Move To Another Groove (Soul December 19th 1970)

This final selection of the year from the Cash Box Top 60 in R&B Locations of December 19th 1970 leaves me, just like all the others, spoilt for choice such is the quality of this 50 year old chart. This week’s Top 10 is Motown-packed, the Supremes, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Stevie Wonder & Gladys Knight & the Pips grouped together at numbers 2, 3, 4 & 5. Rising 7 places to #7 is the ground-breaking “(Don’t Worry) If There’s A Hell Below We’re All Going To Go”, Curtis Mayfield’s solo debut after leaving the Impressions while at #9 Al Green’s “I Can’t Get Next To You”, a Motown cover, began a run of success which made him the most popular male vocalist in Soul. Keeping all these great records from the #1 spot was the only major hit by King Floyd & it is this good…

In late 1969 celebrated arranger/producer Wardell Quezergue (pronounced Kuh-zair) whose work had earned him a place at the top table of New Orleans music set up a deal with the Malaco label to use their modern studio in Jackson, Mississippi. In May 1970, in a borrowed school bus, he & five artists made the three hour drive north. During the resulting sessions he supervised the recording of two stone Soul classics. Jean Knight’s “Mr Big Stuff” (“who do you think you are?”) will still fill a dancefloor anywhere in the world & “Groove Me” by King Floyd was the current #1 record on the Cash Box chart.

King Floyd Tulsa Civic Center Concert Poster (1970s).... Music | Lot #89620  | Heritage Auctions

After a stint in the Army King Floyd III joined a gang transplanted from NOLA to Los Angeles led by producer Harold Battiste & Dr John. His album failed to attract attention so he returned to New Orleans to take a job with the Post Office. his trip to Malaco studios changed his fortunes when the self-penned, punchy, irresistible “Groove Me”, initially a b-side picked up regional airplay before busting out when Atlantic stepped in. Quezergue, with steadfast support from the session men, created a lovely collision between the rhythms of New Orleans & the drive of Memphis to create a new Southern Soul sound. It made the name of the studio & the rhythm section, labels sent their artists to Jackson hoping to share & it was influential on the pioneering disco of TK Records in Florida. King continued to record some fine tracks at the studio, the groovy “I Feel Like Dynamite” featured in a 2018 TV commercial back when Corona was just a beer, without the same success. Hey, he & we will always have “Groove Me”

The CHI-LITES | Soul music, Funk bands, Black music

Eugene Record’s high school group the Chanteurs became the Hi-Lites & both incarnations released singles. Another unit had claims to their current name so, in honour of their home city Chicago, they became the Chi-Lites. In the mid-Sixties they came to the attention of Carl Davis who had gathered & encouraged the city’s young talent at the Okeh label & aimed to repeat that in his new role as head of Brunswick’s Chicago operation. In Eugene he signed an ambitious musician & a prolific songwriter who responded to the mentorship of Davis. A fruitful partnership with singer Barbara Acklin found hits for her & others. When a piano track was added to the backing of Barbara’s “Am I the Same Girl” & released by Young-Holt Unlimited as “Soulful Strut” Eugene found himself as the writer/producer of a gold record. Having earned his trade & proved himself it was time for the Chi-Lites to step into the spotlight.

Chi-Lites / Delfonics / Chairmen of the Board 1970 Chicago Jumbo | Lot  #89526 | Heritage Auctions
Er…WOW!

OK Ms Beyonce Knowles, you got good taste. The opening blaring brass hook of “Are You My Woman? (Tell Me So)”, #20 this week, was a prominent sample on “Crazy In Love”, a world-wide super smash from her debut album. Eugene, properly, had a writing credit, a 21st century Grammy &, I’m sure, sizeable royalty cheques arriving in the post. In 1970 the Chi-Lites were consolidating the reputation they had made on their own debut “Give It Away” with two hits from the album “I Like Your Lovin’ (Do You Like Mine)”. Both the title track & “Are You My Woman” have got the Funk & owe quite a lot to the urgent vocal gymnastics of the Temptations’ new direction. The following 45 “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People”, there was a fondness for a bracket in early 70s Soul, was in a similar vein & the group’s most successful yet. At the end of 1971 Eugene, gauging a change in taste, dusted of an older, slower song “Have You Seen Her”. This & “Oh Girl” took the Chi-Lites to the top of the Pop charts, giving the group a popularity on both sides of the Atlantic which they maintained for some years even after Record left for solo pursuits.

