Saturday, 26 July 2014


Dick Jensen was one of the first artists to sign with the now-legendary Philadelphia International Records label in 1971. Nowadays it seems that he had little in common with the other artists which made the label famous later on, but at the time - once you heard the power and soul in his vocal delivery - it all made perfect sense. And with the label main men Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff behind the scenes, it seemed as if Dick Jensen had finally found the perfect home for his energetic style of Soul.

Like many of the label's acts, Jensen received musical assistance from PIR's house band, the illustrious MFSB. The band on the recording sessions for his self-titled album featured Ronnie Baker (bass), Larry Washington (congas, bongos), Earl Young (drums), Lenny Pakula (organ), Leon Huff (piano), Vincent Montana (vibraphone) and guitarists Bobby Eli, Norman Harris, Roland Chambers and TJ Tindall. Backing vocals were provided by Barbara Ingram, Carla Benson and Evette Benton.

Along with arrangements by Bobby Martin and Norman Harris and production by Bunny Sigler, Thom Bell and Gamble & Huff themselves (who also handled a majority of the songwriting) "Dick Jensen", released in February 1973, was as smooth and slick as anything else the label had released but was far more Pop-oriented.

Unfortunately, upon release, critics and Soul fans didn't know what to make of it. Jensen's talent was undeniable, but the album was not what they expected from the house that Gamble & Huff had built and the project itself was lost in the confusion. More information about the album are available here and here, now let's go back to May 1971 when "Going Up On the Mountain / Three Cheers For Love" was released...

An autographed Dick Jensen picture taken during a 1970 live performance

Here's the track list for this 7" single:

01. Going Up On the Mountain (Mono Version) (2:53)
02. Three Cheers For Love (Mono Version) (3:28)

Both tracks were remastered in July 2014 and are available in FLAC lossless format or high-quality 320 Kbps MP3 files; both formats include scans of the complete original artwork.

Please have a look at the comments for the download links.

"Going Up On the Mountain / Three Cheers To Love" was released by Philadelphia International Records as one of their fourth single, with catalogue number ZS7 3504. The copy I own is a promotional item for radio stations and contains mono versions of the tracks; I guess that the official release was stereo, but I'm not sure about it...

The single came in a PIR company sleeve and was re-released later by Epic in the Netherlands sometimes in 1973 with a proper cover (see here for more details); both the tracks included were written by Gamble & Huff.

The Gospel groove of "Going Up On the Mountain" is infectious and Jensen really gets into the performance, which could be an early indication of the faith he would pursue later in life. The horns and backing vocals take the song up a notch, but his fiery vocals take it to a fevered level.

"Three Cheers To Love" may fall in the Easy Listening category, but the strings and horns (arranged by Bobby Martin) and understated guitar work are definitely soulful. Jensen's vocals recall the R&B-infected side of David Clayton-Thomas and Gary Puckett mixed with the smooth delivery of Lou Rawls: he sounds comfortable, laid back and confident.

Most of the text on this page was sourced from the "Dick Jensen" reissue liner notes written by Stephen SPAZ Schnee. The CD was released by Big Break Records in 2013 and is currently the only available Jensen album, I strongly encourage you to buy a copy of this great long forgotten masterpiece!

More information about Dick Jensen is available here:

I'm currently compiling a Dick Jensen biography, the first part of this work-in-progress covers the period 1942-1972 and is available here.

I'm also trying to compile a Dick Jensen exhaustive discography, my work-in-progress is available here.

Last but not least, I'm also trying to build a collection of Dick Jensen pictures and memorabilia, my work-in-progress is available here.

All my posts dedicated to Dick Jensen on this blog are available here.

I will post more Dick Jensen stuff in the next months, if you have any other useful information about him and his releases or if you spot any dead links, just get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!

Monday, 30 June 2014


Je hais le jour je déteste Ia nuit
Qui ne veut pas finir
Je me tourne me tourne dans mon lit
Je ne peux pas dormir

Tout ça me donne des envies de meurtre
De suicide de terreur
De tout casser de foutre le feu
De me tirer une balle dans le coeur

Envie de tout casser
De tout démolir
Envie de tout casser
D’en finir

Je ne supporte plus ce film
Je change de cinéma
Je dis salut et je me tire
Je t’écrirai de Nulle-Part

Ca me donne des envies de meurtre
De suicide de terreur
De tout casser de foutre le feu
De me tirer une balle dans le coeur

Envie de tout casser
De tout démolir
Envie de tout casser
De tout détruire

Et chaque jour et chaque nuit
Je me débats contre l’ennui
Parfois il perd parfois il gagne
C’est une lutte sans merci

Tout ça me donne des envies de meurtre
De suicide de terreur
De tout casser de foutre le feu
De me tirer une balle dans le coeur

Envie de tout casser
De tout démolir
Envie de tout casser
Envie d’en tinir

[from the lyrics of "Hara Kiri"]

Lolitas were a French-German rock band influenced by Punk, Rockabilly, U.S. Garage, French 60s Ye-Ye Music and Pop. Founded by Françoise Cactus and Coco Neubauer, they were active since the mid 80s for about eight years.

Their name was inspired by the famous Stanley Kubrick's movie "Lolita". The group mainly used the French language in their own music, reserving English mostly for covers of famous songs they regularly included on their albums.

Françoise Van Hove was born in Villeneuve-l'Archevêque, a small village in Burgundy, France. She earned the nickname "Cactus" for her habit of spending her spare time hanging around in the greenhouse behind her parents' house.

During the first half of the 80s she started writing songs and moved to West Berlin; here she joined the Geniale Dilettanten (Ingenious Dilettantes) movement, a merger of the New Wave and Post-Punk scene. During those days she used to make a living by giving French lessons.

