Old Music Monthly #(-217) [May 1975]

Today, we’re going to take a look at an issue of Concert from May 1975. I didn’t really find anything about the magazine, both of the people listed as publishers didn’t come up with anything… a media conglomerate probably would’ve been easier to search. It says it’s published out of Chicago, but it is extremely Philadelphia centric.

Soul Power!

I love this cover, there isn’t a ton of “SOUL POWER” included, however. It has Tower or Power, and then Donald Byrd and Major Harris, whom I never heard of before. There are a few reviews however.

Gossip Folk

They have a gossip page called “Grapevine”. Some of the topics include:

  • Carole King’s <i>Tapestry</i> being on the charts for four years.
  • Rick Wakeman may be staging “King Arthur” on Ice.
  • Paul Simon got $50,000 for being in <i>Shampoo</i> for two minutes.
  • Cher Bono has been hanging out with Greg Allman.
  • Joan Baez is trying to escape her protestor image, with the snark added: “Funny what recessions do to closet revolutionaries”.
  • Alice Cooper voted for Nixon in ’72, which really only seems like an excuse to print this picture:
Mr. Cooper is so happy not to have any OSHA violations.

Live and In Person!

Naturally, they have a section for upcoming concerts. Who were they seeing in concert back then?

Gordon Lightfoot

Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar with a two-man backup, his mellow tunes rest softly one the ear. If you haven’t seen him in his ten years on the music scene, you’ll have your chance this month at The Academy.

I really hate “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, I like that other big one about the stairs, though.

Minnie Ripperton

Minnie’s voice is most distinctive; she has a four and a half to five octave range, not heard in pop music since Peruvian singer Yma Sumac sang in the early 50’s… She came to national prominence as the lead vocalist with the Rotary Connection.

Nothing about her being Maya Rudolph’s mom? What a missed opportunity…

Sparks

Can two ex-fashion model art and English students go to London and come back as one of the flashiest rock groups around? You bet they can, if they are Sparks.

I mean, duh…

If you were a time traveler, you could also see, Bad Company, Dan Fogelberg, Aerosmith, Jeff Beck, Golden Earring, and Bob Marley and the Wailers.

Important Words From Our Sponsors

Are you tired of using <i>two</i> rolling papers? For tobacco, nothing else, strictly tobacco. This magazine is full of these sub-Monty Python illustration.

Zoop Zoom!

Maybe you’re just looking for some… adult attention. But since you can’t get laid by conventional means, you have to imagine sleeping with pop stars. Cher is up for anything. Tony Orlando and Dawn are kind of kinky. The Manhattan Transfer are for advanced sexual experiences, only.

Kinky!

Donald Byrd

Donald Byrd was a jazz trumpeter, and he is not taking anymore of your shit. He’s got a lot to say about the Record Label Machine not letting him produce, he rallies against formal musical education, states how no one takes jazz seriously, and how there is a conspiracy by the labels to keep artists in chains. Anyone who has followed this column, as seen this repeated several times. He says, “it’s because they would rather have their artists down there in a powerless state, rather than getting into the upper-echelon of the record company… Quincy Jones knew that long ago… artists stay artists forever because they’ve never been taught it should be any different.”

Now, onto the CD…

What’s that? There weren’t CDs in 1975? Well, shit. Instead, here are some samplings of the record reviews they were running this month.

Roberta Flack – Feel Like Makin’ Love

Born in North Carolina, Roberta Flack was a stone-cold child prodigy. She started playing piano at 9, and by 15 was attending Howard University on a full music scholarship.  She became a music teacher at 19, and then began accompanying other singers on piano, before singing herself. Soon, she was auditioning for Atlantic Records, by playing 42 songs in 3 hours.

Feel Like Makin’ Love was Flack’s sixth fifth solo album, and her first not to be certified Gold. The title track was Flack’s third #1 single, and she produced the song herself using the pseudonym Rubina Flake. There’s not much to say about the track, it’s a nice slice of smooth soul. Perhaps the label releasing it as a single a full 9 months ahead of the album killed the album’s sales. Concert says of the title track, “The Gene Daniels penned song was one of 1974’s finest singles, and probably caused more pregnancies than anything else released last year.”

Her career was successful, you surely know “Killing Me Softly”. If you haven’t heard hers, you definitely heard The Fugees’ version. At 84 years old, she’s still going strong.

Nils Lofgren – I Don’t Want To Know

In high school in Chicago, Nils Lofgren was a competitive gymnast, and he manages to parlay that into a music career. He formed the band Grin in 1968, then he was absorbed by Neil Young & Crazy Horse, he then used his credits on Young’s albums to get Grin a record deal. Lofgren was in Crazy Horse from 1970-71, and Grin disbanded in 1974, so Concert was reviewing his first self-titled solo album.

