Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Gabor Szabo - "(They Long to Be) Close to You" (1971)

Gabor Szabo - "(They Long to Be) Close to You" (Billboard easy listening #40, entered 12/19/70). Written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Produced by Tommy LiPuma. 45: "(They Long to Be) Close to You"/"Love Theme from Spartacus" (Blue Thumb 1971). LP: Magical Connection (Blue Thumb 1971).

The prolific guitarist Szabo, in spite of his own distinctive style, which you do hear bending and chittering a bit here, mostly channels Wes Montgomery in his reinterpretation of the latest Bacharach-David standard. The song had been floating around since 1963 in versions by Richard Chamberlain, Dionne Warwick, and Dinah Washington, but the Carpenters' 1970 hit recording became the definitive one, prompting this cover by Szabo. It would be his only appearance on any of the Billboard charts.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Lettermen - "Everything Is Good About You" (1971)

The Lettermen - "Everything Is Good About You" (Billboard #74, entered 1/30/71; easy listening #6). Written by Eddie Holland and James Dean. Produced by Al DeLory. 45: "Everything Is Good About You"/"It's Over" (Capitol 1971). LP: Everything Is Good About You (Capitol 1971).

"Everything Is Good About You" first appeared as a filler track on the Supremes' I Hear a Symphony LP. The Lettermen's twinkly recording of it ended up being the California vocal trio's second-to-last Hot 100 chart appearance.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Johnny Mathis - "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" (1970)

Johnny Mathis - "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" (did not chart). Written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Produced by Robert Mersey. 45: "I'll Never Fall in Love Again"/"Love Theme from 'Romeo and Juliet' (A Time for Us)" (Columbia 1970). LP: Johnny Mathis Sings the Music of Kaempfert & Bacharach (Columbia (1970).

This double LP paired up a previously-released UK Bert Kaempfert tribute with a collection of Burt Bacharach tunes from previous Columbia LPs. (Too bad the title "Johnny Sings Bert and Burt" didn't make the cut.) Mathis had also recorded a number of Bacharach tunes for the Mercury label, none of which appear on this. With its minimalist arrangement built around a nylon string guitar and that familiar big-room echo on his voice, Mathis's version of Dionne Warwick's Top Ten hit from 1969 showcased the song well, but it never charted.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Gordon Lightfoot - "If You Could Read My Mind" (1970)

Gordon Lightfoot - "If You Could Read My Mind" (Billboard #5, entered 12/26/70; easy listening #1). Written by Gordon Lightfoot. Produced by Lenny Waronker and Joe Wissert. 45: "If You Could Read My Mind"/"Poor Little Allison" (Reprise 1970). LP: If You Could Read My Mind (Reprise 1970).

When Gordon Lightfoot entered the American charts for the first time in late 1970, he had already become an iconic Canadian chart fixture, with his first hit happening in 1962. But he'd also seen other performers' versions of his compositions do well in the U.S., such as Marty Robbins's 1965 country #1 "Ribbon of Darkness" and Peter, Paul and Mary's Top 40 version of "For Lovin' Me" (1965).

In 1969, Canadian hitmakers The Guess Who memorialized Phase One of the troubadour's career with a tribute song called "Lightfoot" on their 1969 Wheatfield Soul album. Lightfoot launched Phase Two with "If You Could Read My Mind" (a musical relative of the poignant Midnight Cowboy theme), which became an instant standard and role model for the forthcoming singer-songwriter era.

In 1977, the George Benson hit "The Greatest Love of All," with music by Michael Masser, plagiarized a key musical passage from "If You Could Read My Mind." When Whitney Houston had an even bigger hit with it in 1985, Lightfoot finally broke down and lawyered up, only to withdraw the suit in the belief that it would have done too much indirect damage to Houston.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Renaissance - "Always Something There to Remind Me" (1969)

The Renaissance - "Always Something There to Remind Me" (did not chart). Written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Produced by Snuff Garrett. Arranged by Al Capps. LP: Bacharach Baroque (Ranwood 1969).

One of Snuff Garrett's many instrumental productions, Bacharach Baroque - released on Lawrence Welk's Ranwood Records - put a classical spin on the sixties' and seventies' reigning King of Easy Listening (Bacharach) that owed as much to Britain's Swingle Singers as it did to the Old World's great composers.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Partridge Family - "I Think I Love You" (1971)

The Partridge Family - "I Think I Love You" (Billboard #1, entered 10/10/70; easy listening #8). Written by Tony Romeo. Produced by Wes Farrell. 45: "I Think I Love You"/"Somebody Wants to Love You" (Bell 1971). LP: The Partridge Family Album (Bell 1971).

"I Think I Love You" was the first of the Partridge Family's nine charting singles, and it laid out the formula for the group's adult-oriented sound. You read that right - in spite of their teen magazine appeal and kid-friendly TV show, the Partridge Family's music aimed squarely toward MOR formats. No other bubblegum group had such consistent success on the easy listening charts, and did you ever notice how, on the show, they usually did their lip-sync gigs for grown-ups in supper clubs?

A chart-topping hit, "I Think I Love You" was a schlager-esque number in the vein of Mary Hopkin's "Those Were the Days." Its composer, Tony Romeo, had also come up with "Indian Lake" (1968) for the Cowsills, the real-life family band that inspired The Partridge Family.

Radio man John Long, in his online memoir Puttin' on the Hits: A True Story About Top 40 Radio in 60's & 70's, reports having received a gold record from Bell for helping to "break" the record as a program director at KLWW in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, getting it in heavy rotation before the Partridge Family TV show had even made its September 1970 debut.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Assembled Multitude - "Woodstock" (1970)

The Assembled Multitude - "Woodstock" (Billboard #79, entered 10/3/70; easy listening #23). Written by Joni Mitchell. Produced by Bill Buster and Tom Sellers. 45: "Woodstock"/"Mr. Peppercorn" (Atlantic 1970). LP: The Assembled Multitude (Atlantic 1970).

The Assembled Multitude's #16 hit "Overture from Tommy (A Rock Opera)" provided a service in bringing the Who's album track to AM radio, but the studio instrumental ensemble's two follow-up singles, "Woodstock" and "Medley from 'Superstar' (A Rock Opera)," were less-memorable Muzak exercises. Even so, "Woodstock" could have worked as a Native American Billy Jack-style action movie theme. A Billboard ad from October 10, 1970, provides a visual image of the Assembled Multitude, giving names to faces. Nowhere to be seen is key contributor Tom Sellers, the arranger who'd also done work for Glen Campbell, the Hues Corporation, the Electric Indian, and Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods.