Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Willie Hightower - "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" (1970)

"Walk a Mile in My Shoes" (1970) - Willie Hightower

Written by Joe South * Produced by Rick Hall * 45: "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" / "You Used Me Baby" * Billboard charts: Bubbling under (#107), soul (#26) * Entered: 1970-04-25 (soul), 1970-05-30 (bubbling under)

Without fail, the voice of Alabama soul singer Willie Hightower stuns listeners for its expressive power and for the low number of records it actually appears on (especially when considering that he performs live to this day). At least three must-hear singles are his 1966 version of "If I Had a Hammer," his 1969 soul hit "It's a Miracle," and his 1970 Fame label take on Joe South's "Walk a Mile in My Shoes." Sounding like what writer Tim Tooher describes as a "cross between Sam Cooke and Little Richard," Hightower brings out even more dimensions of poignance and humanity from the song. The final paragraph of the Tooher piece mentions producer and Fame label head Rick Hall's success with the Osmonds as being a potential factor in the label's decision to drop soul singers like Hightower and Clarence Carter, and you can't help but wonder how much that might have hurt Hightower's long range momentum. The track "You Used Me Baby" on side B is another grade A vocal showcase and credits Hightower as the sole writer.

Side A: "Walk a Mile in My Shoes"

Side B: "You Used Me Baby"

Friday, November 10, 2017

Joe South: The Early '70s Charting Singles

Listening to Joe South's late '60s and early '70s records, especially the ones espousing brotherhood and tolerance, can be a rejuvenating exercise. The Georgia singer-songwriter made a name for himself in the music biz as the writer of "Down in the Boondocks," a #9 hit for Billy Joe Royal in 1965, and also as a session guitarist (Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde and the prominent tremolo guitar on Aretha Franklin's "Chain of Fools" are just a few of his contributions). His own amiable singing voice became familiar to radio listeners with his #12 hit "Games People Play," a 1969 electric sitar-enhanced song possibly inspired by a 1964 self-help book by Eric Berne. "Don't It Make You Want to Go Home" (#41), his next hit, imagined an irresistible rural homeland that South (a stage surname for the man born as Joseph Souter) gauzed with a blurry guitar to signify fantasy. The guitar effects in both of those records, in fact, made for appropriate accompaniment for the 3D image—with its counterbalancing suggestions of illusion versus truth—on his 1970 greatest hits album.

The Joe South of the early seventies was even more successful as a songwriter for others. Aside from his own humanist hit "Walk a Mile in My Shoes," he wrote the career-defining Lynn Anderson smash "Rose Garden" and saw the Osmonds go Top 5 with his "Yo Yo." Unfortunately, the melancholy he advised against in "Rose Garden" became a palpable component in South's own music career, which had stalled by the mid-seventies. The slowdown coincided with the 1971 suicide of his brother Tommy, who was the drummer with South's band The Believers, but it's worth remembering that Joe South, who passed away in 2012, lived an ostensibly happy life well past whatever challenges he'd gone through in the '70s. Musically, we can keep honoring him as a man who, in "Games People Play," gave us one catchphrase in particular to live by: "To hell with hate!"

Here are all the tracks (with B-sides) sung by Joe South to appear on a Billboard music chart in the early '70s. A list of charting songs written by him but sung by different artists follows.

"Walk a Mile in My Shoes" (1969) - Joe South and the Believers

Written and produced by Joe South * 45: "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" / "Shelter" * LP: Don't It Make You Want to Go Home? * Label: Capitol * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#12), easy listening (#3) * Entered: 1970-01-03 (Hot 100), 1970-01-10 (easy listening)

Released in 1969, Joe South's "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" entered the charts in early 1970 as a quintessential track for the times, sounding out from radio speakers like a Sunday broadcast from a new kind of southern church, one that adds the law of karma to its tenets. Handclaps and gospel choruses merged with organ and guitar to support words in favor of awareness for those "in the reservations and the ghetto" and the need to "get inside each other's minds" before we "criticize and accuse."

Elvis Presley included the song as part of his On Stage February, 1970 album and gave his apparent fondness for the title phrase added traction. (Doyle, Mieder and Shapiro's 2012 Dictionary of Modern Proverbs traces the phrase back to 1930, noting the occasional exchange of "shoes" with "mocassins" and attributions that have alternated between Native American tradition and Confucius). The labels on this 45 and the one before it ("Don't It Make You Want to Go Home") listed the artist as "Joe South and the Believers," who included his brother Tommy South on drums, Tommy's wife Barbara on keyboards and backup vocals, and John Mulkey on bass and backup vocals. The B side, advocating for letting "love be your shelter" with the help of additional church choir voices, kept the new humanist gospel vibe afloat.

Side A: "Walk a Mile in My Shoes"

Side B: "Shelter"

"Children" (1969) - Joe South

Written and produced by Joe South * 45: "Children" / "Clock Up on the Wall" * LP: Don't It Make You Want to Go Home * Label: Capitol * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#51), easy listening (#32) * Entered: 1970-03-21 (Hot 100), 1970-04-11 (easy listening)

Children were one of early '70s radio's prevailing themes, so hearing Joe South singing about them and adding in signal sounds, such as recorders and the "na-na boo-boo," seems only natural. From South's "get real" perspective though, the take home message is that all children eventually have to leave their "world of make believe" someday. For side B, South toys with the theme further in the context of lost romance, asking "what does true love mean to a kid acting smart?" Its tick-tock sounds are there to accentuate the record's lost-time motif, but they also manage to give it a kid-friendly appeal.

Side A: "Children"

Side B: "Clock Up on the Wall"

"Why Does a Man Do What He Has to Do" (1970)
Joe South

Written by Don Randi and Bob Silver * Produced by Joe South * 45: "Why Does a Man Do What He Has to Do" / "Be a Believer" * Label: Capitol * Billboard charts: Bubbling under (#118) * Entered: 1970-10-03

In his 2015 memoir You've Heard These Hands, the keyboardist and composer Don Randi (a regular with the legendary "Wrecking Crew" studio players in LA) recounts the unlikely scenario of getting Joe South to do someone else's song. "Why Does a Man Do What He Has to Do" was written for an Alan Sidaris documentary called The Racing Scene about the actor James Garner's Formula One racing activities. Randi reports it as a co-write between him and his friends Bob Silver and (the uncredited) Pete Willcox. Because South was Garner's "favorite artist," he asked Randi to work his publishing contacts (while handing him five hundred bucks) to see what he could do. Although the ultimate landing place for the cash is unknown, it resulted in a phone call from South who treated Randi to a freshly adrenalized playback of the re-recorded tune that eventually did appear in the film and bubbled under Billboard's Hot 100. The electric guitar quotient (handled, we can assume, by the man himself) might be highest on this track then on any other Joe South recording. The song plays at the end of Garner's easy-going film, a gearhead's joy ride that he narrates and also features Dick Smothers as an avocational race car driver. (Who knew?)

Side B contains a track from South's 1969 Don't It Make You Want to Go Home, with a generous serving of that album's echoey strings and choruses. Entitled "Be a Believer," it was a fitting bit of output from the man who would credit his work as "A Positive Production" on label stickers.

Side A: "Why Does a Man Do What He Has to Do"

Side B: "Be a Believer"

"Fool Me" (1971)
Joe South

Written by Joe South * Produced by Buddy Buie and Bill Lowery * 45: "Fool Me" / "Devil May Care" * LP: Joe South * Label: Capitol * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#78) * Entered: 1971-11-06

Joe South's 1971 self-titled album rounded up some of his own versions of songs that had been done—or would soon be done—by artists with greater success. In the case of "Fool Me," South's own interpretation, with his pained vocals, was the greater artistic success, while Lynn Anderson's too-perky version in 1972 reaped the commercial rewards. Her willing romantic dupe in "Fool Me" seemed like some sort of self-rebuke for coming off as such a strong woman in "Rose Garden."

The hurt in South's voice likely had as much to do with the sad reality of his brother Tommy's suicide in 1970, which darkened what were otherwise his most fruitful years as a songwriter. He'd release three more albums in the '70s, none of which produced any hits. On side B is "Devil May Care," one of the album's lesser products that was produced, like the A side, by two Georgia music business legends—songwriter Buddy Buie and publisher Bill Lowery.

Side A: "Fool Me"

Side B: "Devil May Care"

Early '70s chart songs written by Joe South but performed by others:

Della Reese - "Games People Play" (1/10/70, #121)
Brook Benton - "Don't It Make You Want to Go Home" (5/30/70, #45)

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Cannonball Adderley Quintet - "Country Preacher" (1970)

"Country Preacher" (1970) - The Cannonball Adderley Quintet

Written by Josef Zawinul * 45: "Country Preacher" / "Hummin'" * LP: Country Preacher: "Live" at Operation Breadbasket * Label: Capitol * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#86), soul (#29) * Entered: 1970-01-18 (Hot 100), 1970-01-31 (soul)

A swirl of sociological energy accompanied the release of alto sax man Cannonball Adderley and his quintet's Country Preacher album, which was recorded at one of Reverend Jesse Jackson's Operation Breadbasket meetings at a church in Chicago. These were gatherings for ministers, musicians, and political figures—an initiative that had been launched by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.—at a time when, as jazz writer Chris Sheridan puts it in his 2000 Dis Here: A Bio-Discography of Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, "the battle for political rights was over, but that for economic equality had just begun."

Other strong components in the narrative surrounding Country Preacher had to do with the pros and cons of commercial acceptance for jazz and the record's reliance on blues, gospel, and a "racial memory" of the South, as Lorenzo Thomas calls it (in reference to Adderley) in his Don't Deny My Name: Words and Music and the Black Intellectual Tradition (2008)The album's title track was written as a tribute to Jackson by Josef Zawinul, the Austrian musician who sits conspicuously white behind his Wurlitzer on the album's back cover and reminds us visually to get over the race thing and just listen to the music, which is where the real energy is. (Zawinul, who aided and abetted in Adderley's attempts to find widespread acceptance for quality jazz in spite of criticism, would later continue to do so with his own band, Weather Report.)

On "Country Preacher," as with Adderley's 1967 radio hit "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," the audience interaction with the music is crucial to the recording's appeal—at two specific points it sounds like the intensity will boil over, but then it stops dead... and then continues all dialed back, cool and collected, much to the room's pleasure and approval. It's a musical approximation of a skillful, hypothetical country preacher's cadences, bringing forth the same kind of congregational responses. The 45 version doesn't include Adderley's spoken introduction of the number from the album; the B side includes a rare studio take of "Hummin'" (written by Cannonball's brother Nat, the band's cornet player) rather than the live version that leads off the album. This would be the last chart appearance for Cannonball Adderley, who died of a brain hemorrhage in 1975.

Side A: "Country Preacher"

Side B: "Hummin'"

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Green Lyte Sunday featuring Susan Darby - "Chelsea Morning" (1970)

"Chelsea Morning" (1970) - Green Lyte Sunday feat. Susan Darby

Written by Joni Mitchell * Produced by Peter Shelton * 45: "Chelsea Morning" / "Emmie" * LP: Green Lyte Sunday * Label: RCA Victor  * Billboard charts: Easy listening (#19) * Entered: 1970-07-25

From Dayton, Ohio, Green Lyte Sunday formed around the nucleus of Mike Losenkamp, formerly of the Cyrkle, and Susan Darby, a former bandmate of his from the Mark V. (Pop history annals indicate that this was a popular band name used by multiple parties, so research carefully.) The group caught a break when they came to the attention of British ex-pat Peter Shelton, who'd played with Ohio's Outsiders and worked as tour manager for Chicago's Buckinghams. He helped the band land a contract with RCA Victor and wound up producing their self-titled album. With their jazz-rock inclinations, the group transitioned easily to the tastes of MOR radio. 

Their version of Joni Mitchell's "Chelsea Morning," billed on the 45 label to "Green Lyte Sunday Featuring Susan Darby," had an airy, flutes-and-vibes mood and a gentle groove that may have conceivably informed a later iteration by Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66. (That band's Stillness album came out late in the year, even though its leadoff single "For What Its Worth" had been released in August.) Side B of the single covered Laura Nyro's "Emmie," also from the album, which mostly featured original songs by Losekamp.

After this one-off LP, Green Lyte Sunday continued as a popular local attraction. One brief mention of Susan Darby in a 1979 Billboard (February 3) reports her signing to Umbrella Inc. for exclusive representation. Various online hearsay reports locate her as a Vegas club singer before falling off the music biz radar. An earlier single by her as "Sue Darby" doing the Randall-Linzer tune  "Can't Get Enough of You Baby"—and giving Evie Sands a run for her money—can be heard on YouTube.

Side A: "Chelsea Morning"

Side B: "Emmie"

Friday, October 27, 2017

Chart Song Cinema: Cool Breeze (1972)

"Love's Street and Fool's Road" (1972) - Solomon Burke

Written and produced by Solomon Burke * 45: "Love's Street and Fool's Road" / "I Got to Tell It" * LP: Cool Breeze * Label: MGM * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#89), soul (#13) * Entered: 1972-04-15 (Hot 100), 1972-04-22 (soul)

Directed by Barry Pollack, Cool Breeze did whatever it could to live up to the term "blaxploitation."  On display most prominently were the era's favorite caricaturizations of urban blackness and, as a dreary bonus, an unwavering commitment to chauvinism. Its biggest mishap, though, was closing credits that stunned viewers by even being there. Their first line should have read, "we didn't know what else to do, and we're out of money, so we're just gonna end this." Even so, Cool Breeze does have the makings of a cult movie (which it's becoming) due to its funny dialogue and time capsule visuals, such as scenes where Thalmus Rasulala's assembled gang of diamond thieves wear Nixon and Agnew masks.

The choice of influential R&B singer Solomon Burke—whose chart success was on the wane after a busy 1960s—as the movie's soundtrack man is apropos because he, like one of Cool Breeze's characters, had something of a world-tainted preacher aura. As his obituary in the New York Times reports, Burke was known in his youth as a "wonder boy" at the pulpit whose competing love for life's temporal pleasures led him toward a music career that made them all available. (As the "king of rock and soul," he would appear on stage wearing a crown and robe.) In the film, a preacher who's also a safe cracker joins the heist squad, and one scene shows three of his cohorts awkwardly discussing business on a church pew, surrounded by elders and children who are trying to worship. It's a scene full of inner angel-devil conflict that Burke probably appreciated.

After the soul chart (and minor Hot 100) success of "Love's Street and Fool's Road," which features the kind of spoken interjections he was known for, Burke had only one more Hot 100 appearance and two more on the soul chart. In 2002, though (eight years before his death), he'd release the rally-round comeback album Don't Give Up on Me, full of songs by contemporary songwriting icons.

Side B previewed a song, written by J.W. Alexander and Willie Hutch, that would later show up on Burke's We're Almost Home LP the same year.

Side A: "Love's Street and Fool's Road"

Side B: "I Got to Tell It"

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Jackie Wilson: The Early '70s Charting Singles

Jackie Wilson was one of the entertainment world's lightning bolts, a singer with boundless expressive range, a dancer envied by James Brown and idolized by Michael Jackson, and a stage performer who may as well have invented the concept. He first made a name for himself as a member of Billy Ward and His Dominoes (replacing Clyde McPhatter), after which, as a solo act from 1957 onward, he became a steady radio and chart presence with songs like "Reet Petite," "Lonely Teardrops," "Baby Workout," and "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher."

That last song was a 1967 smash recorded with the Motown studio's Funk Brothers and Andantes as an expression of gratitude from Berry Gordy (a co-writer of "Reet Petite," the first hit for both men). It tends to be remembered as Wilson's farewell song, his "Dock of the Bay," but the ensuing Jackie Wilson radio songs of the early seventies form a distinct and final career era worth exploring. Even for the man known as Mr. Excitement, whose off-stage life seemed destined to shudder from extreme ups and downs, these were difficult years. In September 1970, his sixteen-year-old son Jackie Jr. was gunned down in Detroit, which cast a pall over his efforts to revitalize his career. In 1975, Wilson would suffer a heart attack on stage at the "Dick Clark Good Ole Rock 'N Roll Revue," after which he'd spend the rest of his life in a semi-comatose state until his death in 1984 at the age of 49. His headstone in Wayne, Michigan, says "No More Lonely Teardrops" and "Jackie - The Complete Entertainer."

All of the following singles, except for a few bonuses thrown in for context, made Billboard chart appearances between 1970 and 1975. (The album image above comes from the Spain edition of It's All a Part of Love, which contained no charting singles.)

