Posts Tagged ‘Natural Four’

Wandering Randomly At YouTube

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

At least once before, I’ve mentioned that one of the fun ways I learn about relatively obscure records is to listen to one of them at YouTube and then look at the column of suggested videos off to the right. Those suggested videos come up, I believe, via an algorithm that combines one’s recent wanderings on the site with the wanderings of other folks who looked at that same specific video.

The record “Who Do You Love” by the Sapphires, a black pop/R&B trio from Philadelphia, rolled through the RealPlayer yesterday just as I was looking for a tune to post as a link at Facebook. I went and found the video, and posted the link, then did some moderate digging and learned that the record – which I quite like – went to No. 24 pop and No. 9 R&B in 1964.

When I went back to that YouTube page this morning, some of the suggested videos on the right side were different because of my wanderings since the first visit, but there were still some intriguing suggestions.

One of them was “Somebody Please” by the Vanguards, a vocal group from Indianapolis that hit the R&B Top 40 in 1970 when “It’s Too Late For Love” went to No. 33. “Somebody Please,” which was released in 1969, did not make the charts, but it’s an okay record. The delivery on one of the solo verses sounds a bit over-wrought (“stentorian” was the first word that came to mind), but other than that, it would have been nice for a sweet slow dance in high school. One of the commenters at YouTube says he is the son of one of the Vanguards and remembers watching the group rehearse at his home. Another commenter has, evidently, less happy associations, writing: “This song is dedicated to Danny Martinez – Horse – served U.S. Marine Corps in the Republic of Vietnam, RIP.”*

A look at the right-hand column at the “Somebody Please” page leads us “I’m Just An Average Guy” by the Masqueraders, a sweet piece of R&B. The group hailed from Texas and had a couple of singles hit the Billboard Hot 100. “Average Guy” was not one of them, but it went to No. 24 on the R&B chart in 1969. One of the commenters echoes my thoughts: “I never knew this group existed till today. More than excellent.” And I look at the right-hand column again.

The Montclairs were an R&B vocal group from East St. Louis, Illinois, whose “Beggin’ Is Hard To Do” went to No. 33 on the R&B chart in 1972. It’s a decent record that sounds a lot like a thousand other R&B vocal records from the era, but it was the best-performing of the three records that the group placed in the R&B Top 40. “One of my favorite songs,” says one commenter. “This is love beyond words.” And we move on.

And we stay, not at all surprisingly, in early 1970s vocal soul: “Can This Be Real” by the Natural Four. The record went to No. 31 on the pop chart and to No. 10 on the R&B chart in early 1974. Like everything except the Sapphires’ record that started this trip, this is a record I’ve never heard, but this is one I love without reservation. The same was true for one of the commenters: “This is one of the best songs of the ’70s. My favorite time growing up. The music was good, the clothes were sharp, we knew how to enjoy each other. I miss those days.”

Our last jump into the right-hand column brings us to a group we’ve talked about before and a a cover version I didn’t know existed. New Birth was one of two groups that evolved in the 1970s from the Nite-Liters, a group put together by Harvey Fuqua and Tony Churchill. The tangled tale is worth digging into more deeply, but that’s for another time. This morning, we’re just listening to “Wildflower” by New Birth. Skylark’s original version of the song went to No. 9 in 1973, and New Birth’s 1974 cover went to No. 40 on the pop chart and to No. 17 on the R&B chart. It’s sweet, and I’m not the only person who thinks so. One commenter said, “Remember slow dancing by scroll light in ’73. Wow, what memories.”

*I’ve added punctuation to some of the comments.

Saturday Single No. 329

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

Let’s play some games with numbers and do some chart digging.

Today’s date – 2/16/13 – adds neatly to 31, so we’re going to be looking for records that were at No. 31 on the Billboard pop chart on this date in certain years. But instead of jumping from year to year, I think that today we’re going to use what my pal Schultz calls my “sweet spot,” the years when Top 40 meant the most to me: 1969 through 1974. That will give us six candidates for this Saturday morning, and we should be able to find something to highlight among those six. We’ll see.