Burt Bacharach and Hal David Songs, 10 Works of Genius

I was painting the exterior of a shop in South West London directly opposite a vintage vinyl emporium…irresistible, of course. This was before record collecting became the new trainspotting for middle-aged men so bargains were to be had. These used records may have been slightly scratched but would sure look good in our stack so the right thing had to be done. That’s how unplayed copies of Dionne Warwick’s Golden Hits Parts I & II, on the US Sceptor label ended up round my house & it’s difficult to think of any other 24 track collection that is more beautifully crafted tunesmithery, wonderfully & sympathetically interpreted by a singer. Young Dionne’s group, the Gospelaires, were in-demand backing singers in New York when she was called upon to record demo vocals on the songs of Burt Bacharach & Hal David. The synergy was immediate, Dionne was signed to Sceptor & when “Anyone Who Had a Heart” & “Walk On By” were recorded in a morning session in November 1963 the only problem was which one should be released first. Both records made the US Pop Top 10 at a time when the British Invasion was all the rage. The reputations of the singer & songwriters were firmly established.

Dionne Warwick - Very Dionne (1970, Unipak, Vinyl) | Discogs

“Make It Easy On Yourself” was one of the first Bacharach/David songs Dionne was given but housewife turned Sceptor label boss Florence Greenberg passed on it & Jerry Butler ended up with the US hit record. Dionne would later express resentment about other artists having chart success with songs she considered hers but for the rest of the decade her sophisticated interpretations of often intricate songs ,which challenged the ephemeral nature of Pop music, provided an uninterrupted run on the Pop & R&B listings. “I Say A Little Prayer”, had us at the “wake up/make up” opening rhyme, the eerie beauty of “Walk On By” is another perfect record. We all have our favourites & I will never fail to be charmed by “Are You There (With Another Girl)” & “You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart)”. Dionne’s original of “Make It Easy…”was included on her 1963 debut album “Presenting…”. At #30 on the Cash Box chart this week was a live cut of the song performed at the Garden State Arts Center in her home state of New Jersey. This time around Marie Dionne Warwicke from East Orange was returning as an urbane, assured international superstar & on this track you can hear why.

I really do enjoy writing these posts about the R&B chart of 50 years ago. There have been times in 2020 when my coping mechanism for all this isolation business has caused a flatlining which affected any inspiration to write for the blog. I always found that a look at the current Cash Box listing would clear the cobwebs. I’m always saying that this was a Golden Age of Soul Music but listening to old favourites, re-discovering forgotten ones, hearing tracks that are new to me is genuinely exciting & transcends nostalgia. I haven’t looked at any of the charts from 1971 but it’s sure that I’ll keep on keeping on with this. Here’s to a busier, still soulful 2021 for us all.

Bacharach & David & Dionne Warwick

Related imageYoung Dionne Warwick from New Jersey had a pretty good year in 1963. In January her first solo single for Scepter Records,  “Don’t Make Me Over” hit the US Top 20. Songwriting duo Burt Bacharach & Hal David had hired Dionne to provide vocals on the demos of their songs. They had previous success separately & together but still needed to hawk their wares around New York. Ms Warwick did such a great job for the team that she was signed for their production company & they committed to recording the new songs with her. In December 1963 her new single “Anyone Who Had A Heart” was on the charts with a bullet, heading towards the Top 10. The same morning session had also produced “Walk On By” & well, we all know how that goes.

 

 

This wonderful 30 minute clip captures a performance by the new 23 year old hit maker. After her first success Dionne had left her studies at Hartt College of Music in Connecticut to travel to France. The Bacharach connection found Marlene Dietrich (Burt had been her arranger/accompanist) introducing her at the Olympia, Paris & she was a sensation. On Dionne’s return to Europe in 1964 she was filmed at the small 27 Club in Knokke, a Belgian seaside resort. Simply shot & choreographed the director accentuates the talent & she delivers. This is no supper club schmaltz (though I’m not a big fan of “People who need people”) it’s just the demure Dionne, her songs, her voice & that’s enough. It’s a surprise when she loosens up for Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” & I love it.

 

Image result for searchers dionne warwick1964 was a peak of the UK music package tour. The Beatles & Mary Wells, the Stones with Inez & Charlie Foxx, Billy J Kramer headlining with the Ronettes & the Yardbirds in support. Dionne shared her October/November bill with the Searchers, the Zombies & the Isley Brothers. Now that sounds like a value-for- money night out. (The “comedy comperes” Syd & Eddie later became fixtures in our tellies as Little & Large. For any international readers, don’t bother, really.) It was during this tour that she joined her producers at Pye Recording Studios to make “The Sensitive Sound of…” album. One of the singles selected from the record is “You Can Have Him” , a stunning remodel of a 1961 Roy Hamilton hit. It has always surprised me that the most R&B of Dionne’s Sixties output, driven by staccato drums & impassioned backing vocals, was recorded with London sessioneers & not the usual New York crew.

 

 

Sometime near the end of the 20th century I was working in Putney, South London & across the road was a second hand record shop. It was the perfect place for a music freak like me to spend a lunch hour buying too many albums. There was a chance that the copies of “Dionne Warwick’s Golden Hits Part 1 & 2”, released in 1967 & 69 respectively, could be a little scratchy but they were US copies, on the Scepter label, & were a complete collection of those great singles. I was on a “easy listening” tip at the time, inspired by an old beaten-up Bacharach album I had found on the local market. These records, which turned out to be unplayed, turned our house into warmer but cooler home.

 

Image result for dionne warwick paris“You’ll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart)” was the 1964 follow up to “Walk On By”. That year Dionne was Cashbox’s Best Selling Female Artist & this song was a bigger hit in the UK than in the US. The clip is taken from 1966, part of her 5 week engagement back at the Olympia as a guest on the Sacha Distel Show. Two years on & she is an international star, a confident, sophisticated talent recognised as the premier interpreter of Bacharach & David’s songs. She’s assured enough to add her own flourishes to this song, one of my favourites, & her perfectly pitched performance can still give me goosebumps.

 

 

Burt Bacharach’s compositions employed unusual time changes to surround & support Hal David’s mature lyrics. As an arranger, he sat pianist Paul Griffin next to drummer Gary Chester in the studio & together they found the fluid, graceful interior logic of the music. This was not the usual “moon in June” Brill Building teen-pop knock off. This was a refined, urbane progression for the popular song & in Dionne Warwick the pair found the perfect foil. Dionne emotional Gospel roots were smoothed by an almost Jazz, almost cabaret feel. She became a modern Pop star making a new, a little more experienced, Pop music.

 

Image result for dionne warwick bacharach davidThere’s not room here for all of the classic records that kept Ms Warwick on the charts through the decade & became the foundation of such an enduring & successful career. “Walk On By”, “I Say A Little Prayer” & “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” all deserve attention. I shock myself that I have the front to leave out the perfect “Do You Know The Way To San Jose?”. It’s another personal favourite that makes the cut, another clip recorded in France where they really got her. Dionne delivers the charming “Are You There (With Another Girl)” (1965) casual in sweater & slacks, the epitome of chic which is, I believe, a French word. “Je ne sais quoi”, that’s more French but I think we knew exactly what Dionne Warwick had.

That Woman Can Sing (Cool And Classy Sixties)

 

In 1965 if The Beatles asked then The Beatles got. The Fabs were making a TV show, “The Music of Lennon & McCartney”, for Granada TV. Their guests included Mersey mates from the NEMS stable, Brit popettes Marianne Faithfull & Lulu, Peter Sellers doing that Shakespearian “A Hard Day’s Night”. Also joining them was Esther Phillips, 15 years as a recording artist & appearing outside of the USA for the first time. In 1950, as “Little” Esther & just 14 years old, she enjoyed 7 Top 10 singles (3 at #1), 5 of them with “Blues” in the title. Miss Phillips had a tough ride in the Fifties. After a split with the influential Johnny Otis the hits didn’t come as easy as her addiction to heroin. It was 1962 before she had more success with covers of country songs.