"Let This Be a Letter (To My Baby)" (1970) - Jackie Wilson

Written by Eugene Record * Johnny Moore and Jack Daniels * Produced by Carl Davis and Eugene Record * 45: "Let This Be a Letter (To My Baby)" / "Didn't I" * LP: This Love Is Real * Label: Brunswick * Billboard charts: Soul (#34), Hot 100 (#91) * Entered: 1970-05-09 (soul), 1970-05-16 (Hot 100)

Jackie Wilson started out the decade with a big, bursting love hymn featuring solo female-in-a-cloud operatics for the intro. It's an arrangement tactic, though, that inevitably suggests angels receiving a departing spirit, so knowledge of where the song placed in Wilson's catalog—the first charting song for his final decade as a hitmaker—can make you hear it with a sense of foreboding. It was written by chief Chi-Lite (and Brunswick label mate) Eugene Record, who would write another letter song ("A Letter to Myself") as the title track for one of his group's 1973 albums.

The Chi-Lites' voices can be heard accompanying Wilson on the flipside "Didn't I," which also appeared on the This Love Is Real album (released at the end of the year). It credits Jack Daniels and Bonnie Thompson as composers; Daniels was a frequent collaborator with Johnny Moore (not to be confused with the one in the Drifters or the Three Blazers). The unheralded Chicago songwriter and vocalist Moore had gotten into the habit of occasionally gifting songwriter credits to his girlfriend Thompson, the way he'd earlier done for Syl Johnson's "We Did It" and Tyrone Davis's "Turn Back the Hands of Time." Grapevine Records released a compilation of Moore's vocal recordings in 2003 called Lonely Heart in the City.

All of Wilson's early '70s singles were recorded in Chicago, with a rhythm section Carl Davis identifies in his 2011 memoir The Man Behind the Music as including bassist Bernard Reed, Floyd Morris on keyboards, and Quinton Joseph on drums ("the first and last drummer that I ever saw who played standing up").

Side A: "Let This Be a Letter (To My Baby)"

Side B: "Didn't I"

"(I Can Feel Those Vibrations) This Love Is Real" (1970) - Jackie Wilson

Written by Johnny Moore and Jack Daniels * Produced by Carl Davis * Arranged by Sonny Henderson * 45: "(I Can Feel those Vibrations) This Love Is Real" / "Love Uprising" * LP: This Love Is Real * Label: Brunswick * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#49), soul (#9) * Entered: 1970-12-12 (soul), 1970-12-19 (Hot 100)

This top ten soul chart hit, which featured Wilson's famous octave leaps in the choruses, payed general tribute to the Temptations' "The Way You Do the Things You Do," while in the intro and at the 1:42 mark (thanks to arranger Sonny Henderson), it payed specific tribute to "Danny Boy," which Wilson had taken to the charts in 1965. Songwriting credits went to Johnny Moore and Jack Daniels, who had also written "Didn't I" for the previous single. On the B side was "Love Uprising," written by Eugene Record, who happened to write the A side of the previous single.

Side A: "(I Can Feel Those Vibrations) This Love Is Real"

Side B: "Love Uprising"

"Love Is Funny That Way" (1971) - Jackie Wilson

Written by Floyd Smith and Ritchie Tufano * Produced by Carl Davs * 45: "Love Is Funny That Way" / "Try It Again" * LP: You Got Me Walking * Label: Brunswick * Billboard charts: Soul (#18), Hot 100 (#95) * Entered: 1971-11-13 (soul), 1971-11-27 (Hot 100)

Chicago songwriters Floyd Smith (Loleatta Holloway's husband) and Rich Tufo (a frequent keyboardist for Curtis Mayfield credited here as Ritchie Tufano) gave Jackie Wilson his leadoff single for his You Got Me Walking album. Its main melodic hook comes directly from the Temptations' "I Wish It Would Rain." The B side pumps with an increased dose of vintage Jackie Wilson vivaciousness; it's a song called "Try It Again" written by Ronnie Shannon, the man who'd also written "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)" and "Baby I Love You" for Aretha Franklin.

Side A: "Love Is Funny That Way"

Side B: "Try It Again"

"You Got Me Walking" (1971) - Jackie Wilson

Written by Eugene Record * Produced by Carl Davis * 45: "You Got Me Walking" / "The Fountain" * LP: You Got Me Walking * Label: Brunswick * Billboard charts: Soul (#22), Hot 100 (#93) * Entered: 1972-02-19 (soul), 1972-02-26 (Hot 100)

The title track to Jackie Wilson's You Got Me Walkin' album ended up being his final Hot 100 appearance in Billboard. Written by label mate Eugene Record, as were many of Wilson's early '70s recordings, it suffered from a confusing lyrical gimmick, which had his woman being so good to him that he was reacting negatively—"walking" floors, "talking" to himself, and "knocking" on wrong doors (emphasized by snare drum raps). On side B, he checked in with a social-issues litany, also written by Record, that had him seeking a mysterious "fountain" later revealed to be one of faith, hope, love, and money.

Side A: "You Got Me Walkin'"

Side B: "The Fountain"

"The Girl Turned Me On" (1972) - Jackie Wilson

Written by Leo Graham and Dennis Miller * Produced by Carl Davis and Willie Henderson * 45: "The Girl Turned Me On" / "Forever and a Day" * LP: You Got Me Walking * Billboard charts: Soul (#44) * Entered: 1972-05-14

Wilson would manage to get three more songs to the lower regions of Billboard's soul charts before his career as an active recording artist came to an end in 1975. "The Girl Turned Me On"—written by Chicagoans Leo Graham and Dennis Miller—is one of Wilson's lost dance floor classics, boosted by majestic horns and a moody piano break at 2:03. "Forever and a Day," by Daniels and Moore, follows B side etiquette by not upstaging the A side in any way, although it does play a trick by borrowing the title of a minor hit Wilson had in 1962, which was a dramatic tuxedo chanson that seemed light years away from this. Speaking of chansons, it bears mentioning that Wilson's You Got Me Walking album contained a version of "My Way," the French melody given new lyrics by Paul Anka for Frank Sinatra as an intended swan song. Sinatra ended up having more years to give, but that doesn't preclude the song's ominous, fate-tempting elements.

Side A: "The Girl Turned Me On"

Side B: "Forever and a Day"

*UK Bonus*
"I Get the Sweetest Feeling" (1968) - Jackie Wilson

Written by Alicia Evan and Van McCoy * Produced by Carl Davis * 45: "I Get the Sweetest Feeling" / "Soul Galore" * LP: I Get the Sweetest Feeling * Label (UK reissue): MCA * Charts (UK reissue): UK #9

In mid-1972, a reissue of Jackie Wilson's sublime sunshine-soul "I Get the Sweetest Feeling" (1968) zoomed up to #9 on the British singles chart, where it had never registered the first time around (but reached #34 in the US). Among the reasons for its success might have been the fact that Wilson had royalty status in burgeoning "northern soul" dance halls where soul obscurities from yesteryear ruled, and where a song like his previous "The Girl Turned Me On" would eventually be treated like a Top 5 hit.

Another possible helper might have been the release of Van Morrison's "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)," a song that didn't end up charting at all in the UK—and came out only two weeks before the Wilson reissue—but had a high enough profile to possibly get some ripples in motion. (An early 1982 cover by Dexy's Midnight Runners would hit #5 over there.) Coincidentally, "I Get the Sweetest Feeling" is a Wilson song that has a "smile" component ("when you turn on your smile / I feel my heart go wild"). Another dance-friendly Wilson track from 1966 called "Soul Galore" written by Eugene Hamilton appeared on the B side.

In the late eighties, three more Jackie Wilson reissues would storm the UK chart: "Reet Petite" (#1 in 1986), "I Get the Sweetest Feeling" again (#3 in 1987), and "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" (#15 in 1987).

Side A: "I Get the Sweetest Feeling"

Side B: "Soul Galore"

"Because of You" (1973) - Jackie Wilson

Written by Edward E. Little Jr. and Jeffrey Perry * Produced by Carl Davis and William Sanders * 45: "Because of You" / "Go Away" * LP: Beautiful Day * Billboard charts: Soul (#45) * Entered: 1973-05-12

One of the identifying characteristics of Jackie Wilson's Beautiful Day album, aside from the scenic cover, is the participation of Jeffrey Perry as a co-composer on every song. He was one of five Chicago Perry brothers (with Greg, Zachary, Leonard and Dennis) all of whom worked as songwriters. He'd later record one album of his own in 1979 as "Jeffree" Palmer, and videos of him singing on Soul Train can be found on YouTube. The flipside "Go Away" is a co-write between Jeff and his brother Zachary with a soaring vocal by Wilson that might have served as a stronger plug side than "Because of You."

Side A: "Because of You"

Side B: "Go Away"

"Sing a Little Song" (1973) - Jackie Wilson

Written by Desmond Dacres * Produced by Bob Mersey * 45: "Sing a Little Song" / "No More Goodbyes" * Label: Brunswick * Billboard charts: Soul (#94) * Entered: 1973-07-28

On "Sing a Little Song," Jackie Wilson broke away momentarily from Carl Davis with producer Bob Mersey, a longtime CBS music director with abundant easy listening credentials (and who had worked with Wilson in 1961 as the arranger for "My Heart Belongs to You"). The new song came from Desmond Dacres, aka Desmond Dekker, who was at the forefront of the early seventies surge in Caribbean sounds with his late sixties US top ten song "Israelites" (along with contributions to the soundtrack for the Jamaican film The Harder They Come). On this single, which never appeared on an album, Jackie Wilson provided a swingier (and stringier) take on a tune Dekker had released the same year with a decidedly more reggae rhythm. In 1975, though, Dekker would put out a spruced up redo more informed by Wilson's interpretation. (Where Wilson's version used a steel pan drum, though, Dekker's would use a piano.) Side B contained a lush track called "No More Goodbyes," co-written by Mersey and Harold Orenstein and sprinkled with Philly soul orchestra glitter.

Side A: "Sing a Little Song"

Side B: "No More Goodbyes"

*1975 Bonus* 
"Don't Burn No Bridges" (1975) - Jackie Wilson and the Chi-Lites

Written by Romaine Anderson * Produced by Carl Davis and Sonny Sanders * 45: "Don't Burn No Bridges" / "Don't Burn No Bridges (Instrumental)" * LP: Nobody But You (1976) * Label: Brunswick * Billboard charts: Soul (#91) * Entered: 1975-11-15

Jackie Wilson's career-ending heart attack occurred on September 29, 1975, while at the Latin Casino in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He was performing as the headliner and collapsed during a performance of "Lonely Teardrops," with its "my heart is crying" refrain. Although Wilson's well-known demonstrative nature onstage made it hard for anyone to discern if it was just an act, Cornell Gunter of the Coasters was able to act fast enough to resuscitate him, but not enough to prevent him from slipping into a comatose state, where he remained until his death in 1984. Another dark coda for the year 1975 involved Wilson's longtime label Brunswick, whose head Nat Tarnopol faced federal charges of financial misconduct, including unpaid royalties of one million dollars for Wilson (which, evidently, were never paid).

That year, Wilson had been readying a new album with Carl Davis, back in his familiar role as producer and with participation from Eugene Record and the Chi-Lites. The single "Don't Burn Bridges," backed by an instrumental version, came out two months after Wilson's heart attack. It had a Temptations flair, with its minor-key vocal trade-offs and a reference to the "month of December" that reminded listeners of the "third of September" opener of "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone." If Wilson and the Chi-Lites merely borrowed a vibe from the Temptations, the Trammps would record a song for their 1977 Disco Inferno album that bordered on plagiarism. It was also called "Don't Burn No Bridges" and sounded similar enough to be considered an interpretation, but it credited two different writers: Allan Felder and Ronald Tyson. Maybe they had made a deal with the mysterious Romaine Anderson.

The picture sleeve presented here comes from the Spain release. It's too good not to include.

"Don't Burn No Bridges"

*Non-Charting Bonus*
"Nobody But You" (1975) - Jackie Wilson

Written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil * Produced by Carl Davis and Sonny Sanders * 45: "Nobody But You" / "I've Learned About Life" * LP: Nobody But You (1976) * Label: Brunswick * Billboard charts: —

Jackie Wilson's final album was called Nobody But You, and it saw release in 1976, the year after the heart attack that brought his career as Mr. Excitement to a close. The record was a more-than-worthy final statement, with a Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil title track (previously recorded in 1975 by the Righteous Brothers) that could function as a thank you to his audience, leading that same audience to wonder how they could repay a man who generated so much happiness in so short a time.

"Nobody But You"

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Original Caste: The Early '70s Charting Singles

Before the Billy Jack movie ever existed, the Original Caste reached the US Top 40 with "One Tin Soldier." After the early Dennis Lambert-Brian Potter composition with a "peace on earth" moral had run its course for them, though, the Calgary band could only manage to get three more songs to "bubble under" in 1970. The group who had been called the North Country Singers until 1968 would ultimately prove to have more traction in its homeland of Canada and in Japan.

After their flurry of early '70s success, the Original Caste managed to reconfigure off-and-on throughout the following decades under the ongoing leadership of Bruce Innes (who split up with his lead vocalist wife Dixie Lee in 1980). He's remained musically active since the sixties into the 2010s, having sung backup on the hit recording of John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" along the way. Here are the Original Caste's four Billboard singles, including "One Tin Soldier, which entered the US charts in late 1969 but peaked in early 1970.

"One Tin Soldier" (1969) - The Original Caste

Written and produced by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter * Arranged by Artie Butler * 45: "One Tin Soldier" / "Live for Tomorrow" * LP: One Tin Soldier * Label: T.A. * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#34) * Entered: 1969-11-15

After signing to Bell subsidiary label TA, the Original Caste released this single written by their producers Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. Guitarist Bruce Innes reports not having any inkling that the song had actual hit potential until Chicago's WLS put it in hourly rotation. It seems strange that Billy Jack film composer Mundell Lowe opted to record a new version of a recent hit rather than licensing this one, but maybe the now-legendary shoestring budget of the film (one million dollars) demanded it. There was also the problem of TA/Bell Records being a division of Columbia Pictures, while Billy Jack was a project for Warner Bros., its competitor.

"One Tin Soldier"

"Mr. Monday" (1970) - The Original Caste

Written and produced by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter * Arranged by Artie Butler * 45: "Mr. Monday" / "Highway" * LP: One Tin Soldier * Label: TA * Billboard charts: Bubbling under (#119) * Entered: 1970-04-25

"Mr. Monday"—another Lambert-Pottter track—had a similar Pachelbel's Canon chord sequence as "One Tin Soldier" in the verses. A mystical piano hook, though, reminiscent of the one at the beginning of Pink Floyd's "Remember a Day" (1968), closes out the choruses. "Mr. Monday" would be the Original Caste's highest charting Canadian hit, reaching #4 and also selling thousands of copies in Japan. "Highway" on side B is a Bruce Innes track sung by Dixie Lee that can easily strike listeners as a more diverting bit of songcraft than "Mr. Monday." (The picture sleeve comes from the German edition.)

Side A: "Mr. Monday"

Side B: "Highway"

"Nothing Can Touch Me (Don't Worry Baby, It's Alright)" (1969) - The Original Caste

Written and produced by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter * Arranged by Artie Butler * 45: "Nothing Can Touch Me (Don't Worry Baby, It's Alright)" / "Country Song" * LP: One Tin Soldier * Label: TA * Billboard charts: Bubbling under (#114) * Entered: 1970-07-11

All of the Original Caste's US charting singles were Lambert-Potter compositions. "Nothing Can Touch Me" focused on the power of imagination (or some other unnamed power) to help you "sit and get high" when the "pressures of the day" get too heavy. In Canada, though, the flipside is the one radio stations spun and sent to #29 in RPM Weekly (Canada's chart authority until 2000).

Written and sung by Bruce Innes, "Country Song" is a Class A hippie social-crit anthem with weird and wise lyrics every bit as subversive—if not more so—than "One Toke Over the Line" or "Signs." Innes, channeling the melody and structure of "The Weight" by his countrymen the Band, sings of interactions with a warmongering "unknown soldier," cops "mowing down" kids for "passing their stuff around," and the "beer cans and swill" in public waters. There's no question this song inspired Five Man Electrical Band's Les Emmerson (from Ottawa) with its mood and attitude to write "Signs." Where Innes sings "I took off my boot and did a salute," Emmerson sings "I took off my hat and said 'Imagine that!" And the money line in the "Country Song" chorus is one every Canadian child of the seventies knows: "My neighbor Fred said God is dead, but I think he just moved away." US radio listeners definitely lost out on this one.

