New albums from Sly & the Family Stone, Quicksilver et al

New Sly & Family Stone LP begins where other R&B LP’s leave off

SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE: Stand! (CBS 63655 stereo)
SLY AND the Family Stone, who go on with their progressive sounds to reach new heights of R & B, don’t seem to be hitting it here — their beautiful ‘Everyday People’ is included, plus their latest single and some more incredibly versatile sounds. Speeded up tapes, freaky improvisation and some terrific stereo effects are used, and plenty of raw R & B is thrown in. This group begin where all the others leave off.
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QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE: Happy Trails (Capitol E-ST 120 stereo).
ALREADY HIGH in the US LP charts, this acid-rock LP is one of the best and most genuine underground LPs for some time. The total packaging is terrific. The cover (unfortunately laminated here — try to see the US job) is a superb cowboy painting in autumnal colours that could have been taken from the Buffalo Bill Annual (remember those, kiddies!) with appropriate typefaces, and to put not too fine a point on it, those familiar with the effects of certain mind-expanding hallucinogenic drugs will highly dig. The sounds are great — hard rock but cleanly recorded, with the accent on Bo Diddley’s ‘Who Do You Love’, variations on which occupy the first side. But it isn’t tedious or boring, in fact it makes one of the best long-track workouts for some time. This is the real thing.
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BURT BACHARACH: Make It Easy On Yourself (A&M AMLS 938 stereo)
USUAL FORMULA from Burt — some beautiful orchestrations of his own songs (but surely ‘Any Day Now’ wasn’t originally by Bacharach-David?) with just about every musical variant used to enhance the mellow atmospheric sounds. The girlie chorus is used nicely too, in putting across Hal’s lyrics.
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A GENTLE record this, with lots of subtle Latin crescendos. Herb sings ‘Without You”‘, a lovely Harry Nilsson song with gentleness and style — it builds nicely. If anything, the arrangements are becoming better than ever. Little of the raw-edged Alpert remains, and one feels that a bit more of the raucous get-up-and-go sounds could help this record. Sort of late-night party music.
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SANDY BULL: Pluribus Unum (Vanguard SVRL 19040 stereo).
THE LEGENDARY Sandy Bull (according to Lon ‘Luc’ God-dard) and his third LP. The basic sound is weird, controlled instrumental, with contemporary nouveau rock left far behind. It’s a potent mixture of blues, jazz and oriental influences blended beautifully together: side one is ‘No Deposit; No Return Blues’ — he plays Electric Guitar, Bass, Bass Drum, Oud, Tambour, Hi-Hat and Cow Bell. It’s tinkly, often menacing and totally atmospheric, sounds weaving beautifully around each other. Side two is ‘Electric Blend’, slower, more forceful and slightly more repetitive, but still a terrific music concept. Progressive pop fans should buy this.
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THE VIBRATIONS: Greatest Hits (Direction 8-63644 stereo).
ONE OF the most interesting of the R&B groups around. The Vibes fall into the ‘progressive’ soul bag along with such others as the Dells, Impressions and other more sophisticated coloured groups who have yet to make it with our stale old R&B market. The general sound is very varied — from the raunchy ‘Sloop Dance’ to the beautiful renditions of ‘Misty’ and ‘Francisco’; everything is well-produced (Carl Davis, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff etc.). in good stereo, and soulful too. Couldn’t quite understand the grammar on ‘Cause Your Mine’ — is this a sequel to the first Bee Gee hit perhaps?
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JOSE FELICIANO: Souled (RCA SF 8008 stereo).
JOSE’S BEAUTIFUL guitar work has almost entirely been swamped by his singing. Not to say his voice is unattractive — a mixture of Robin Gibb and Aaron Neville — but longer guitar passages here and there would be welcome. Again a well produced LP, not outstanding, but carefully put together and with a sense of continuity.
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LONNIE DONEGAN: Lonnie Rides Again (Marble Arch MALL 1154)
MORE LOW-price Donegan. Lonnie, if you remember, not only had strings of top twenty hits from 1955 until 1962, but also helped to encourage the general interest in blues and R&B. This set still has some of the original excitement (it was recorded in 1959) — and some of the tracks have re-emerged in other context — ‘Fancy Talking Tinker’ became John Sebastian’s ‘On The Road Again’. Only one duff track. Lonnie’s somewhat insensitive interpretation of ‘San Miguel’ — strange because he can show a lot of soul — listen to ‘Miss Otis Regrets’ included here.
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© Peter JonesRecord Mirror, 26 July 1969

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