Guitarist Coco Neubauer, also known as Coco Nut, was born in southwest France and then used to live in Paris for many years. At age 9 he was fascinated by an early Rolling Stones record played for him by his cousin and fell in love with the Rhythm & Blues genre.

Françoise and Coco met in Berlin, they soon became friends and decided to form a band. Their common interest were focused on American music, from Gospel to Hardcore via Rock'nRoll, Country, etc. Morevoer, having spent her youth listening to the radio, Françoise has always had a soft spot for la Chanson Française, some of her idols were Sylvie Vartan, Christophe, Antoine, Françoise Hardy, Jacques Dutronc, Johnny Halliday...

In early 1986, with the complicity of an unnamed Irish girl on the bass, they founded Lolitas and began to play live in Berlin. Since the original bassist soon returned to Ireland, Italian guitarist/bassist Michele "Tutti Frutti" Bordini (...described as "a mixture of Adriano Celentano and Sid Vicious"...) was chosen as a replacement.

With this new and more stable line-up, Lolitas expanded their sphere of activity playing in other venues across Germany. Despite their French lyrics (...or perhaps exactly because of them...)  the band fascinated the audience exuding a naïve atmosphere, sexy, kitsch and slightly perverse.

In October 1986, What's So Funny About.. - an independent label from Hamburg - released their homonymus first album which was highly welcomed by the German press. "Lolitas" (...available here...) catched the attention of New Rose who re-released it with a completely different cover in early 1987 for the French market: althought they have never played live in France, the band has made a mark with the Rock'n'Roll aficionados.

New Rose was THE french indie label of the 80s. Created by Patrick Mathé and Louis Thevenon, the label knew ten years (1981/1992) of magnificence and fame; during its existence it was one of the most important independent labels worldwide.

At that point the trio expanded with bassist Olga La Basse - a German girl from the Black Forest region - allowing Tutti Frutti to dedicate himself to the guitar, his preferred instrument.

Françoise Cactus as she appears on the back cover of "Hara Kiri", 1989

"Séries Américaines", the second Lolitas album (...available here...), was mostly recorded during Summer 1987 at Vielklang Studio in Berlin with the help of acclaimed Australian record producer and sound engineer Tony Cohen, best known for his work with The Birthday Party and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The album was released later the same year by What's So Funny About.. in Germany and in 1988 by New Rose in France, once again with two completely different sleeves.

As their relation with New Rose intensified, Alex Chilton - who was already collaborating with the label and was a fan of the band - accepted to produce their third album. Chilton was a famous American songwriter, guitarist and singer known for his work with the Box Tops in the late 60s.

"Fusée d'amour" was recorded in Memphis in August 1988. Lolitas discovered the U.S. and had a very good time: not only they lived the big adventure of recording with the legendary Chilton (...who also produced The Cramps and Tav Falco's Panther Burns...) in the city of Sun Studios and Stax, and with the participation of Jim Dickinson at the piano in a few songs, but also made the most of their trip playing some shows in New York, Baltimore, Memphis and down to New Orleans.

The album was released in early 1989 by Vielklang in Germany and by New Rose in France and... Can you guess it? Yes, the two editions featured a completely different artwork! This was also the first Lolitas release available in CD format. Once, again, the album was well received by the press.

Tutti Frutti as he appears on the back cover of "Hara Kiri", 1989

New songs were recorded under the supervision of German producer Andy Young in May 1989, and five of them appeared later the same year on the 12" EP entitled "Hara Kiri", which is the subject of this post, released by Vielklang in Germany and by New Rose in France and... Can you guess it again? No, you're wrong, this time the cover artwork was exactly the same...

Compared to the band's previous output, the five cuts on the EP were unusually melancholic... What could be the reason for this? Maybe it is just pure coincidence, but exactly at this time Tutti Frutti decided to quit the band and returned in Italy to devote himself to a more traditional form of Rockabilly music with his new band, the A-Bombers; sadly I wasn't able to find traces of this activity of him...

Tex Morton - born Peter Hajunga - former guitarist of the German Psychobilly band Mad Sin and the Hard-Rockers Lüde & Die Astros, joined Lolitas in late 1989. According to Coco, he was the only one who could replace Tutti Frutti.

During the previous years Lolitas had already released a few singles, but most of them contained tracks from the albums with no exclusive material. In 1990 Vielklang published a very special item: a gatefold 7" double single with two printed inlays housed in a transparent 12" plastic-sleeve together with a folded poster painted by Coco. Althought credited to Lolitas, the single featured four tracks by the individual members ( guests...) recorded months before, when Tutti Frutti was still part of the group.

But let's go back to 1989: in October Lolitas shared the stage with Chris Spedding at a New Rose party during the Berlin Independent Days festival. Spedding is one of the UK's most versatile session guitarists, and has had a long career that saw him tackle nearly every style of Rock'n'Roll as well as sporadically attempting a solo career. Charmed by the freshness of their Rock sung in French, which for once didn't sound at all like a bad copy of American Rock, Chris confirmed he was ready to produce their fourth album in his adopted new hometown of New York.

Coco as he appears on the back cover of "Hara Kiri", 1989

In April 1990 Lolitas made their second trip to the USA, excited by the collaboration with Spedding, who gifted them with his warmth, charisma and immense creativity producing the songs and also playing piano, organ, cello, squeeze box (accordion) and backing vocals for them. In May the group toured across the U.S. for the second - and last - time.

"Bouche-baiser", the result of the sessions at Baby Monster Studio in N.Y.C., was released in September by Vielklang in Germany and New Rose in France, it was highly praised by the French and German rock medias.

During Autumn 1990 Lolitas extensively toured across Europe and recorded their performances directly to DAT; the best of these recordings were released in 1991 by Vielklang on "La fiancée du pirate", a sort of official bootleg whose audio quality sits somewhere in between an audience tape and a soundboard recording.