Side A: "Nothing Can Touch Me (Don't Worry Baby, It's Alright)"

Side B: "Country Song"

"Ain't That Tellin' You People" (1970) - The Original Caste

Written and produced by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter * Arranged by Artie Butler * 45: "Ain't That Tellin' You People" / "Sweet Chicago" * Label: TA * Billboard charts: Bubbling under (#117) * Entered: 1970-10-30

Lambert and Potter's "Ain't That Tellin' You People" had a "whole world needs some changin'" chorus that walked in step with the Five Stairsteps' "O-o-h Child" or the Brotherhood of Man's "United We Stand" (both from earlier in the year), and it did especially well on Canadian MOR stations, peaking at #2 on RPM Weekly's "MOR Playlist" chart. It becomes clear, when listening to the Original Caste's singles, though, that all the songs Bruce Innes wrote are especially worth paying attention to. His B-side "Sweet Chicago," a youth movement think piece about recent Chicago violence (e.g., the 1968 Democratic Convention) and gun control in general, taps into the pensive musical atmosphere of Brook Benton's "Rainy Night in Georgia," a late 1969/early 1970 hit. Which came first? Although the "One Tin Soldier" single came out in late '69, I'm pretty sure its album, which also included "Sweet Chicago," didn't roll out until spring 1970 or so. 

Side A: "Ain't That Tellin' You People"

Side B: "Sweet Chicago"

*Canadian chart bonus*
"Sault Ste. Marie" (1971) - The Original Caste

Written and arranged by Bruce Innes * Produced by Roger Nichols * 45: "Sault Ste. Marie" / "When Love Is Near" * Billboard charts:

By 1971, Dennis Lambert, Brian Potter, and arranger Artie Butler had parted ways with the Original Caste and, shortly before the TA subsidiary of Bell would shut down altogether, the group released one more single. This time around, it was Roger Nichols, the songwriting partner of Paul Williams, who sat in the producer's chair. And although an ad appeared in the March 20, 1971 issue of RPM Weekly clearly designating the Williams-Nichols composition "When Love Is Near" as the proper A side, the following week's issue showed the B side listed on the RPM 100, the Country 50 and the MOR Playlist charts. In that same issue, a young Terry David Mulligan plugged the song in a column and the magazine's singles review section panned the intended A side with a "WHO CARES??????" while praising "Sault Ste. Marie" as the "big side" and declaring it to be "about time the very talented and highly creative leader of this Canadian group received some recognition." And they were right about "Sault Ste. Marie," a rockin' Canada-centric road song with another classic line in the chorus: "I'm just trying to make it to Montreal / I do believe I'm going to hell." In truth, they were on their way to Japan for some touring, then into the studio, eventually, for a 1974 album on the Century II label, but no more rides up any pop charts.

"Sault Ste. Marie"

Monday, October 16, 2017

Cleveland Regional Breakout Hits

The following two singles are the only ones to be listed in Billboard between 1970-1974 as regional breakout hits in Cleveland and never to have moved any higher.

"Roxanna  (Thank You for Getting Me High)" (1970) - Wild Butter

Written by John Senné * Produced by Eric Stevens * 45: "Roxanna (Thank You for Getting Me High)" / "Terribly Blind" * LP: Wild Butter * Label: United Artists * Billboard charts: Regional breakout—Cleveland * Entered: 1970-08-22

"Roxanna" will strike most listeners as a lost proto-power pop gem to be filed alongside Big Star or the American Dream, with its Beatle allegiances, airy melodicism, and odd refrain ("Naked heart and naked mind / Thank you Roxanna for getting me high"). The most available story about Akron's Wild Butter is that drummer/vocalist Rick Garen and keyboardist Jerry Buckner (who, alongside a man named Garcia, would later enrich contemporary society with "Pac Man Fever") scored a record deal with United Artists before having a full band. Their songwriter-guitarist friend John Senné, along with bassist Steve Price, then joined up to help get an album in the can. Most of the songs, including "Roxanna," are Senné's, but Price and Buckner also contribute alongside cover versions of the Bee Gees, Neil Young, and the Moody Blues. (The flipside "Terribly Blind" is a Senné/Price track.) Garen's lead vocal has a British affectation that's not uncommon for the era, but then it may remind you of Guided By Voices singer Robert Pollard (of Dayton), leading you to wonder if that's an Ohio thing.

An August 1970 issue of Record World mentions Cleveland's popular WIXY as a station giving "Roxanna" heavy rotation, which is no surprise because the record's producer and the band's manager was former WIXY program director Eric Stevens, who knew a thing or two about the radio biz and his city's musical tastes. He'd also produce and manage local heavy rockers the Damnation of Adam Blessing and—his biggest success—Brownsville Station. Stevens is quoted in a book called Cleveland Rock and Roll Memories as being frustrated with United Artists who didn't seem to know much about "bringing the record home," ignoring the pre-installed roadblocks of Wild Butter's overt "getting high" references.

Side A: "Roxanna (Thank You for Getting Me High)"

Side B: "Terribly Blind"

"Linda's Song" (1971) - Alex Bevan

Written by Alex Bevan * Produced by Eric Stevens * 45: "Linda's Song" / "Brady Street Hotel" * LP: No Truth to Sell * Label: Big Tree * Billboard charts: Regional breakout—Cleveland * Entered: 1971-10-23

Like Wild Butter, singer-songwriter Alex Bevan was from Akron and had his first record produced by former WIXY program director Eric Stevens. Fans of be-denimed early seventies singer-songwriters should add Bevan's No Truth to Sell to their search lists. The two tracks on his "Linda's Song" 45, especially, have a haunted aura with their journeyman lyrics and echo chamber strings. For the rest of his career, though, Bevan would settle in as Cleveland's good time troubadour-in-residence, appearing regularly on WNCR and WMMS, doing commercials for the Cleveland Browns, and performing the local anthem and signature song "Skinny" that he'd written and recorded in 1976 ("I'm a skinny little boy from Cleveland, Ohio / Come to chase your women and to drink your beer"). In 2017, Bevan released his 25th album.

Side A: "Linda's Song"

Side B: "Brady Street Hotel"

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

WMEX (Boston): Top 40

One of Boston radio history's fabled Top 40 stations is WMEX (1510 AM), whose star disk jockey Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsburg held court noisily from 1957 to 1967. His departure brought in Dick Summer, a man with a psychology degree that matched him up well with a radio industry getting increasingly preoccupied with demographics and audience behavior. Pursuing his concept of the "human thing" in radio, Summer launched his "Lovin' Touch" program, in which he'd wax poetic in the manner of Ken "Word Jazz" Nordine. A 1972 Rolling Stone article wisecracked that Summer's sensitive shtick "would have made Rod McKuen look callous beside him." Summer's experiment, though, fell in line with radio trends such as Brother John Rydgren's syndicated "Love format" on ABC radio (from 1968 to 1970) and the forthcoming "feminine" formats.

In 1970, the station became a quintessential early seventies outlet with the arrival of music director John H. Garabedian, whose aggressive playlist-crafting and phone monitoring boosted the station's ratings, at one point, past WRKO, its higher-powered competitor. Among his winning programming strategies were a heavy reliance on album tracks and a willingness to test drive records before conducting any lengthy research. The above mentioned Rolling Stone article, "Boston Tests New Music and Flunks Out," by Timothy Crouse, mentions such songs as "Do You Know What I Mean" (Lee Michaels), "Maggie May" (Rod Stewart), "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" (Paul and Linda McCartney), "Sunshine" (Jonathan Edwards), and "Looking for a Love" (J. Geils Band) as being direct beneficiaries of Garabedian's attentions.

Although new ownership in late 1971 would send Garabedian and his "John H." show packing, WMEX—although never to be the ratings success it once was—maintained an album track-inflected approach and a sufficiently influential ability to "break" records. Disk jockey Jim "JC" Connors reportedly earned gold records for "My Ding a Ling" (Chuck Berry), "How Do You Do" (Mouth and MacNeal), "Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast" (Wayne Newton), and "Power of Love" (Joe Simon), among others, in gratitude for his perceived role in popularizing the tracks. (Connors was also the acknowledged inspiration for Harry Chapin's "WOLD.") In 1975, the station would switch formats to easy listening, bringing its distinctive early seventies Top 40 run to a close.

