Tag Archives: 1971

Reviews in review: ‘His lush gush’

Records in Review logo, Green Bay Press-Gazette, January 1972

50 years ago yesterday, on Sunday, Jan. 23, 1972, the CloseUp section of the Green Bay Press-Gazette carried record reviews, as it did almost every Sunday.

Some of the records reviewed on that day by free-lance writer David F. Wagner: “I Wrote a Simple Song” by Billy Preston, “The North Star Grassman and the Ravens” by Sandy Denny, “Angel Delight” by Fairport Convention and “From the Witchwood” by Strawbs.

Billy Preston? “He jumped off soul’s deep end, and every cut here is overripe and out of hand.” Sandy Denny solo? “Not exactly stimulating.” Fairport Convention? “Few ideas of consequence.” Strawbs fares best. “The lyrics get a little pretentious at times, but … a pleasant combination of rock and English folk music.”

But I’m burying the lead here, and the lead item in the column was Wagner’s vaguely racist review of “Black Moses” and the “Shaft” soundtrack, both by Isaac Hayes. It’s astonishing that his editors deemed it suitable for print.

“WHAT is obvious to anyone moderately familiar with r&b through the years is that much of the soul of ‘soul music’ is self-indulgence; understandable in a musical format in which ‘form’ consistently overrides content.”

Hm.

“Enter Isaac Hayes … again. Friend or foe? Don’t answer that; after all, he’s the best Black Moses we have.”

Huh?

“Hayes’ recordings have been superfantastic sellers, presumably in the black community. True, he goes over extremely well in concert before the blacks and is a sex symbol for many sisters. But I suspect a good many honkies are buying his lush gush, too.”

GOOD LORD.

Here is an ill-informed white guy, 31 years old, writing for a white audience his age and older, at best trying to be edgy and at worst fancying himself a music critic on par with those in Rolling Stone.

“What he does is done well — except for the slight consideration that he can’t sing at all. It’s just that he is the epitome of corniness, black or white. He reads beautifully, but his narrations (better known as raps) are embarrassingly banal.”

Isaac Hayes, damned with faint praise. For what it’s worth, the Rolling Stone review of “Black Moses” — out the same week — had many of the same objections to Hayes’ vocal style.

Save for the most adventurous of them, Press-Gazette readers likely never heard anything by Isaac Hayes beyond “Theme from Shaft.” Wagner declared the “Shaft” soundtrack “the preferable product” because “it is mostly instrumental, so there are no raps and only a minority of bad singing.”

Anyone else feel like they need a shower? Let’s let Isaac Hayes wash over us for the next 19 minutes instead.

“Do Your Thing,” Isaac Hayes, from the “Shaft” soundtrack, 1971.

For those wondering, Mr. Wagner — by all accounts a good man who had a bad week in January 1972 — is no longer with us.

Here’s the review in its entirety, for those who wish to read more.

Green Bay Press-Gazette review of Isaac Hayes' "Black Moses" and "Shaft" soundtrack, Jan. 24, 1972

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Filed under January 2022, Sounds

Remembering the big man

On this New Year’s Day, here’s something that’ll make those of us of a certain age share a wistful smile at the memory.

The actor Victor Buono died 40 years ago today, on New Year’s Day 1982.

The big man specialized in playing bad guys with big personalities. King Tut on “Batman,” a role he loved because he could overact and get away with it. Mr. Schubert on “Man From Atlantis.” Count Manzeppi on “The Wild Wild West.” Twice a murderer on “Perry Mason.” No, not Wo Fat but the thief Eric Damien on “Hawaii Five-O.”

But there was another side to Victor Buono.

On talk shows, he was a gifted storyteller who often recited his comic poems. The proof: 30 appearances on “The Tonight Show,” 14 appearances on “The Joey Bishop Show,” 10 appearances on “The Mike Douglas Show,” eight appearances on “The Merv Griffin Show.”

Here’s Victor Buono making one such appearance on “The Tonight Show” from 47 years ago today, New Year’s Day 1975. He shares some New Year’s resolutions, then riffs on a news story while sitting next to Johnny Carson.

(Oh, that clip going around with Betty White and Johnny Carson as Jane and Tarzan? Victor Buono was a guest on that show, too. It aired Aug. 14, 1981. It was his second-to-last talk show appearance and his last with Johnny.)

It’s been at least a decade since I found Victor Buono’s LP of comic poems.

Victor Buono "Heavy" LP

Here’s a wonderful cut from that.

“Fat Man’s Prayer,” Victor Buono, from “Heavy!” 1971. (Sharing a video here because my copy skips at one of the many good lines.)

Victor Buono always played and seemed older than he really was, perhaps because of his size. When this LP was released in 1971 — many of his most memorable TV and film performances already behind him — he was just 33. He was just 43 when he died of a heart attack at his California home.

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Filed under January 2022, Sounds

3 timeless Christmas wishes

The first wish

Christmas bells, those Christmas bells
Ringing through the land
Bringing peace to all the world
And good will to man

“Snoopy’s Christmas,” the Royal Guardsmen, from “Snoopy and His Friends,” 1967.

In 1965, Charles Schulz started drawing Snoopy as a World War I flying ace battling the Red Baron. But “it reached a point where war just didn’t seem funny,” he told biographer Rheta Grimsley Johnson. Even so, Snoopy and the Red Baron inspired this novelty Christmas song with explosions, gunfire and a solid message of hope that came as the Vietnam War escalated.

The second wish

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime

"Someday at Christmas" LP by Stevie Wonder, 1967.

“Someday at Christmas,” Stevie Wonder, from “Someday at Christmas,” 1967.

