Singles From the Four Tops, Percy Sledge et al

A lack of new ideas but another Tops success

FOUR TOPS: ‘Standing In The Shadows Of Love’ (Tamla Motown).

The Motown Record Corp. would never miss out on a good thing. The good thing was ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’, a number one hit in England and America and subsequently the Four Tops’ follow-up has more than a few overtones very reminiscent of its predecessor. The churning, kind of skipping beat is there, plus the strings and the urgent vocal, but the record as a whole doesn’t flow quite like ‘Reach Out’. Holland and the Doziers have certainly written — and produced — another very big hit and it’s a nice record to listen to, despite the lack of new ideas. The next Four Tops single should be the real test.

MINDBENDERS: ‘I Want Her, She Wants Me’ (Fontana).
A hard-hitting stomper from the trio who were bending minds before the Cream came on the scene, but with solid Northern charm, and none of your London slippery-hippery. Master Ric Rothwell bashes out some triplets in the introduction, then settles down to drumming mercilessly behind bouncy vocals from Eric Stewart and Bob Lang, or B’lang, as he is known. It’s rather a strange song — from Rod Argent — and requires a few listens before any rating can be given. We guess a medium sized 20.

PERCY SLEDGE: ‘It Tears Me Up’ (Atlantic).
Percy Sledge on Atlantic with brass and choir can’t be bad, and naturally the latest hammer blow from Sledge has all the qualities of sound and feeling we have come to expect. But somehow it lacks the immediacy of pop success and is likely to invoke yawns of: ‘Yeah great, but we’ve heard it all before.’ It’s slow, emotional hand-cranked soul off the conveyor belt.

CALIFORNIA IN CROWD: ‘Questions And Answers’ (Fontana).
Perhaps this record was discovered in a sealed time-box following the demolition of an ancient American national monument. It sounds so old-fashioned it’s hard to imagine why the group are called an “In Crowd”. A turgid beat thuds away while the “Crowd” chant the title in traditional Hollywood studio choir harmony. It all fades out rather abruptly as if the engineer couldn’t stand any more. Valuable studio time has been wasted here. Even the hole in the middle is practically square — on our copy anyway.

JAY AND THE AMERICANS: ‘He’s Raining In My Sunshine’ (United Artists).
Thunder! These lads sound English! Gosh by golly, if Jay and his Americans haven’t come up with some pretty music that sounds heavily influenced by early British madrigals — or something. Jay intones some highly poetical lyrics — raindrops, sunshine and all that gear — while delicate guitar picking and the beating of sculls adds a highly commercial backing sound. Connoisseurs of pretentious pop will be delighted.

RIOT SQUAD: ‘Gotta Be A First Time’ (Pye).
The Riot Squad seem to have been around for years, making the occasional record and popping up at clubs, and one sympathises with their attempts to get a hit, but frankly there is little one can say about this very ordinary record without being destructive. At least it is not pretentious, it is not actively offensive, it isn’t soulful, psychedelic, or remotely trendy. “There’s gotta be a first time” but this isn’t it for the Riot Squad.

FOUR SEASONS: ‘Tell It To The Rain’ (Philips).
National Boredom Week continues with the latest trivia — this time from the Four Seasons. How To Make A Boring Record: Hire one drummer, get him drunk and instruct him to hammer his drums through the wall: Insert words and notes into a computer and set the controls to “Pop Cycle Grade B — Suit January 1967”: Request faintly poetic words and a few “weird” sounds from the Song Construction Unit Bank, mix the result and throw it at the public. With any luck they might throw it back, one day.

NASHVILLE TEENS: ‘That’s My Woman’ (Decca).
Surely fuzz-box riffs are a trifle dated aren’t they chaps? Especially riffs that sound like ‘Wipe Out’ by the Surfaris. But there is a nice, smashing beat, good old British R&B group vocals, and no nonsense. Mouths have to be fed, HP instalments paid and we hope this will earn money for the group and get them back in the chart.

BOBBY GOLDSBORO: ‘No Fun At The Fair’ (United Artists).
Midst the gloom of boring, totally uninspired records the companies have unwittingly released this week, emerges one song and one performance that can actually be listened to without invoking instant melancholy. Michael D’Abo of Manfred Mann fame has penned this slightly insane impressionistic romp for Goldsboro and it’s destined to be a hit. Misery at the fair because his bird ain’t there is hardly a novel situation, but the simplicity of the tale and its treatment is highly communicative.

Cor blimey mate — and similar Cockney cries! Max and Kenny have a ball on this romp along tale of matrimonial bliss in the boozer, which must be situated in the Old Kent Road somewhere from all the knocking about that goes on in the banjo-ridden backing. It might prove a successful combination, more on TV and radio than on records as such and represents good clean British fun at its finest.

VERA LYNN: ‘It Hurts To Say Goodbye’ (HMV).
As Vera is singing as well as ever, it seems strange that she has refrained from making more records. After all success in the chart has come the way of Ken Dodd, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Jim Reeves, Val Doonican, and even Louis Armstrong in recent years, proving that you don’t have to be a hipster-clad 16-year-old to sell records. This is a pleasant song, romantic and quite likely to be a hit.

KNICKERBOCKERS: ‘Can You Help Me’ (London).
Curiously the young gentleman singer with America’s Knickerbockers sounds like our own Long John Baldry. He certainly has a distinctive and powerful voice in the soul idiom, and the backing group mercifully steer clear of the usual four to the bar marching boots beat, and swing with a James Brown kick. It’s a nicely rounded performance and augers well for the ‘Bockers.

© uncredited writerMelody Maker, 7 January 1967

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