A new album was recorded in July 1991 at the group's rehearsal room in Berlin. "My English Sucks" was released by Vielklang in 1992. All the songs on this release are sung in English, it includes brand new songs and new versions of old songs that already apparead on Lolitas' previous albums.

In 1992 New Rose was sold to Fnac and quickly disappeared. Coco moved away to Guadeloupe to start a new life and the group disbanded. In 1995 Françoise Cactus met Brezel Göring at a local supermarket and founded Stereo Total, but this is a completely different story...

A selection of tracks taken from "Fusée d'amour" and "Bouche-baiser" was released in 1998 as "New York - Memphis" by Last Call Records, a label created in 1994 by Patrick Mathé, one of the original founders of New Rose.

Olga as she appears on the back cover of "Hara Kiri", 1989

"Hara Kiri" contains the following tracks:

01. Hara Kiri (3:53)
02. Julie (3:12)
03. Dans le train (3:23)
04. Johnny Guitar (2:50)
05. D'Yer Mak'er (4:41)

All tracks were remastered from the original vinyl in June 2014 and are available in FLAC lossless format or high-quality 320 Kbps MP3 files; both formats include scans of the complete original artwork.

Please have a look at the comments for the download links.

Side A opens with the title-track, a slow number about suicide and destruction, which features excruciating guitar solos and desperate lyrics.

The melancholiac "Julie" seems to deal with the point of view of someone who is forced to stay at home because of a disability, or with someone who is, once again, about to commit suicide...

"Dans le train" is about a long journey by train where the protagonist (...Françoise?) sees her whole life passing by just like the trees and the landscape out of the window; the song ends with a positive aim for the future...

On Side B we find two covers. The first one is "Johnny Guitar", the famous song written by Peggy Lee (lyrics) and Victor Young (music) which was the title track of the 1954 movie of the same name directed by Nicholas Ray and starring Joan Crawford. The original Peggy Lee version is available here; Lolitas' version features effective accordion parts in its arrangement.

The second cover, and last song of this 12" EP, is "D'yer Mak'er", a Led Zeppelin original that was featured on "Houses of the Holy", their fifth album. The song is quite unusual in their repertoire because is mainly a Reggae number... The whole story of this song is available here, you can listen to the original version here. Lolitas' version is pretty faithful and it flows quickly without leaving a big impression on the listener...

Here's the credits list of "Hara Kiri":

Françoise Cactus: vocals, drums, percussion
Olga: bass, vocals
Tutti Frutti: eletric guitar, acoustic guitar, slide guitar
Coco: eletric guitar, acoustic guitar, slide guitar, percussion

Karin Jung: accordion

All songs written by Lolitas except "Johnny Guitar" by Victor Young and Peggy Lee, and "D'Yer Mak'er" by John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin).

Recorded and mixed at Vielklang Studio, Berlin, 26-31 May 1989.

Produced by Andy Jung.

Front cover painting by Sabina Van der Linden (S.M.V.D.L.).

Lolitas as they appear on the CD booklet of "Fusée d'amour" (Vielklang edition), 1989

The following videos offer a preview of the remastered EP, here's my favourite tracks: "Hara Kiri", "Julie", and "Johnny Guitar", enjoy!

A few more information about Lolitas is available here:

If you have any other useful information about Lolitas and "Hara Kiri" - especially corrections and improvements to this post - or if you spot any dead links, please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!

Friday, 27 June 2014


Pane volpe e succo d'aquila (...Italian for "Bread, fox and eagle juice"... It is used in phrases like "Ha mangiato pane, volpe e succo d'aquila a colazione" which translates into "He had bread, fox and eagle juice for breakfast" = "He wisen up"...) was an impromptu studio project by Claudio Fontana; as far as I know, "Le cipolle / Wassa Wassa" is their only release.

Claudio Fontana, better known by his stage name of Claudio Daiano, or simply Daiano, is a composer and singer-songwriter who wrote very famous Italian songs during the '60s / '70s: "Sei bellissima" for Loredana Berté (available here), "L'isola di Wight" for the group Dik Dik (here), "Un pugno di sabbia" (here) and "Un giorno insieme" (here), both for the band Nomadi, "Il volto della vita" for Caterina Caselli (an adaptation of "Days of Pearly Spencer" by David McWilliams", available here and here), "Un'ombra" for Mina (here) and many more.

Son of Silverio Fontana, manager of the "Dancing Fontana", one of the most famous clubs of Cervia, Claudio approached music along with his brothers Carlo and Franco.

He began his career as singer in some groups in his area and then moved to Milan to attend University. Here he got in touch with the world of music and the recording-industry, and offered his services as a lyricist. His first success was in 1968 with "Il volto della vita" sung by Caterina Caselli, co-wrote by Mogol.

During the same same year he also scored a hit with "Quelli erano giorni" sung by Gigliola Cinquetti (here), a cover of "Those Were the Days", the debut single by Mary Hopkin (here) adapted from a Russian song performed by Nani Bregvadze (here).

In 1968 he wrote the lyrics for the Italian version of the famous and scandalous "Je t'aime... moi non plus" by Serge Gainsbourg (...with Jane Birkin, available here, and with Jane Birkin, and here). Among the many versions recorded in those days we remember the one sung by Giorgio Albertazzi & Anna Proclemer (here), and the one sung by Ombretta Colli together with an unidentified partner (low quality, here).

In 1969 Daiano participated in the Eurovision Song Contest with "Due grosse lacrime bianche", sung by Iva Zanicchi (here).

Claudio Daiano, promotional shot, circa mid '90s

In 1970 he scored two big hits with "The Isle of Wight" for Dik Dik (here), a cover of "Wight is White" by Michel Delpech (here), and "Un pugno di sabbia" for Nomadi (here), which achieved fourth place in the "Un disco per l'estate" competition.