I’d never heard of Lofgren before, but it’s not far off from Neil Young in that it is rootsy Americana rock. “I Don’t Want To Know” was the first single from the album, the lyrics are detailing a relationship with someone who is unfaithful, and he’s trying to urge the person from their cheating ways, but it seems to be of no avail.

Lofgren joined up with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band in 1984, and stayed with them until Springsteen disbanded them in 1989, at which point Lofgren returned to his solo career. Lofgren was inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame with The E Street Band in 2014, and he resumed playing with Crazy Horse in 2018.

David Bowie – Fascination

Here’s what the magazine had to say about Bowie’s ninth album, Young Americans: “The result is a mixture of disco music and glitter remnants that is irresistible, moves like crazy, and fits Bowie like a flesh colored leotard.”  The reviewed goes on to say, “the title cut which you’ve probably heard a million times by now, is a perfect disco tune – just right for dancing – and probably the second best single to date (“Lady Marmalade” by LaBelle is No.1)”

I realize it’s only early 1975, but it’s weird to hear disco being spoken of in a positive light.

One thing the article doesn’t mention, is that “Fascination” was co-written with Luther Vandross… which it didn’t mention because no one knew who in the hell Luther Vandross was in 1975. Vandross was president of, and founded, the first Pattie LaBelle fan club, sang back up on Roberta Flack’s duet album with Donny Hathaway (titled Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, surprisingly), and appeared on the pilot of Sesame Street (as well as other first season episodes). Vandross was singing back up on Bowie’s 1974 tour, and he got rolled right into the studio to sing back up. Bowie based “Fascination” on “Funky Music (Is a Part of Me)” which was written by Vandross, and together the reworked the song. Bowie never did perform the song live.

As you already know, Bowie died from cancer in 2016. Vandross died from a stroke due to diabetes complications in 2003.

Danny O’Keefe – So Long Harry Truman

In 1968, O’Keefe was in a band called Calliope, who released one album and then split. He then became a one hit wonder with “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues” in 1972, which sold a million copies and was on the charts for 14 weeks, peaking at #9. After that, he more or less retreated (purposely or otherwise) into being a musician’s musician, as people kept covering his songs.

This is actually the title track form his fifth album, but his second for Atlantic. Concert says, “Sounding at times like Kenny Loggins without the bubblegum, he uniquely combines an “up” country feel with some very modern (and occasionally obscure) lyrics.” I’m not hearing Loggins, but I am hearing Linda Ronstadt. Unfortunately, she brought Don Henley with her.

O’Keefe is still going strong, he released his 16th album in 2020.

Maggie Bell – Suicide Sal

Maggie Bell is often described as the “Scottish Janis Joplin”. Is that an honor or an insult? Only you can decide! If it were me, I would feel like it’s kind of reductive to my talents. Bell was the singer in a band called Stone the Crows from 1969 to 1973. The band broke up when their lead guitarist was electrocuted on stage in front of a live audience. That’s some next level shit.

Maggie Bell went solo, and <i>Concert</i> has this to say about her second solo outing, Suicide Sal: “Sometimes solo artists can be a drag – like when they break out with an absolutely beautiful debut album, and then follow it up with a piece of plastic that has to struggle to even qualify as a mediocre effort… to say it is a disappointment is more than just an understatement.”

Not very charitable, Concert. I listened to three songs, and I think she sounds more like a bargain basement Tina Turner rather than Janis Joplin. Also, I don’t know what Jimmy Page I doing slumming around on this recording. Actually, if I were to take a guess, he’s using his notoriety to bump up album sales, as this came out on Led Zep’s Swan Song label. I actually wanted to post her cover of “I Saw Him Standing There”, but “Suicide Sal” has a fan video too perplexing to pass up.

Keith Moon – Don’t Worry Baby

Today, I learned that Keith Moon put out a solo album…. But just one.

By 1974, cover albums were all over the place. David Bowie and Bryan Ferry had released cover albums, and John Lennon’s was in progress, and would be released in February 1975. Of course, the proceedings were a disaster, plagued with erratic behavior and rampant drug use. Moon mostly contributed vocals, after only playing drums on 3 tracks, and not even being the sole drummer on those tracks. There were seven additional drummers, including Ringo Starr and (future actor) Miguel Ferrar. There were also 14 guitarists including Spencer Davis, Dick Dale, and Joe Walsh.

“Don’t Worry Baby” was recorded and released in 1974 ahead of Two Sides of the Moon. Moon’s voice… is limited, even with all the studio effects. It really sounds like insane drug ramblings, which, 10 to 1 that’s exactly what it is. Concert says, “Keith Moon is simply out to lunch, and that’s putting it kindly.”

