by Jeff Fiedler
Common Thread is a regular feature on thegreatalbums.com in which we offer up mini-reviews of a small (and often very diverse) assortment of albums that all have one specific shared trait; that "common thread" can vary from column to column.
The First Class, First Class (1974, UK)
This studio outfit hit the Top Five with their first and only American hit, the enduring oldies-radio classic “Beach Baby.” If you’ve ever heard that song on the radio and thought to yourself, “Why does that voice sound so familiar?,” there’s a reason: First Class lead singer Tony Burrows is also the lead vocalist on four other notable Top 40 hits of the early ‘70s: Edison Lighthouse’s “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes),” White Plains’ “My Baby Loves Lovin’,” the Pipkins’ “Gimme Dat Ding,” and Brotherhood of Man’s “United We Stand.”
Apprentice (in a Musical Workshop), Dave Loggins (1974, Epic)
Let’s get the inevitable question out of the way right up front: yes, Dave is related to Kenny. (They’re cousins.) Dave’s lone Top 40 hit was a sizable one – the ballad “Please Come to Boston” would reach the Top Five. But its follow-up, “Someday,” also featured on this disc, stalled at #57, and Loggins would never again reach the Hot 100 as a performer. But Three Dog Night would have a Top Twenty hit with his song “Pieces of April,” and Loggins – who’d gone on in the ‘80s to be an in-demand songwriter for Nashville’s best, even writing a country chart-topper for Kenny Rogers in “Morning Desire” – would also briefly re-emerge as a performer and top the country charts in the mid-‘80s as Anne Murray’s duet partner on “Nobody Loves Me Like You Do.” He’s also responsible for writing the theme music you hear during broadcasts of The Masters Golf Tournament!
After the Gold Rush, Prelude (1974, Island)
Neil Young is infamous for having few actual hit singles to speak of – his Top 40 hits as a solo performer are limited to simply “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” (#33), “Old Man” (#31), and the chart-topping “Heart of Gold” – but he’s actually written more hits than you might realize: Nicolette Larson’s “Lotta Love” is his, for one. And though Young’s own version of “After the Gold Rush” was never issued as a single in the U.S., this English folk trio had a #22 hit with an even less obviously commercial version of the song: their beautiful cover of the song is entirely acapella! Even more surprisingly, it would end up being the only hit they would ever have in the U.S.!
The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band (1974, Asylum)
This country-rock trio would reach #27 in 1974 with this album’s single “Fallin’ in Love” and never made the Top 40 again – together, that is – in spite of sticking around long enough to craft a second album, 1975’s Trouble in Paradise. But Chris Hillman had racked up seven Top 40 hits as a member of The Byrds in the ‘60s, while Richie Furay had been one of the original members of Buffalo Springfield and experienced some pop-radio success with that band’s Top Ten hit “For What It’s Worth (Stop, Hey, What’s That Sound)” and would later have a Top 40 solo hit in 1979 with “I Still Have Dreams.” J.D. Souther initially fared better behind-the-scenes than as a performer – co-writing the Eagles hits “Best of My Love,” “New Kid in Town,” and “Heartache Tonight” – but would eventually finally have a solo hit of his own with the 1979 Top Ten smash “You’re Only Lonely” (which would also top the Adult Contemporary chart for five weeks) and serve as James Taylor’s duet partner on the 1981 near-Top-Ten hit “Her Town Too.”
The Songs of Jim Weatherly, Jim Weatherly (1974, Buddah)
As a performer, this Missouri singer-songwriter has just one hit of much note, the #11-peaking “The Need to Be,” the lead-off single from this disc, his fourth solo album overall but his first for the Buddah label. But as a songwriter, Weatherly was red-hot for much of the early ‘70s, penning a string of hits for Gladys Knight and the Pips that included “Where Peaceful Waters Flow,” the Top Five hits “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” and “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye),” and, most famously of all, the chart-topping soul classic “Midnight Train to Georgia.”
Ain’t No ‘Bout-a-Doubt It , Graham Central Station (1975, Warner Bros.)
This wildly underappreciated R&B/funk outfit from the ‘70s had just one minor crossover pop hit: 1975’s #38-peaking “Your Love,” which is featured on this disc and topped the R&B singles charts. But the band is almost a footnote in the wildly impressive resume of founder/frontman Larry Graham: Graham was the indispensable bassist for the seminal funk outfit Sly & the Family Stone from 1966 through 1972 (there are few bass riffs in R&B much cooler than Graham’s deliciously elastic plucking in “Thank You (Falettin Me Be Mice Elf Again”), and he’d also reinvent himself in the early ‘80s as the soul crooner and balladeer behind such R&B classics as “Just Be My Lady” and “When We Get Married” and even scored a major crossover hit with the Top Ten pop hit “One in a Million You.”