When talking about Gladys Knight & The Pips "Neither One of Us" (1973) album which immediately preceded this I said, "Gladys Knight and the Pips came through the Motown factory in the 60s with a few top 20 pop hits including "I Heard it through the Grapevine", "Every Beat of My Heart") and transitioned into the 70s easily where they had most of their hits. They really were on fire 1971 – 75, though they had to leave Motown (after this album) to prove their worth (they went to Buddah records)".
This is that album.
This was a big commercial hit and showed (in part) that soul could adapt itself to 70s musical genres rather than just extending it itself as a "dance music".
Check out my other comment for biographical detail on Gladys Knight & The Pips.
This was their 10th album or so and their first on the Buddah label. A lot of this sounds MOR – singer songwriter soft rock filtered through a soul colander.
And that's not a surprise
The album is mainly produced by Tony Camillo or Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise.
Tony Camillo (tracks: 1, 5, 6, 8), Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise (tracks: 2, 3, 4, 7) and Gladys Knight & The Pips (track 9).
All songs are co-produced, apparently, by Gladys Knight & The Pips.
Camillo had worked in soul for a long time. He worked on many pop, rock, soul and disco recordings in the 1960s and 1970s, including recordings by Dionne Warwick, Eric Carmen, The Stylistics, Millie Jackson, Chambers Brothers, Peaches & Herb, The 5th Dimension ,Grand Funk Railroad, Stevie Wonder, Martha Reeves, The Supremes, Parliament, and Tommy James.
No surprises there.
Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise do surprise though. Former members of early 70s hard rock band "Dust" they produced 4 tracks. They went on to produce Kiss.
Apart from an emphasis on beat in a couple of songs their hard rock tendencies aren't up front. I'm not sure why they were chosen to produce. Camillo on the other hand leans towards a smoother pop sound whether he is recording rock, hard rock or soul.
The most noticeable stylistic trend is the singer songwriter sounds. Gladys Knight & The Pips do five songs by Jim Weatherly (they had done one, "Neither One of Us", on the album of the same name and that went to #2 in the charts(1973)). Weatherly, white, was born in 1943 in Pontotoc, Mississippi and played quarterback at the University of Mississippi (and was an All-American) before choosing song writing over a football career.
He had that rugged sensitivity that was popular in the 70s … think Mac Davis, Danny O'Keefe etc.
This is white music though Gladys Knight & The Pips manage to give it some soul and funk … Gladys Knight could sing anything I suspect.
It is still, perhaps, a little too slick for my ears. Don't get me wrong, I love pure pop , but this hybrid adds sugar to something which should a little raggedy around the edges. Black American music in the 70s was about sounding Black with a capital "B"… street talk, Afro-American slang, funk, jive and a general immediacy were as important as the sounds and dance-ability of the music.
This has taken the schmaltz of confessional singer songwriter songs and adds a little black sugar.
Gladys Knight & The Pips were, I suspect, bold in going in tackling more white sounds.
But it worked – a handful of hit singles and a hit album means "money talks".
Tracks (best in italics)
- Midnight Train To Georgia – (Jim Weatherly) – Slick, very slick but catchy in a very, err slick way. Originally written as "Midnight Plane to Houston" it's a song about the power of love. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midnight_Train_to_Georgia
- I've Got To Use My Imagination – (Barry Goldberg, Gerry Goffin) – First release by Barry Goldberg October 1973 apparently. This has a great thumping disco beat which must have packed the dance floors. Infectious.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27ve_Got_to_Use_My_Imagination
- Storms Of Troubled Times – (Jim Weatherly) – from Weatherly's self title album (1973). Lots of emotion….but engagingly (over) dramatic.
Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me – (Jim Weatherly) – a country hit for Ray Price in 1973 (#1). More emotion. Some of the country can be heard coming through – black country soul
- Once In A Lifetime Thing – (Jim Weatherly) – slick and dramatic.
- Where Peaceful Waters Flow – (Jim Weatherly) – from Weatherly's "A Gentler Time" (1973) LP. Very singer songwriter through the black diva filter.
- I Can See Clearly Now – (Johnny Nash) – Johnny Nash' magnificent #1 from 1972. It has been covered many times since ..my favourite is by Harry Dean Stanton (live). This song is totally re-imagined with the Pips sing lead. It isn't a great version. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Can_See_Clearly_Now
- Perfect Love – (Paul Williams) – from Paul Williams "Just An Old Fashioned Love Song" (1971) LP. Strings and horns and schmaltz. The Pips are up front with Gladys on this though I suspect it would have been better if it were Pip-less.
- Window Raisin' Granny – (B. Knight, E. Patten, G. Knight, W. Guest) – Lead vocal by a Pip, this is great and moves (with it's social observations) into O'Jays territory. Perhaps this is the best track on the album and, interestingly, the only one produced by the band.The only trac
The soul, groove and funk is in the vocals – the arrangements are pure MOR . It still it works, though only sporadically on my ears … tape a few and sell.
1973 Where Peaceful Waters Flow The Billboard Hot 100 #28
1973 Midnight Train To Georgia The Billboard Hot 100 #1
1974 I've Got To Use My Imagination The Billboard Hot 100 #4
1974 Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me The Billboard Hot 100 #3
1973 Midnight Train To Georgia #10
1974 Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me #7
Midnight Train To Georgia
I've Got To Use My Imagination
Window Raisin' Granny