A 1972 promotional charity album exists for WMEX, which you can perhaps search for at Boston thrift stores. It was one of the many cookie cutter records manufactured by Variety Club of Indianapolis for use by radio stations all over the US. They all sported duplicate covers and track lists but made space for personalized images of a station's airstaff in the gatefold. Coincidentally, one of the songs on this Solid Gold compilation is the Irish Rovers' "Unicorn Song," which Garabedian happens to ridicule in a 1970 aircheck (at 13:25). The deejays in the photos are Bill Lawrence, Connors, J. Michael Wilson, King Arthur Knight, and Tom Allen. (I copied these images from an eBay seller, so I can't tell who's in the obscured one. It could possibly be Dan Donovan or Jerry Gordon, but it also appears to say "Program Director" at the bottom. I thought Connors was the PD at that time, so I'm stumped.)


Most radio surveys for WMEX between 1971 and 1974 (nothing for 1970) are available at the Airheads Radio Survey Guide. They reveal, after a scan-through, the following songs to be among the station's unique airplay additions that never charted nationally:

Mike D'Abo - "King Herod's Song"
McGuinness Flint - "Friends of Mine"
Lodi - "Happiness"
The Move - "Tonight"
Three Dog Night - "You"
Beach Boys - "Student Demonstration Time"
Grand Funk Railroad - "People Let's Stop the War"
Jake Jones - "Trippin' Down a Country Road"
Judee Sill - "Jesus Was a Crossmaker"
CCS - "Tap Turns on the Water"
Lighthouse - "Take It Slow"
The Rascals - "Lucky Day"
Poco - "Railroad Days"
Steve Martin (of the Left Banke) - "Two By Two"
Colin Blunstone - "Caroline Goodbye"
Newport News - "When the Bell Rings"
Tranquility - "Thank You"
Paul Williams - "My Love and I"
Robin and Jo - "Chapel of Love"
John Kongos - "Jubilee Cloud"
John Stewart - "Arkansas Breakout"
Sugar Bus - "Tramp"
The Eagles - "Train Leaves Here This Morning"
Michael Holm - "I Will Return"
Brewer and Shipley - "Yankee Lady"
Buckwheat - "Hey Little Girl"
Spyder's Gang - "Waiting in Line"
Sha Na Na - "Bounce in Your Buggy"
Tom Paxton - "Jesus Christ S.R.O."
The Lorelei - "S.T.O.P. (Stop)"
Peter Sarstedt - "You're a Lady"
Eric - "Wonder Where My Friend Could Be"
Barrabas - "Boogie Rock"
Livingston Taylor - "Over the Rainbow"

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Andy Williams: The Early '70s Charting Singles

The 1960s were Andy Williams's big decade, where his reassuring grin charmed TV cameras and his fail-safe croon comforted the generation gap's parental wing. His signature song "Moon River," from the 1961 Breakfast at Tiffany's film, became the theme song for his Andy Williams Show, which ran on NBC from 1962 to 1971 and helped create the template for the variety show format that dominated television throughout the following decade. Among Williams's early seventies highlights as one of easy listening radio's most reliable voices were definitive versions of the Love Story and Godfather movie themes, although his presence on the Billboard charts would fade by 1976 (not counting the now perennial Christmas reissue appearances.)

"Can't Help Falling in Love" (1970) - Andy Williams

Written by George David Weiss, Hugo Peretti, and Luigi Creatore * Produced by Dick Glasser * Arranged by Al Capps * 45: "Can't Help Falling in Love" / "Sweet Memories" * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#88); easy listening (#28) * Entered: 1970-02-28 (Hot 100/easy listening)

In the late sixties Columbia record executives determined that the way to keep their classic voices like Andy Williams and Tony Bennett commercially viable was through movie themes and contemporary hit covers. (Clive Davis, in his 1975 autobiography, reports Bennett as being none too happy about the strategy, favoring Great American Songbook standards.) Williams's first chart entry takes Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love" and straps it onto a bolting horse; the heights to which arranger Al Capps pushes Williams's vocal make him sound like a jockey trying not to lose control. This was a single-only release in the US, with a flipside called "Sweet Memories" taken from his 1969 Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head album. Written by Mickey Newbury, that song seemed to have all sorts of natural, unappreciated hit potential. It featured a melodic hook in the verses later used by John Denver in "Sunshine on My Shoulders," while the choruses allowed Williams to sing falsetto and (unlike the A-side) to glide with grace.

Side A: "Can't Help Falling in Love"

Side B: "Sweet Memories"

"One Day of Your Life" (1970) - Andy Williams

Written by Howard Greenfield and Neil Sedaka * Produced by Dick Glasser * Arranged by Al Capps * 45: "One Day of Your Life" / "Long Time Blues" * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#77); easy listening (#2) * Entered: 1970-06-06 (easy listening); 1970-06-27 (Hot 100)

The Andy Williams Show ran on NBC from 1962-1971 and had served as a convenient springboard for the popular easy listening crooner's record releases. For eight episodes during the summer of 1970, the program morphed into Andy Williams Presents Ray Stevens. This was an apparent trial run for the comedy country singer who had scored a surprise #1 earlier in the year with the earnest "Everything Is Beautiful." A June episode of the show featured a Williams guest turn where (in addition to wrangling with the show's ever-present "Cookie Bear") he performed this hyper-arranged Neil Sedaka-Howard Greenfield number, which sounded made to order for a Kodak commercial. (It also seemed poised to merge into a medley, at any moment, with Gary Puckett's "Young Girl.") Although the A-side was a single-only release, the rural B-side "Long Time Blues," written by "Classical Gas" guitarist/comedy writer Mason Williams (no relation), had shown up previously on the 1969 Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head album.

Side A: "One Day of Your Life"

Side B: "Long Time Blues"

*Non-charting bonus*
"Joanne" (1970) - Andy Williams

Written by Michael Nesmith * Produced by Mike Post * LP: The Andy Williams Show * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: —

The Andy Williams Show LP, released in the fall of 1970, gathered up a handful of his previously recorded covers from the late sixties and added six freshly recorded ones ("Joanne," "Make It With You," "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life," "Close to You," "El Condor Pasa," and "Snowbird"), then added applause tracks and segue music. Produced by Mike Post, the album presented a more scaled-down band sound as opposed to the big, orchestral approach more typically found on an Andy Williams record, and sold respectably in the US while going top ten in the UK. "Joanne" is Williams's steel-guitar countrypolitan version of ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith's #21 hit from earlier in the year. The song's baying vocal hook is perhaps what got the dog on the cover participating. In 1971, the album appeared on one of the rare surviving playlists of Los Angeles MOR station KMPC, which justifies inclusion here.


"Home Lovin' Man" (1970) - Andy Williams

Written by Roger Greenaway, Roger Cook, and Tony Macaulay * Produced by Dick Glasser * Arranged by Artie Butler * 45: "Home Lovin' Man" / "Whistling in the Dark" * LP: Alone Again (Naturally) (1972, two years later) * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Easy listening (#10-1970; #27-1972) * Entered: 1970-10-24 and 1972-11-04

The three British songwriters Roger Greenaway, Roger Cook, and Tony Macaulay were late-sixties/early-seventies zeitgeist-crafting VIPs, generating between them such era-defining hits as "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing," "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress," "Gimme Dat Ding," and "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)." Their evocative, seafaring "Home Lovin' Man," though, which featured a "Whiter Shade of Pale" organ intro and an uncredited pianist sounding very much like Nicky Hopkins, had all the earmarks of a big hit in Britain, where Andy Williams's recording of it peaked at #7. (According to Williams, in his Moon River and Me memoir, the song had originally been intended for actor-singer Richard Harris, who was "irate" over the interception.) In the US, though, it only managed to go top ten on the easy listening chart. The flipside contained a big, Al Capps-orchestrated version of Henry Mancini's "Whistling Away in the Dark," from the Darling Lili film (starring Julie Andrews). Both sides were non-album tracks, reflecting a possible short-term effort on Columbia's part to keep Williams's singles and albums as separate marketing entities.

In 1972, "Home Lovin' Man" would reappear on the Alone Again (Naturally) album, with a reissue of the track as a single maxing out at #27 on the Billboard easy listening chart. Although the album itself bore the title of a Gilbert O'Sullivan song, the O'Sullivan-penned flipside for the "Home Lovin' Man" single reissue did not make the cut. Entitled "Who Was It," the recording had appeared on O'Sullivan's UK chart-topping LP Back to Front and charted in the US the following year in the distinctive voice of Hurricane Smith. Williams's version, though, features an unsettling, double-tracked lead vocal.