In 1973 he debuted at the Sanremo Festival as the author of "Angeline", performed by Pop Tops (here), which was instantly eliminated... The following year Daiano won the Festival with "Ciao cara, come stai?" sung by Iva Zanicchi (here).

In 1974 he also released his own first album as a singer-songwriter, "Io come chiunque". It is a collection of songs by Leonard Cohen translated in Italian, arranged by Vittorio Bacchetta.

In the same year he participated in the "Mostra Internazionale di Musica Leggera di Venezia" with "Momenti sì, momenti no" sung by Caterina Caselli (here).

1975 was the year of "Sei bellissima", which has become one of the most famous Italian pop songs, thanks to the stunning performance of Loredana Berté (here).

Continuing to pursue his solo career, Daiano recorded a few more 7" singles and a second album, but success as a singer kept on eluding him and nowadays he is best remembered as an author.

During the years he also wrote songs for Fiordaliso ("Oramai", available here), Vicini di casa ("15 anni", available here) and Collage ("Donna musica", here, and "I ragazzi che si amano", here, among others).

Here's the track list for this 7" single:

01. Le cipolle (3:13)
02. Wassa Wassa (2:51)

Both tracks were remastered in June 2014 and are available in FLAC lossless format or high-quality 320 Kbps MP3 files; both formats include scans of the complete original artwork.

Please have a look at the comments for the download links.

"Le cipolle ovverossia Piangendo tutti insieme appassionatamente" is a catchy song, probably born as a divertissment, with funny lyrics about "eating onions to get rid of a demanding girlfriend"... "Wassa Wassa" on Side B is nothing more than a simple filler with repetitive lyrics and guitar/percussions in the same musical vein of the main side, but not with the same appeal.

The following videos offer a preview of the remastered single, enjoy "Le cipolle" and "Wassa Wassa"!

More information about Claudio Daiano is available here:

If you have any other useful information about this post, or if you spot any dead links, just get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!

Saturday, 14 June 2014


Midnight flower, you got the power
let me buy the things you do, darlin', for just one hour
You may never fall in love with me but it don't matter
as long as you and I, darling, can get together

I don't care what people say you are
'cause in my eyes, girl, you're a superstar
The way you move is like sweet music flowin'
and inside of me there is a need that's growin'
No price is too high

Midnight flower, you got the power
let me buy the things you do, darlin', for just one hour
You may never fall in love with me but it don't matter
as long as you and I, darling, can get together

I don't fool myself, it's a one-sided romance
but I'd gladly pay the price for just half a chance
It's wishful thinkin', for just, oh, tonight
let me pretend, baby, I'm your heart's delight
Oh, baby, hey

Midnight flower, you got the power
let me buy the things you do, darlin', for just one hour
You may never fall in love with me but it don't matter
as long as you and I, darling, can get together

I, I just gotta have you
I need your company to soothe this yearnin' in me
Girl, I, I just gotta have you
Could be the devil's got me but only you can set me free

Don't put me, baby, love me, girl
pour it all over me, baby, your sweet love, oh, so sweet

Midnight flower, you got the power
let me buy the things you do, darlin', for just one hour
You may never fall in love with me but it don't matter
as long as you and I, darling, can get together

[from the lyrics of "Midnight Flower"]

One of Motown's most consistent hitmakers and its longest lived lineup (over four decades), the Four Tops were the most stable and consistent vocal groups to emerge from Motown Records in the '60s, charting with scores of upbeat love songs featuring Levi Stubbs' rough hewn lead vocals.

The Four Tops were a product of Detroit's North End: Levi Stubbs and Abdul "Duke" Fakir sang together in a group while attending Pershing High School. Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton were boyhood friends and attended Northern High together in Detroit too. At the insistence of their friends, they performed at a local birthday party and decided to remain together christening themselves The Four Aims.

Roquel "Billy" Davis, who was Lawrence Payton's cousin and sometimes sang with the group as the fifth Aim, sent a demo tape to Chess Records in Chicago. They were sent bus tickets and invited to audition.

It seems that Chess was more interested in Davis' writing skill than the group. However Davis' persistence ended up with them being signed to Chess Records. In 1956 they changed their name to Four Tops to avoid confusion with the The Ames Brothers, another well-estabilished vocal group.

Over the next seven years, the Tops endured unsuccessful tenures at Chess, Red Top, Riverside Records and Columbia Records. Without any hit records to their name, they toured frequently, developing a polished stage presence and an experienced supper club act. In 1963, Berry Gordy, Jr., who had worked with Roquel Davis as a songwriter in the late '50s, convinced the Tops to join the roster of his growing Motown record company.

Gordy had them record "Breaking Through" for his experimental Workshop Jazz subsidiary. Later that year they were finally directed toward contemporary soul. Under the wing of Motown's top production and recording team, Holland-Dozier-Holland, the Four Tops were launched with "Baby I Need Your Loving", which went to #11 in 1964.

Over the next eight years The Four Tops appeared on the charts almost thirty times, and Levi Stubbs became an international star and an influence on singers from the Sixties to the present time.

After scoring their first #1 hit, the often-recorded and revived "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" in June 1965, the Four Tops began a long series of successful hit singles. Among the first wave of these hits were the Top 10 "It's the Same Old Song", "Something About You", "Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)", and "Loving You is Sweeter Than Ever".

Like many other Motown acts, the Four Tops became popular in major nightclubs around the world. In 1967 they had hits with "Bernadette", "7-Rooms of Gloom" and "You Keep Running Away". By now, the Tops were the most successful male Motown act in the U.K. ( the United States, they were second to The Temptations...), and began experimenting with more mainstream pop hits.

They scored hits with their versions of "If I Were a Carpenter" and "Walk Away Renée". These singles and the original "I'm In a Different World" were their last hits produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland, who left Motown in 1967.

