working My Way Back To You” was another chart-topper. Flipping heck, Sandy Linzer knew how a hit tune went.