Side A: "Home Lovin' Man"

Side B: "Who Was It"

"(Where Do I Begin) Love Story" (1971) - Andy Williams

Written by Carl Sigman and Francis Lai * Produced by Dick Glasser * Arranged by Richard P. Hazard * 45: "(Where Do I Begin) Love Story"/"Something" * LP: Love Story * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#9); easy listening (#1) * Entered: 1971-02-06 (both charts)

Although Erich Segal's Love Story was enough of a bummer to fit early seventies film trends, it also had a sentimental, tearjerker quality, rife with images of two lovers (played by Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw) frolicking in the snow, to function as an effective cultural escape. The pervasive title theme (which contained no vocalized manifestations on the soundtrack) was among the last of the big multiple-version hits, although the Godfather theme tried to keep the tradition alive the following year. Out of the five charting recordings of this song, all of which competed with each other in early 1971, the crescendo-heavy Andy Williams version climbed highest at #9. Columbia label-mate Tony Bennett would enter the charts with an equally dramatic iteration a week later, but wouldn't be able to contend with a Williams single that had already caught fire. Side B contains a comparatively soothing interpretation of George Harrison's "Something," which alternates between cheerful horns and moody strings.

Side A: "Where Do I Begin (Love Story)"

Side B: "Something"

"A Song for You" (1971) - Andy Williams

Written by Leon Russell * Produced by Dick Glasser * Arranged by Ernie Freeman * 45: "A Song for You" / "You've Got a Friend" * LP: You've Got a Friend * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#82); easy listening (#29) * Entered: 1971-08-21 (Hot 100); 1971-08-28 (easy listening)

Oklahoma songwriter/musician Leon Russell had long established himself as an in-demand LA session player and side man by the time he recorded his first solo album, A Song for You, in 1970. With its sophisticated structure and expressive melody, the title track became a favorite cover tune for big voices. Andy Williams was among the first to interpret it, adding it to his You've Got a Friend album, which rounded up eleven versions of contemporary hits. With its opening chord sequence mirroring the first two chords from "Love Story," among more general similarities in mood throughout, it sounded like a suitable follow-up. An Al Capps-arranged show band version of "You've Got a Friend" appears on the B-side, while the back cover depicts a flashy Elton John look.

Side A: "A Song for You"

Side B: "You've Got a Friend"

"Love Is All" (1971) - Andy Williams

Written by Jack Elliott and Norman Gimbel * Produced by Dick Glasser * Arranged by Dick Hazard * 45: "Love Is All" / "Help Me Make It Through the Night" * Billboard charts: Easy listening (#29) * Entered: 1971-12-04

"Love Is All" was part three in Andy Williams's early seventies run of minor-key chansons nouvelles, the idea clearly being to replicate the success of "Love Story." This was another vocalized version of an instrumental movie theme, this time for Herbert Ross's bummer film T.R. Baskin, about a newly-independent young runaway (Candice Bergen) struggling to get a footing in Chicago. The era's preoccupations with the cold muddle of modern life are on full display along with ripe thematic offerings for timely feminist cultural critique. Disadvantaged by the film's poor reviews and box office receipts, though, "Love Is All" only managed an easy listening chart appearance before vanishing, never even showing up on an album. In 1973, Engelbert Humperdinck would barely dent the Hot 100 with the song. Side B of Williams's single is a version of Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night," about a lonely one night stand, and in spite of Ernie Freeman's atmospheric string arrangement, it comes off as a cruel swipe at Bergman's sexually vulnerable film character.

Side A: "Love Is All"

Side B: "Help Me Make It Through the Night"

"Music from Across the Way" (1972)  - Andy Williams

Written by James Last and Carl Sigman * Produced by Dick Glasser * Arranged by Ernie Freeman * 45: "Music from Across the Way" / "The Last Time I Saw Her" * LP: Love Theme from "The Godfather" * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Easy listening (#30) * Entered: 1972-01-29

Like William's previous three singles, "Music from Across the Way" sailed the same melodramatic, minor-key waters as "Love Story." That song's Carl Sigman even provided lyrics for it, with German show band maestro James Last handling the music. Last's own version, sung by an anonymous choral group, outperformed Williams's, reaching the Hot 100 at #84 around the same time. After a brief easy listening chart appearance, the track would eventually turn up on Williams's forthcoming Love Theme from "The Godfather" album. For the opening piano line, arranger Ernie Freeman borrows from the Carpenters's "For All We Know" refrain. On side B of the single is a treatment of Gordon Lightfoot's 1968 track "The Last Time I Saw Her," which Glen Campbell had turned into a charting crossover single in 1971.

Side A: "Music from Across the Way"

Side B: "The Last Time I Saw Her"

"Speak Softly Love (Love Theme from The Godfather)" (1972) - Andy Williams

Written by Nino Rota and Larry Kusik * Produced by Dick Glasser * Arranged by Al Capps * 45: "Speak Softly Love (Love Theme from 'The Godfather')" / "Home for Thee" * LP: Love Theme from "The Godfather" * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (# 34); Easy listening (#7) * Entered: 1970-04-08 (both charts)

Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather turned Mario Puzo's best-selling mafia novel into the highest grossing film of 1972, demonstrating that the early seventies cinematic penchant for downbeat themes had blockbuster potential. Critical success accompanied it too, with many of its scenes and performances turning into cultural touchstones. Among the era's preoccupations playing out on screen were the plight of the antihero, a fascination with family and tradition at a time when both underwent unprecedented redefinition, and a "going back" instinct that reached toward ethnicity and roots.

In spite of this, Andy Williams, one of pop music's WASP-iest singers, ended up with the biggest hit version of the theme song, but he was primed and ready, having charted the previous four times with similarly sophisticated and stormy minor-key offerings. Composed for the soundtrack by the classically-oriented Nino Rota, veteran lyricist Larry Kusik then turned the theme into the vocal-friendly "Speak Softly Love." As Andrew J. Edelstein and Kevin McDonough said about the film in their The Seventies: From Hot Pants to Hot Tubs (1990), the record came off as "high art disguised as pop entertainment."

Aside from Williams, who had his final Top 40 appearance with the song, the only other singer to chart with it (#80) would be Al Martino, who had played washed up pop star Johnny Fontaine in the film. Instrumental versions by Roger Williams (#116), Carlo Savina (#66, from the soundtrack album), and Ferrante and Teicher (easy listening #28) also made chart showings.  Side B of "Speak Softly Love" contained the 45-only track "Home for Thee," written by Paul Parrish. (Final tangential tidbit: Lyricist Larry Kusik was the uncle of the musician and music writer Lenny Kaye, for whom Kusik had once written and produced a record called "Crazy Like a Fox," on which Kaye used the pseudonym "Link Cromwell.")

Side A: "Speak Softly Love (Love Theme from The Godfather)"

Side B: "Home for Thee"

"MacArthur Park" (1972) - Andy Williams

Written by Jimmy Webb * Produced by Dick Glasser * Arranged by Artie Butler * 45: "MacArthur Park" / "Amazing Grace" * LP: Love Theme from "The Godfather" * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Bubbling under (#102) * Entered: 1972-08-05

Its high angst levels, epic length and "cake in the rain" lyrics have always invited critics to call it overbaked, but Jimmy Webb's "MacArthur Park" nonetheless touched some sort of psychological nerve in its time. Between 1968 and 1972, the actor Richard Harris (in the voice and persona of a mad Renaissance courtier), Waylon Jennings (with Grammy-winning dourness), the Four Tops, and Andy Williams all showed up on various Billboard charts with their own personalized recipes for it. No one did as well as Harris, who'd reached #2, but of the four, Williams served up the most palatable entry.

With an intro that hints at Burt Bacharach's "Trains and Boats and Plains" or the Bee Gees' "Words," the Artie Butler arrangement for this version bumps the severe minor-key verse section to the end while allowing the major-key bridge—in which Williams shames Harris on the high notes—to take precedence. In 1978 Donna Summer would elevate "MacArthur Park" to pop heaven, with a 45 that managed to clock in under four minutes and still seem grandiose. (She'd make an eighteen-minute behemoth available for discotheques.) The flipside of Williams's single was his contribution to Jesus Rock—a version of "Amazing Grace." This had previously appeared on his Alone Again (Naturally) album with an Al Capps arrangement taking cues from Judy Collins's acapella hit from early 1971.