Without Holland-Dozier-Holland, the quality of the Four Tops' output began to decline, and hits became less frequent. The group worked with a wide array of Motown producers during the late 1960s, including Ivy Hunter, Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson, Norman Whitfield and Johnny Bristol, without significant chart success.

Their first major hit in a long time came in the form of 1970's "It's All In the Game", produced by Frank Wilson. Wilson and the Tops began working on a number of innovative tracks and albums together, echoing Whitfield's psychedelic soul work with The Temptations.

Their 1970 album "Still Waters Run Deep" was an early ancestor to the concept album. It also served as an inspiration for Marvin Gaye's 1971 classic album "What's Going On", the title track of which was co-written by "Obie" Benson.

In addition to their own albums, the Tops were paired with The Supremes for a series of three albums: "The Magnificent Seven" was released in 1970, "The Return of the Magnificent Seven" and "Dynamite!" followed in 1971. While the albums themselves did not do well on the charts, "The Magnificent Seven" featured a Top 20 version of Ike & Tina Turner's "River Deep - Mountain High", produced by Ashford & Simpson.

"Meeting of the Minds" inner gatefold

In early 1972 the Four Tops recorded "Nature Planned It" with producer Frank Wilson, it was their last Motown album for more than twenty years. This release was the subject of a previous post on Stereo Candies, just have a look here if you're interested.

During that year, Motown started relocating to Los Angeles and all its artists had to move as well. Many of the older acts opted to stay in Detroit, including The Funk Brothers backing band and the Four Tops. The Tops departed Motown for ABC/Dunhill, where they were assigned to songwriters-producers Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter.

Moving to another label rejuvenated the group's career and when "Keeper of the Castle" was released as a single in October 1972  it became their first Pop Top 10 hit since "Bernadette" in 1967, with "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)" also entering the Top 10 in a short time.

Following the success of the "Keeper of the Castle" LP (...enjoy it here...), in 1973 the Four Tops returned to the ABC Recording Studios under the supervision of Steve Barri with the same team of musicians, arrangers and producers to work on their 19th full-lenght studio album entitled "Main Street People".

"Main Street People" (...available here courtesy of yours truly...) was released by ABC/Dunhill with catalogue number DSX 50144 in September 1973. Just like the previous album "Keeper of the Castle", it was produced by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, who were also responsible for writing about half of the tracks.

"Are You Man Enough", the theme song for the movie "Shaft In Africa", turned out to be the first of three hit singles to emerge from "Main Street People"; it reached #2 on the American R&B chart and #15 on the American Billboard chart. The infectious "Sweet Understanding Love", which would be the group's last Top 40 Pop Hit for ABC, and the equally catchy follow-up "I Just Can't Get You Out of My Mind" both had a feel remarkably similar to some of the Tops' work for Motown.

In late 1973 / early 1974 the group was busy at the ABC Recording Studios again working on their third album for the label, once again with the same team of musicians and producers. "Meeting of the Minds", the subject of this post, was released a few months later.

"Meeting of the Minds" original inner sleeve

Blues & Soul magazine dedicated two reviews to the album - one when it was firstly made available as an import, and one when it was officially released in the U.K. a few weeks later; both of them are completely negative, and very strict to say the least, so I won't include them here.

The following review of "Meeting of the Minds" is taken from the Allmusic website (original page is available here) and althought it can't be defined as 'favourable' at least it doesn't completely destroy the album... I'm starting to wonder if I am the only one who consider this LP as good as "Main Street People" and very close to "Keeper of the Castle"... Anyway, here's the review:

«Meeting of the Minds, the proper studio follow-up to 1973's "Main Street People", wasn't a big seller either. The production failed to capitalize on the group's chemistry, offering songs that were formulaic and stale. The hokey "One Chain Don't Make No Prison" starts off promisingly, with a searing guitar riff, but then a weak set of lyrics tests Levi Stubbs' credibility. "Midnight Flower," with a faint Oriental motif, has Stubbs unabashedly singing of having the hots for a prostitute. Since the Tops' pop/R&B sound was beginning to run out of gas, they also tried other ideas. "The Well Is Dry" is reminiscent of the group's dramatic work with Holland-Dozier-Holland, but a perfunctory arrangement makes it sound artificial. Unlike many efforts, this featured other group members getting a lead vocal. The best of the lot is "Tell Me You Love Me (Love Sounds)." The song features Lawrence Payton, whose voice is lighter than Stubbs', but had his exact phrasing. The track, complete with a cooing woman and a breezy L.A. pop/R&B arrangement, is fun to listen to. "Meeting of the Minds" seemed to be an extension of "Keeper of the Castle", but the group sounded a little tired and the production seemed too listless. Despite a few good tracks, this didn't blaze any new trails for the group.»

Four Tops as they appear on the inner gatefold of "Meeting of the Minds", 1974

"Meeting of the Minds" contains the following tracks:

01. One Chain Don't Make No Prison (4:06)
02. Midnight Flower (4:11)
03. The Well Is Dry (3:46)
04. Love Ain't Easy To Come By (3:35)
05. No Sad Songs (5:16)
06. Right On Brother (4:05)
07. Tell Me You Love Me (Love Sounds) (3:30)
08. All My Love (4:28)
09. I Found the Spirit (3:55)
10. Meeting of the Minds (4:22)

All tracks were remastered from the original vinyl in May 2014, they are available as a FLAC lossless format file or as a high-quality 320 Kbps MP3 file. Both formats offer complete printable PDF artwork.

Before burning this album on CD-R using the provided CUE file you will need to convert the original files to WAV format using an appropriate software. Here's an option for FLAC to WAV conversion and one for MP3 to WAV conversion.

As usual, please have a look at the comments for the download links.

Bearing catalogue number DSD 50166 and a colourful and slightly psychedelic cover, "Meeting of the Minds" was released by ABC/Dunhill in April 1974. As noted elsewhere, it was the Tops' third consecutive album produced by Steve Barri, Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter.

The clavinet opening gives a decidedly Funky start to the album and "One Chain Don't Make No Prison" (written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter) sets a good pace. This song, backed with "Turn On the Light On Your Love" - which, strangely enough, is taken from their 1972 album "Keeper of the Castle" - was chosen as first single; it entered the Billboard Hot 100 in early May and soon reached the R&B Top 10 peaking at #3.

The midtempo "Midnight Flower", composed by McKinley Jackson and Reginald Dozier is probably the Tops' most well known track from this period; it was released as a single in July with "All My Love" on the flip side. A short Billboard review describes it as a «Good, bouncy commercial effort from the band that almost never misses. Repetitive guitar riffs offer good hook to cut, as does title.» It peaked at #5 in the Billboard R&B Chart during autumn.

"The Well Is Dry", another Lambert & Potter tune, should have been considered as the right choice for one more single, but it was released as such only in the U.K. to coincide with their tour, backed with the U.S. hit "Midnight Flower" for good measure. The song is very pop and similar to some of the group's work for Motown, with Levi's unique vocal tones shining on it... «The Motown sound really wasn't planned,» declared Lawrence Payton in an interview, «Dennis and Brian accidentally came up with it when they were preparing the track.»

"Love Ain't Easy To Come By", once again written by Lambert & Potter, is a gentle track that offers a sugary arrangement by Don Hockett and Dennis Lambert himself, with interesting strings and percussion, and even a brief saxophone solo.

Side A closes with the Funky infected "No Sad Songs", one of my favourite tunes from the album, duly served by blazing guitar and organ solos and an overall exciting arrangement by veteran Gil Askey. The song features lead vocals by Lawrence Payton, Jr. and was written by Payton himself under his Len Perry alias, along with Glenn Leonard and Roland Foster.

"Midnight Flower" sheet music, 1974

Side B starts with the social message of "Right On Brother", one of Lambert & Potter's finest moments. The uncredited horns occasionally jump up front in the lush arrangement by Jimmie Haskell, and Levi Stubbs delivers his usual first class lead vocals.

The sexy groove of "Tell Me You Love Me (Love Sounds)" features lead vocals by Lawrence Payton, Jr., who wrote the song along with Al Cleveland, and the sensual participation of Sylvia Smith. In October 1974 the song was released as a single credited solely to Payton, backed with "I Found the Spirit", also taken from the album. After "One Woman Man", published the previous year, this was Payton's second and last solo release. In an interview Levi explained: «Lawrence produced and conceived those tracks, and they really are in a completely different direction from the one the group is heading in, so we really didn't mind the company releasing them under his name

Lawrence Payton, Jr. and Levi Stubbs share lead vocal duties on "All My Love", one of the most Pop tracks on the album, with the rest of the Tops providing the usual harmonic richness they are well known for; the song was written by Renaldo Benson along with his wife Valaida.

"I Found the Spirit", another song penned by Renaldo & Valaida Benson, brings the album back in Funky territory. After the spoken introduction, Lawrence Payton, Jr. performs inspired lead vocals on a top-notch arrangement by McKinley Jackson that, in the central part, includes a foreground piano solo surrounded by effective guitar licks and organ touches.

The conscious message of "Meeting of the Minds", another great tune written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, is particularly reminiscent of "Keeper of the Castle", the title track of the Tops masterpiece released two years earlier. The song is the last on the album and offers another great performance by Levi Stubbs.

Once again I'd like to remark the greatness of this record, the last true Soul album recorded by the Four Tops before the advent of the Disco era. Have a listen and you'll be rewarded.

The following videos offer a preview of the remastered album: "Meeting of the Minds", "All My Love", "No Sad Songs", and "I Found the Spirit", enjoy!

Here's the credits and personnel list of "Meeting of the Minds" as they appear on the inner gatefold of the album and on the labels:

One Chain Don't Make No Prison
(Dennis Lambert / Brian Potter)
Arranged by Michael Omartian
Lead Vocal: Levi Stubbs

Midnight Flower
(McKinley Jackson / Reginald Dozier)
Arranged by Michael Omartian
Lead Vocal: Levi Stubbs

The Well Is Dry
(Dennis Lambert / Brian Potter)
Arranged by Michael Omartian
Lead Vocal: Levi Stubbs

Love Ain't Easy To Come By
(Dennis Lambert / Brian Potter)
Arranged by Dennis Lambert and Don Hockett
Lead Vocal: Levi Stubbs

No Sad Songs
(Len Perry / Glenn Leonard / Roland Foster)
Arranged by Gil Askey
Lead Vocal: Lawrence Payton, Jr.

Right On Brother
(Dennis Lambert / Brian Potter)
Arranged by Jimmie Haskell
Lead Vocal: Levi Stubbs

Tell Me You Love Me (Love Sounds)
(Lawrence Payton, Jr. / Al Cleveland)
Arranged by Gil Askey
Lead Vocal: Lawrence Payton, Jr.
Female Vocalist: Sylvia Smith

All My Love
(Renaldo Benson / Valaida Benson)
Arranged by Gil Askey
Lead Vocal: Lawrence Payton, Jr., Levi Stubbs

I Found the Spirit
(Renaldo Benson / Valaida Benson)
Arranged by McKinley Jackson
Lead Vocal: Lawrence Payton, Jr.

