As noted on my Facebook page a few minutes ago, I’m taking it easy before stepping into the two-day-long hurricane that is NFL draft coverage when you live in Green Bay.
It’s a cool, dreary, rainy day, one that mirrors my intensity level.
I’m not sure the tunes I have for you today will fire you up. But I am fired up that the record they come from is much better than expected.
In 1973, Gladys Knight and the Pips were weary of being a second-tier act among Motown artists, so they moved over to Buddah Records.
Early that year, their “Neither One of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)” hit the top of the charts for Motown’s Soul label. Later that year, their “Midnight Train to Georgia” hit No. 1 for Buddah.
After “Midnight Train,” their next three Buddah singles — “I’ve Got To Use My Imagination,” “Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me” and “On and On” — made the top five. Their first three Buddah albums hit No. 1 on the R&B charts in 1973 and 1974.
Motown, never a label to miss an opportunity to cash in, saw what Gladys Knight and the Pips were doing on Buddah and cobbled together a couple of albums of mostly unreleased material. “Knight Time” came out on the Soul label in 1974 and “A Little Knight Music” in 1975.
I found the latter among the dollar records in my friend Jim’s back yard last weekend. I grabbed it mostly for its covers. Here are two.
“Come Together” and “Put A Little Love In Your Heart,” Gladys Knight and the Pips, from “A Little Knight Music,” 1975. (The album link is to a 2006 UK import CD that has both this album and “Knight Time.”)
Both of these tunes prominently feature the Pips. “Come Together” is nasty, with a sassy Miss Knight, some gritty lead and wah-wah guitars and a rat-a-tat horn chart. “Put A Little Love” sounds like a gospel meeting in Vegas, with some showy horns in an arrangement that would be at home on “The Tom Jones Show.”
Judging from the sound of those arrangements, and given that Johnny Bristol produced both tunes, I’m guessing these sessions took place in the early ’70s, maybe 1971 or 1972. Bristol also left Motown in 1973.