Side A: "MacArthur Park"

Side B: "Amazing Grace"

"Solitaire" (1973) - Andy Williams

Written by Neil Sedaka and Phil Cody * Produced by Richard Perry * 45: "Solitaire" / "My Love" * LP: Solitaire * Billboard charts: Easy listening (#23) * Entered: 1973-10-06

With his Solitaire LP, Andy Williams shook things up by getting in the studio with producer Richard Perry, who had been on a hot streak with hit albums by Carly Simon, Harry Nilsson, and Ringo Starr, among others. The song selection included deeper album tracks along with the usual hit covers, while Williams's vocal sound now popped with slapback echo. Neil Sedaka's original 1972 recording of the album's title track had included more card metaphors in the chorus, which Williams and Perry had altered to Sedaka's apparent chagrin (as reported in Williams's Moon River and Me). After the song reached #4 in the UK and then became a Top 40 hit for the Carpenters, Sedaka likely set his grievances aside. The closing section of "Solitaire" transported listeners directly to the closing section of Nilsson's "Without You," a #1 hit for Perry in 1972. The Solitaire version of Paul McCartney's "My Love," with an uncomfortable rendering of its "whoah whoahs," takes up the B side. Another song from the album—a satisfying interpretation of "Getting Over You" by the British singer-songwriter Tony Hazzard—rose to #35 in England.

Side A: "Solitaire"

Side B: "My Love"

UK chart bonus: "Getting Over You"

"Remember" (1974) - Andy Williams and Noelle

Written by Harry Nilsson * Produced by Richard Perry * 45: "Remember" / "Walk Right Back" (Andy Williams) * LP: Solitaire * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Easy listening (#30) * Entered: 1974-01-05

Seventies TV had a thing for variety shows, in which hosts would guide viewers through a bevy of skits and musical numbers. A standard Christmas device brought audiences into a celebrity's "home," as Andy Williams had done every year since 1962. Although his show had run its course by 1971, he was back on air in 1973 for a December 13 Christmas special, which treated viewers to songs by Andy, his own brothers, his teen idol nephews the Williams Brothers, and his then-wife Claudine Longet. In one segment, Williams sings Harry Nilsson's "Remember Christmas" to Noelle, his ten-year-old daughter. This prompted Columbia to release a 45 of the song—which had also appeared on his recently released Solitaire album—with added dialogue and a verse sung by Noelle. The album version, thankfully, is free of these intrusions. A product of the '73 Christmas season, the record made its first chart appearance in January 1974. (Neither the 45 nor the album version of the song use Nilsson's full title of "Remember Christmas.") The venerable British session man Nicky Hopkins handled the gorgeous piano part, as he had done on the original 1972 recording by Nilsson, while the ever-reliable Gene Page worked his magic on the string arrangement. An unembarrassing iteration of the Everly Brothers' "Walk Right Back" from Solitaire, with tasteful Jimmy Calvert guitar lines, appears on the flipside.

Side A: "Remember"

Side B: "Walk Right Back"

"Love's Theme" (1974) - Andy Williams 

Written by Aaron Schroeder and Barry White * Produced by Mike Curb * Arranged by Don Costa * 45: "Love's Theme" / "You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me" * LP: The Way We Were * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Easy listening (#16) * Entered: 1974-06-08

After Andy Williams's flirtation with contemporary album artistry on Solitaire, he appeared to drift back into easy listening assembly-line mode for his follow-up, The Way We Were. Every song but one—a Mike Curb-Alan Osmond variation on "O Holy Night" (listen to the bridge) called "If I Could Only Go Back Again"—paid tribute to established hits. Even so, Williams's vocal version of the Love Unlimited Orchestra's "Love's Theme" went down like a sweet disco ambrosia. Love Unlimited, the vocal trio on whose Under the Influence of Love album Barry White's instrumental first appeared, did their own vocalized take, also using Aaron Schroeder's lyrics, for their late 1974 In Heat album.

MGM mogul Mike Curb's involvement in the Columbia album as producer is a curiosity that perhaps had to do with some inter-label tit for tat. In 1966, MGM had released the soundtrack to the Columbia film Born Free, which may well have set the table for a deal like this. Williams's side-B easy listening performance of Jim Weatherly's "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me" (with an added "You're" in the title), demonstrates the song's crossover elasticity—Gladys Knight had recently topped the soul chart with it while Ray Price did the same thing on the country chart, and both records appeared on the Hot 100 (Gladys Knight #3, Ray Price #82).

Side A: "Love's Theme"

Side B: "You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me"

Bonus: "If I Could Only Go Back Again"

"Another Lonely Song" (1974) - Andy Williams

Written by Billy Sherrill, Norro Wilson, and Tammy Wynette * Produced by Billy Sherrill * 45: "Another Lonely Song" / "A Mi Esposa con Amor" * LP: You Lay So Easy on My Mind * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Easy listening (#29) * Entered: 1974-09-21

With country music going through such aggressive crossover experimentation in the early seventies, it wasn't any kind of stretch for Andy Williams to "go country" for one album. All he needed was some denim for the cover, a judicious steel guitarist, a Nashville producer, and a roundup of ten hits that already sounded like candidates for the easy listening charts. Tammy Wynette's 1973 chart-topping "Another Lonely Song" got the nod as the lead off single for Williams's You Lay So Easy on My Mind album, produced by countrypolitan king Billy Sherrill. An interpretation of acquired-taste vocalist Sonny James's 1973 country hit "A Mi Esposa con Amor (To My Wife with Love)" appears on side B.

Side A: "Another Lonely Song"

Side B: "A Mi Esposa con Amor"

"Love Said Goodbye" (1974) - Andy Williams

Written by Nino Rota and Larry Kusik * Produced and arranged by Marty and David Paich * 45: "Love Said Goodbye" / "One More Time" * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Easy listening (#24) * Entered: 1975-01-11

The December 1974 release of the second acclaimed Godfather film, complete with a new theme song by Nino Rota, called for another Andy Williams rendition. "Love Said Goodbye" was a similar-sounding but less-memorable track with lyrics again provided by Larry Kusik, and it greeted the market late in the year as a non-album one-off. The record signaled early success for future Toto member David Paich, son of veteran arranger/producer Marty, who'd already won an Emmy with his father in May 1974 for a piece the two had composed for the Ironsides TV show. Side B of the Godfather Part II single included David's song "One More Time," which was unavailable on any albums until it showed up as a bonus track on the 2002 CD reissue of the 1976 Andy album.

Side A: "Love Said Goodbye"

Side B: "One More Time"

"Cry Softly" (1974) - Andy Williams

Written by Buddy Killen, Billy Sherrill, and Glen Sutton * Produced by Billy Sherrill * 45: "Cry Softly" / "You Lay So Easy on My Mind" * LP: You Lay So Easy on My Mind * Label: Columbia * Billboard charts: Easy listening (#20) * Entered: 1975-04-12

In 1966, before the names Buddy Killen, Billy Sherrill, or Glen Sutton became such country industry fixtures, Nancy Ames crept into the Hot 100 (#95) with "Cry Softly"—a schlager welding-job the three men had done on the Franz Liszt melody "Liebestraum." Andy Williams's 1974 recording of the song gathered up enough momentum on MOR radio for it to see release as a single, which entered the Billboard easy listening chart in April 1975. Although Sherrill is listed as a songwriter on the label, he had only appeared as a co-producer on the 1966 Ames single for some reason. (The closing musical phrase in the verses drove me crazy for a long time because it reminded me of something else, which turned out to be the chorus endings of Cass Elliot's "One Way Ticket.")

One of the more memorable songs on the You Lay So Easy on My Mind album was the title track, which also served as the B-side of "Cry Softly." It took Bobby G. Rice's 1973 sexual revolution double entendre hit and traded its honky tonk gait and underwater guitar for crying lap steel and even more emphasis on the chorus's falsetto. Not released as a single in the US, it reached #32 in the UK. Only two more songs (in 1975 and 1976) would chart for Willliams in the US and UK until 1998, when TV commercials by Peugeot ("Can't Take My Eyes Off of You") and Fiat ("Music to Watch Girls By") would spark a UK revival.  [And thanks to the commenter who has pointed out the rejuvenated chart power of "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year."]

Side A: "Cry Softly"

Side B: "You Lay So Easy on My Mind"