My friend Derek reminded me of this one on Christmas Eve morning a couple of years ago. When Stevie sings of “men” throughout this one, songwriter Ron Miller clearly means everyone, of any age.

I have this cut on “A Motown Christmas” from 1973, a comp I’ve had since I was in college in the late ’70s. Back then, “A Festival Of Carols In Brass” by the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble from 1967 was the only other Christmas record I had. Probably the next one was “The New Possibility: John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album” from 1968 — here’s some of that.

The third wish

A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971. I’d always had it on “Shaved Fish,” the 1975 compilation LP from Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band, until I found the single.

War is over, if you want it

Merry Christmas, mein friends!

Enjoy your holidays, everyone!

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2021, Sounds

Satchmo, Irma and Christmas Eve

Please enjoy our traditional Christmas Eve post.

On a winter day now more than 50 years ago, Louis Armstrong went to work in the den at his home at 34-56 107th Street in Corona, Queens, New York.

That day — Friday, Feb. 26, 1971 — he recorded this:

“The Night Before Christmas (A Poem),” Louis Armstrong, 1971, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. That LP is long out of print, but the original 7-inch single (Continental CR 1001) seems to be fairly common.

(This is the sleeve for that 45. You could have bought it for 25 cents if you also bought a carton of Kent, True, Newport or Old Gold cigarettes.)

There’s no music. Just “Louis Satchmo Armstrong talkin’ to all the kids … from all over the world … at Christmas time,” reading Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem in a warm, gravelly voice.

“But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, ‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night. A very good night.’

“And that goes for Satchmo, too. (Laughs softly.) Thank you.”

It was the last thing he ever recorded. Satchmo, who was 69 at the time, died a little over four months later, in July 1971. Satchmo, gone 50 years now.

And now, we’re fulfilling another Christmas wish.

Fourteen years ago, when this blog was not even a year old, our new friend Rob in Pennsylvania declared Irma Thomas’ rendition of “O Holy Night” to be “goosebump-inducing stuff.” It still is, and Rob has long since become an old friend, so we cue up this one for Rob every Christmas Eve.

“O Holy Night,” Irma Thomas, from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. It’s out of print. It’s also on “MOJO’s Festive Fifteen,” the fine Christmas compilation CD that came with the January 2011 issue of MOJO magazine.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2021, Sounds

Shaft and me, 50 years on

50 years ago, at about this time of year, Isaac Hayes’ “Theme From Shaft” blew my 14-year-old mind.

As the first week of November 1971 came to a close, “Theme From Shaft” sat atop the Top 10 on WOKY, The Mighty 92 out of Milwaukee, one of the last great AM Top 40 stations. I listened to it every night. That Top 10:

  1. Theme From Shaft – Isaac Hayes                              
  2. Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves – Cher                            
  3. Imagine – John Lennon                                       
  4. Yo-Yo – Osmonds                                             
  5. Superstar – Carpenters                                      
  6. Easy Lovin’ – Freddie Hart                                   
  7. Two Divided By Love – Grass Roots                           
  8. Baby I’m-a Want You – Bread                                
  9. What Are You Doing Sunday – Dawn                           
  10. Never My Love – 5th Dimension      

“Theme From Shaft” was in its second week at No. 1 on WOKY, so you know it was in heavy rotation, getting spun every three hours or so. No complaints here.

Shaft soundtrack LP

The “Shaft” soundtrack was perhaps only the third album I ever bought. At the time, late 1971, it had the feel of being my first really sophisticated record. I wonder what my parents thought. I never asked. They never said.

Yes, I still have it.

I also have a bunch of “Shaft” covers, “Shaft” knockoffs and “Shaft” oddities.

The Man From Shaft LP by Richard Roundtree

My favorite Shaft-adjacent collectible is “The Man From Shaft,” by “Shaft” star Richard Roundtree. I found it maybe 15 years ago at one of the first record shows I ever went to. I grabbed it and I haven’t seen it in the wild since.

“Man From Shaft,” Richard Roundtree, from “The Man From Shaft,” 1972.

Eugene McDaniels produced and arranged this LP and wrote or co-wrote all eight of the nine cuts. There’s a tremendous group of jazz session musicians on it, too.

Shaft LPs, Soul Mann/Mack Browne and The Brothers

Then there are selections from the “Shaft” soundtrack performed by Soul Mann and The Brothers and Mack Browne and The Brothers. They’re the same group. The Soul Mann LP was released on Pickwick, an American budget label; the Mack Browne LP was released on Hallmark, a UK budget label, both in 1971. I have both for no apparent reason.

I have a bunch of covers of “Theme From Shaft.” Among those artists: El Michels Affair, Jimmy McGriff, Joe Bataan, Maynard Ferguson, Sammy Davis Jr., and Ike and Tina Turner. Still looking for the LPs with “Shaft” covers by Bernard Purdie and the Love Unlimited Orchestra.

You know what that sounds like, but here’s one of my favorite covers. It’s by Kashmere Stage Band from Kashmere High School in Houston. They don’t sound like high school kids.

Kashmere Stage Band Texas Thunder Soul CD cover, 2006

“Theme From Shaft,” Kashmere Stage Band, from “Texas Thunder Soul: 1968-1974,” 2006.

Finally, there is this. Did you know Isaac Hayes recorded a follow-up to “Theme From Shaft?” Well, of course he did, and of course it’s a long jam.

For The Sake Of Love LP, Isaac Hayes, 1978

“Shaft II,” Isaac Hayes, from “For The Sake Of Love,” 1978.

All that, and we still haven’t gotten to the film. More to come.

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Filed under November 2021, Sounds