“And I Love Him” was the title track of Esther’s first LP with Atlantic. Covering Beatles’ songs was a thing in 1965 &, as John Lennon says, this was one of their favourites. The gender-switching “Her” to “Him” was a stroke, the arrangement is spare, the vocal sophisticated & sensual, two things I knew little of when I was 12 but it sounded good then & it still does. Esther stuck around & in 1972 was with Kudu, an offshoot of jazz label CTI. “From A Whisper To A Scream” includes her version of Gil Scott-Heron’s “Home Is Where The Hatred Is”, a sombre tale of addiction & it’s perfect. The whole LP is  treat, good songs arranged by Pee Wee Ellis, off of the James Brown Revue, played by stellar session men. Allen Toussaint’s title track & Marvin Gaye’s “Baby I’m For Real” are delights that I’m only just discovering.

 

In 1975 a discofied take on “What A Diff’rence A Day Makes”, a song made popular by her influence Dinah Washington, was a worldwide hit. She continued to record until 1984 when unfortunately, at the age of just 48, her hard-living past caused a much too early death. Esther Phillips had an individual voice which brought gritty quality to whatever material she was handed.

 

Of course in the mid-60s I was all about the Big Beat whether it was the energetic British take on Rock & Roll & the Blues or the new Motown sound that was calling out around the world. Everything that came before, the show business cabaret crooners, the vapid teen idols, trad jazz, was so over, stranded in the olden days by the new frontier of 60s modernity. (Yeah, I was so much older then…). Nancy Wilson’s cool supper club jazz stylings were absolutely off my radar but “The Girl With The Honey Coated Voice”, “Fancy Miss Nancy”, found a receptive audience with her interpretations of stage & screen standards. In 1963 her 4 LPs all reached the US Top 20.

 

The following year her single “(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am” claimed the Grammy for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording though she thought it was a pop song & there’s still a touch of jazz. No labels just classy, urban & urbane. This is so cosmopolitan I want to smoke a pastel coloured Sobranie…& like it. Ms Wilson seized the time, a guest on many US TV shows as a singer & an actress. She has continued to sing her stories, always warm, effortless, & elegant, always popular. It is more than her longevity that has made her a Jazz great. If you are so inclined check her performances from the early 1960s when she was young, assured, drop-dead gorgeous & straight from the fridge.

 

 

And then came Dionne Warwick. We knew that our own Cilla Black had pinched a UK hit off her by getting in early with a cover of “Anyone Who Had A Heart” but Dionne came right back with her first single of 1964 “Walk On By”. Her partnership with songwriters/producers Bacharach & David, from 1962 to 1971 was irresistible. At Scepter Records they were given the freedom to create definitive versions of original instant classics. The productions were often sparse, leaving Dionne’s soulful voice to do that thing she does. My favourites, the eerie “Walk On By”, the quirky drumbeat of “You Can Have Him” (not a B & D song) & the perfect “Are You There (With Another Girl)”. There were 31 Top 40 hits for the trio in this time.

 

Dionne had 5 million reasons for leaving Scepter in 1971 & though Bacharach & David followed her to Warner Bros they ended their songwriting relationship the following year. She worked with Holland-Dozier-Holland, Jerry Ragovoy & Thom Bell but, apart from “Then Came You”, recorded with the Spinners, the hits were fewer & smaller. Ms Warwick was not ready to join the golden oldie circuit. A generation of musicians & composers had learned about well-crafted pop music from her records & were only too pleased to work with her. Similarly listeners had grown up with her too. There was more success, of female singers only Aretha Franklin has had more hits. Dionne Warwick is a legend. A few years ago I hit upon copies of her Greatest Hits Vol I & II, released on Wand, a Scepter subsidiary in 1970. It was payday & they turned out to be in mint condition…a result. Both records are quality from start to finish, filling the house with the beautiful noise of the best of swinging sixties sophistication.