Sitting at No. 31 as February eased past its mid-point in 1969 was one of two Top 40 hits for Chicago’s New Colony Six. “Things I’d Like To Say” would eventually climb to No. 16, six spots higher than the group’s 1968 hit, “I Will Always Think About You.” The group would end up with fifteen records in or near the Billboard Hot 100 between 1966 and 1972, but except for the two mentioned here, none of the others went higher than No. 50. And just for fun, the No. 1 record this week in 1969 was Sly & The Family Stone’s “Everyday People.”

A year later, the third week in February found Engelbert Humperdinck in the No. 31 spot with “Winter World of Love.” The record had peaked at No. 16 in late January, making it the third-highest-charting record for the India-born Brit. (“Release Me [And Let Me Love Again]” went to No. 4 in 1967, and “After the Lovin’” went to No. 8 in early 1977.) Altogether, Humperdinck had twenty-four records in or near the Hot 100 between 1967 and 1983. And we again find Sly & The Family Stone sitting on top of the mid-February chart, this time with the double-sided single “Thank You (Falettin Me Be Mice Elf Agin)/Everybody Is A Star.”

As February trundled along in 1971, Elvis Presley was at No. 31 with his own two-sided single, “I Really Don’t Want To Know/There Goes My Everything.” By that time in my life, midway through my senior year of high school, Top 40 was my radio default, but I don’t recall either of the Elvis sides. (I do remember “There Goes My Everything” as a 1967 Engelbert Humperdink single.) The Elvis two-sider had peaked earlier in February at No. 21 (and went to No. 23 and No. 8, respectively, on the country charts), two of an absurd total of 165 singles in or near the Hot 100 for the King. Sitting at No. 1 that week was “One Bad Apple” by the Osmonds.

By mid-February of 1972, a good deal of my radio listening took place in the company of a young lady who brightened my life for a while and introduced me to the pleasures of coffee. As we sipped in the middle of that month, the No. 31 record was Grand Funk Railroad’s “Footstompin’ Music.” I was never fond of the record, which would peak the next week at No. 29, one of twenty records Grand Funk placed in or near the Hot 100 between 1969 and 1981. The No. 1 record in mid-February was Nilsson’s “Without You,” a record that no doubt meant more to me at the end of February when I drank my coffee alone.

During the third week of February in 1973, Billy Paul was telling the world about “Me & Mrs. Jones” from the No. 31 spot of the Hot 100. The record, Paul’s first in the charts, had spent the last three weeks of 1972 at No. 1. He’d have three other records hit the charts, with the best-performing of them being “Thanks For Saving My Life,” which went to No. 37 in 1974. Paul also made the lower levels of the pop chart as a member of the Philadelphia International Allstars when “Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto” went to No. 91 in 1977. The No. 1 record during the third week of February 1973 was Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock,” in its third and final week atop the chart.

Most of the records on the chart from February 16, 1974 – thirty-nine years ago today – I learned about long after the fact. I was in Denmark that winter and listening more to the Allman Brothers Band and Pink Floyd than to Top 40. As it happens, the No. 31 record that week was a record I’d never heard until this morning, “Can This Be Real” by the Natural Four, which is a sweet bit of vocal R&B on Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom label. The record went no higher on the pop chart, but went to No. 10 on the R&B chart. (The Natural Four hit the Hot 100 chart once more in the spring of 1974, when “Love That Really Counts” went to No. 98.) And the No. 1 record thirty-nine years ago this week was Barbra Streisand’s lovely and nostalgic “The Way We Were,” in the second of its three weeks on top of the charts.

So that gives us six candidates. We can start the winnowing by dropping the two sides of the Elvis single. Although I like the Elvis Country album from which they were pulled, they’re far from my favorite tracks on the album. And, despite the enthusiasm of one of my college friends, the New Colony Six doesn’t grab me, nor – despite similar enthusiasm from a kid I knew in high school – does Grand Funk Railroad.

So we’re down to the 1973 and 1974 entries, which isn’t at all what I expected when I began this little project. (I would have put good money on 1970’s entry being a favorite of mine.) It’s been nearly six years since I featured Billy Paul’s great single here, and I’m tempted, but I think I have to go this morning with the record I’d not heard until today. That makes “Can This Be Real,” the 1974 single from the Natural Four, today’s Saturday Single.