Meeting of the Minds
(Dennis Lambert / Brian Potter)
Arranged by Michael Omartian
Lead Vocal: Levi Stubbs

Produced by: Steve Barri, Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter

Recording Engineers: Phil Kaye, Howard Gale and Barney Perkins

Mastering Engineer: Vic Zaslav

Recorded at: ABC Recording Studios, Inc., Studio A, Los Angeles, California

Musicians include:

Drums: Ed Greene, Paul Humphrey
Bass: Wilton Felder, Scott Edwards
Keyboards: Michael Omartian, Dennis Lambert
Guitars: Larry Carlton, Ben Benay, Dean Parks, Ray Parker

Percussion: King Errisson, Gary Coleman, Brian Potter, Steve Barri

Concert Master: Sid Sharp

Cover painting: Peter Parowski
Illustration: Dave Willardson
Photography: Ron Slenzak

"One Chain Don't Make No Prison", promotional single, front cover

The following interview was conducted by Sharen Wood with Abdul "Duke" Fakir and Renaldo "Obie" Benson during the recording of "Meeting of the Minds". It is particularly interesting because the two Tops talk about they departure from Motown and their plans to set up a new record label for young talents; I guess that the latter has remained a desideratum because I wasn't able to find any evidence about it, but anyway... The interview was published on issue #132 of Blues & Soul magazine in early April 1974.

You'll have noticed that, unlike my previous features, this piece is not classified as "A Profile". That's because I only managed to corral two of the Four Tops in one room at the same time; but the resulting conversation was nonetheless as rewarding and enlightening as it could be.

The Tops were in Los Angeles to record their latest LP and, when I arrived at their hotel for the interview, "Duke" and "O.B." were slaying away over a hot tape recorder, getting down the lyrics to one of the tracks that will be featured.

Lawrence had taken advantage of a free day and gone out of town and Levi was soundly sleeping. As the lead singer and, therefore, the last to add his voice to the tracks, Levi usually works late into the night, long after the others have gone to their beds. As a result, when the group is recording, day turns into night for him.

However, I was not to be disappointed, as the two gentlemen I had on my hands were eager and happy to give 'Blues and Soul' all the lowdown on what was happening in their world.

The spirit of enthusiasm they generated about their current situation was contagious. It turns out that, these days, the Four Tops are four happy men because, after years of battling against a veritable brick wall, they have finally achieved what they believe to be an ideal situation for them.

They told me that they were about to sign a deal with their recording company, ABC-Dunhill, whereby they would have their own company, to be distributed through ABC. So, while continuing to work as artists for ABC-DunhiIl, they would be businessmen in their own right, running record and music publishing companies and the various off-shoots of those enterprises.

The Tops think that this turn of events has given them all a new lease on life. As O.B. put it, "We enjoy working now. We're up at eight o'clock in the morning, working on a new song. When we were at Motown, I didn't even have a record player; I wouldn't even carry any electronic equipment around because I thought, 'For what?'. And that's no way to feel about your chosen profession."

Duke added, "I think that we have a new-found kind of natural drive, 'cos we know now that we're working for ourselves and everything we do, we can feel the impact of it somewhere. So we work harder all around. I just think that since we left Motown - and we had some great times there, we learned a lot from them - we've started to mature in ourselves, as people in the business world, which we find very comfortable. I think some of our resources were kind of stifled at Motown and they're just starting to flow now."

I asked if this feeling of being stifled was one of the group's reasons for leaving Motown; Duke replied, "Basically, yes. Even though we had a good time with them and they were the reason for our career catapulting to the degree that it did. But there comes a time for growth and with Motown, if you want to grow beyond a certain point, then you just have to leave. We wanted to start doing more writing, we wanted to produce, we wanted to help other artists, we wanted to have our own label and our own publishing company; in other words, we wanted to really be in business and we couldn't do that at Motown."

O.B. had some thoughts to add to that; "At this stage of our lives, it's natural for us to want to do things by ourselves. You see, even though we get financial rewards from the sale of our records, I think what is most gratifying about your work is to know that other individuals are appreciating it and enjoying it. "It's also gratifying to listen to it on the radio; to hear what you've created in your mind and to see if you were successful in re-creating the same feeling that you experienced when you were writing that particular tune."

I asked if the Tops had only recently begun to create their own material. Duke answered, "Actually, yes. When we were at Motown, O.B. and Lawrence started writing. O.B. wrote "What's Going On" with Marvin Gaye, plus a couple of other things. So we'd started but it didn't get a chance to completely flourish."

"Not only that," said O.B., "the problem with being with Motown is, I did those tunes with Marvin, but the group didn't benefit from it in any way because they wouldn't give me credit for it. They billed one individual, Marvin, and eliminated the other, me. That situation could never happen with ABC-Dunhill. They're not interested in taking any accolades away, they give you credit for what you do. And that's important because it can sell records for us too. If I write a hit song for Marvin Gaye and I get the proper publicity, that's gonna make our records sell. What Motown did is called suffocating you creatively."

Duke didn't want to leave the impression that Motown was all bad and that the group entirely resented everything about the company. " I think that their philosophy is good up to a certain point. It's very fruitful as a way to get you off the ground, the way to put you out there. And, if you're not ready, they prepare you. But I feel that when an artist gets to a certain point, that's when they should cut them loose, give them more rein and set them up in different little projects. The company would benefit and the artist would have a chance to grow in other areas. They teach you your profession well, but then they refuse to let you use what you know."

However, the Four Tops are among the lucky ones. They've managed to extricate themselves from a situation they no longer found equitable and are presumably sitting pretty with just about everything they've dreamed of about to become a reality. How did these four offspring of the Detroit ghetto get to this point; where they are acclaimed among the world's top stars and, if they have their way, will soon be business moguls to boot?

Firstly, they were fortunate in growing up in the right place at the right time. The north end of Detroit may not seem like everyone's idea of the ideal place to live, but if you happened to have aspirations towards a musical career, it was a veritable breeding ground of talent during the 1950's when the future members of the Four Tops were adolescent and ambitious.

Duke (real name, Abdul Fakir), O.B. (Renaldo Benson), Lawrence Payton and Levi Stubbs joined forces after singing separately with other groups. The Four Tops turned out to be something to be reckoned with at the weekly amateur singing contests held around the city. The competition among the young people at these events was fierce. Music was everything to them.