Of course, you already knew that Moon died in 1978.

The Undisputed Truth – UFOs

Now, this is a treat. This story starts with producer Norman Whitfield, who is one of people credited with creating the Motown Sound, as well as the Psychedelic Soul movement. To make this is as succinct as possible, Whitfield was an experimental producer, but also successful. He had a falling out with Berry Gordy and The Temptations after steering The Temptations into more experimental sounds and psyechedelic soul (on albums All Directions and 1990), which left less room for vocals because of the increase in sound effects and fuzzy guitars. This caused Whitfield leave Motown and start his own label, Purple Monkey Dishwasher. Just kidding, it was called Whitfield Records. When he started his label, he took Rose Royce, Junior Walker, and Willie Hutch with him, but The Undisputed Truth was his pet project.

Whitfield (the man) had a strategy of taking a song and re-recording it several times with different arrangements and with different groups, searching for a hit. Early on, Whitfield co-wrote, and then recorded “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” with Gladys Knight & The Pips, which was the highest charting Motown single… until Marvin Gaye’s version was released the following year. This strategy worked with Edwin Starr’s “War” (The Temptations version was first), and he tried it with The Undisputed Truth recording “Smiling Faces Sometimes” (also done by The Temptations first). He also had The Undisputed Truth record “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”, releasing it as a single in May 1972, but releasing the The Temptations definitive version in September 1972.

The Ugly Truth are largely forgotten, and nobody really tried to build any sort of digital temples to them, so it’s hard to find out exactly how much of their material was reworked songs. “Aquarius” (from  the musical Hair), “Ball of Confusion” (The Temptations), “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, “Like a Rolling Stone” (Bob Dylan), “What’s Going On” (Marvin Gaye), “Killing Me Softly” (Roberta Flack), “Just My Imagination” (The Temptations), “With a Little Help From My Friends” (Beatles, but is more in line with Joe Cocker’s version), Feelin Alright (Traffic, Joe Cocker), Brother Louie (Stories), 1990 (The Temptations), and “Down By the River” (Neil Young)… and these are just the ones I know about. Because no one really tracked this stuff for them, without buying the actual LPs, who knows for sure.

In my definition, Disco is the popular kid in school who does coke on the weekends, and Funk is Disco’s weird as cousin who sits in the corner by himself. They’re aiming for the weird cousin vibe of Parliament, but the land on The Commodores. This isn’t necessarily bad, Concert gives is a mostly glowing review, but they are slightly annoyed by the present of electronics throughout Cosmic Truth. All that being said, they are definitely trying to copy Bootsy Collins on “UFOs”.

They kind of fizzled out in 1981, and they had a revolving door of musicians come through. The only constant member was Joe Harris who sang backups for Diana Ross and The Four Tops, and was in the band that would become the Ohio Players before joining up with The Undisputed Truth. They at different times also featured Taka Boom (Chaka Khan’s sister) who sang back up on several Parliament albums, and Marcy Thomas who was an Ikette, and sang with Johnny “Guitar Watson, Rick James, and was in a touring company of The Wiz.

Eddie Harris – I Need Some Money

Jazz saxophonist Eddie Harris was incredibly prolific, between 1961 and 1975 he released 34 albums. Yeah, albums were shorter then, but GAHT DAYUM. Even if you assume they are only a half hour each, that’s still 17 hours of music. I don’t know about those other albums, but I can tell you how he does it on 1974’s I Need Some Money, it’s loaded with absolute wankery. On the title track however, it’s a nice little piece of jazz funk, where Harris sings and doesn’t play much sax, but he was also known for electric piano.

Harris went on to release 21 more albums (including a comedy album that pissed off Atlantic, yet they still released it) until his death in 1996, not including albums where he was a side man.

The Headhunters – God Make Me Funky

Assembled by Herbie Hancock as his backing band, The Headhunters broke from their creator and released two albums: 1975’s Survival of the Fittest and 1977’s Straight From the Gate. Hancock isn’t exactly gone, he’s co-producer on the record. But replacing him in the studio is guitarist Blackbyrd McKnight, which is just about the best name a person can have, with the exception of Prince. McKnight was in Parliament / Funkadelic from 1978 to 2008, and was also in Red Hot Chili Peppers for one hot minute after the death of Hillel Slovak in 1988… but I won’t hold that against him,

“God Make Me Funky” has been sampled to high heaven. It’s a nearly 10 minute funk jam with The Pointer Sisters singing back up. It’s pretty good, if a little long. It’s not clear if the Headhunters are still going, but they did self-release an album in 2018, so anything’s possible.

Well, that’ it for now, hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane from before most of us were born.