Duke explained the atmosphere of the time. "In our youth, Detroit was like an entertainment capital - all the bands and artists came through here. Now, it's not quite the same, but then, we were always going to see something entertainment wise. We'd skip school sometimes and spend the whole day listening to the bands - Lucky Milner, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie and the like. So it just kind of orientated all young people into music. Also, at that time, I think more young people were going to church. There wasn't a lot of TV and parents were a little more strict then. So, every Sunday, all the kids went to church, even if they did nothing but sit there and go to sleep. So, generally, if you had to go, you tried to get into the gospel choir because at least it was something to do."

O.B. interjected, "And not only that, the choir would get to go on picnics and have dances and things like that. Also, they'd have Sunday competitions between all the different churches."

Duke resumed, "In other words, in our youth, there was competition in music constantly and it was very attractive to young people for a lot of reasons. It was a chance to dress up and there was always a chance to meet pretty, little girls. And it was fun. It also kept you out of a whole lot of trouble."

When the boys graduated from high school, they already knew that show business was to be their lives. "We went to this agency," recalls Duke, "and right away, they started booking us into little clubs and lounges. We were lucky enough to find plenty of work because there was an abundance of small places around Detroit. Then, we ran into a guy named Arthur Braggs who had a club in a summer resort in Michigan, called Idlewild. We would go up there every summer for about ten weeks. For us, at that time, it was like the living end, like going to Las Vegas."

It was in Idlewild, under the strict eye of Mr. Braggs, that the boys got their first real indoctrination into professional show business. O.B. remembers, "If we would make a mistake in the show, Arthur would have us rehearsing that particular thing over and over again for two or three hours the next day. I imagine that's one thing that turned us against becoming too regimented in our choreography and routines. We had to practice so much that the stuff would become so automatic it would lose it's appeal."

Duke agreed: "We found that if you know exactly what you're going to do every night, it's hard to really project. Some people can, I guess, and some people would rather not. We're the latter. We'd rather be a little more spontaneous. We have the freedom, more or less, to be ourselves on stage, rather than four guys trying to be one personality."

The Four Tops became working professionals right from high school, most assuredly as a result of the right combination of luck and talent. I asked if there had ever been any lean periods in their working lives. With a wry smile, Duke replied, "Oh yes. For the first ten years, there were always some lay-offs. It was really rough for the period before we had our first hit. We'd made about three different records before the hit, but they only sold maybe four or five copies apiece."

"And we bought all of them!" broke in O.B. "In those ten years when we were scuffling," Duke went on, "we would work maybe twenty-eight weeks out of the year. The rest of the time was spent just trying to stay together; trying not to get work outside of show business because that would definitely split us up. I remember I did work one weekend in a car wash, but. that was about it."

And through all those years, they did manage to stay together, throughout the hard times and the good. Looking back on how they managed to do it, O.B. said, "I would like to say to all young groups that are coming out now and trying to do their thing – get yourselves together first, understand each other first. And then understand which direction you want to go in. Everybody in the group has to have a certain function. The most important things for any group to have is somebody musical, somebody creating a specific sound for them. A lot of groups would be great, except that they're copying everybody else's stuff. That's because they don't have anybody that has the individual qualities to create a different sound for them."

I asked which one of the Tops served that function for the rest of the group. "Lawrence basically is in that department," said Duke, "we're all creative, but he's the one that really sets our musical style. O.B. is supercreative, on-stage, off-stage, lyrically and so forth. Levi is, to us, one of the greatest lead singers there is. He can project any tune you give him. And then there's the one that basically taks care of the business… that's me. We all make the decisions together, but there has to be one that goes forth and sees that they're carried out. So we all have our different functions and we all feel important. That's probably the reason why we've been together for so long. Each one of us feels as important as the next one. So we don't have the ego problem which is the main cause of most groups breaking up. Also, the four of us get along so well personally. When we're not working, we're relaxing and playing poker together."

All four members are married men and work has taken them away from their families for as much as six months in every year. Now, however, with their new label being formed in Los Angeles, they're planning to consolidate personal and working lives. Duke said, "We won't be going on the road quite as much as before. We will be in Las Vegas a lot, but that's very close to L.A. and our families will be able to be with us."

They didn't have a name for the new label as of the time of my talking with them, but their plans regarding it were well formulated. "We have a few artists ready to sign whom we won't name yet until everything's set up," Duke said, "and we'll have some releases almost immediately. All the members of the group will serve as producers, A&R men, etc."

"We also plan to set up a situation where we can help and develop young acts who are trying to get into the business," added O.B., "We're going to call it the Career Guidance Department. We won't say Management because that's a nasty word that has come to mean just taking ten per cent of the artist's earnings. Career Guidance is exactly what we plan to give. We‘ll help any young artist in any way we can, turn them on to the right contacts and give them any kind of real advice that they need. And as a part of developing young acts, when we take a tour, we'll have a couple of them with us to give them exposure."

The two Tops summed it up like this: "We want to prove that you can be in business without ripping people off. It can be done. You can really genuinely give of yourself and your artistic talents, plus your business knowledge, and you can reap rewards without ripping 'em off. We've had some big disappointments throughout the years, so we're going to try to keep them to a minimum for our artists. All this is gonna do is make entertainment better. These artists are gonna perform better for the people. It's going to be so that they can't wait to get out there and do their thing, because everything's gonna be all right for them."

The following playbacks of "Midnight Flower" and "Right On Brother" were performed by the Four Tops for the American musical variety TV show Soul Train; they were broadcasted on October 12, 1974 and are available courtesy of YouTube.

More information about "Meeting of the Minds", Lambert & Potter and the Four Tops is available here:

If you have any other useful information about the Four Tops and "Meeting of the Minds" - especially corrections and improvements to this post - or if you spot any dead links, please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!