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ONE of the biggest mysteries — and personal disappointments — of the Anglo-American Soul situation is that Joe Simon, possessor of three American Gold Discs, is still virtually an unknown outside of the pure soul lovers in this country. During his ultra-successful five years with Sound Stage 7 Records, he recorded some of the best ballads of the time and still didn't break through here and the same pattern has emerged from the last year with Spring Records, a Polydor group label in the States, thus explaining the Mojo releases. Personally, I really believed that "Help Me Make It Through The Night" was going to be the one for him in this country; the song was strong, Joe's performance flawless and the production/arrangement was quite 'pop' slanted. However, it managed only a figure in the hundreds and is possibly the most disappointing of all Mojos as far as sales are concerned.

That's why it would be wrong to get overexcited about Joe's current U.K. single, "Drowning In The Sea Of Love" but the facts are there. Already it is selling better than any of Joe's other British releases and is already his best selling single since the switch from Monument (Sound Stage 7) to Mojo/Polydor (Spring). But the most encouraging thing about it all is that it's also his best release for a long while as far as the commercial market is concerned. It has the same haunting qualities as Al Green's "Tired Of Being Alone" and if Joe manages to get the exposure that Al did, then maybe this one is in with a real chance. The record also marks Joe Simon's first visit into Philadelphia to record since the masterminds of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff are responsible for creating that 'something special' that this record has. In the States, it's already earned a Gold Disc.

The success of "Drowning" prompted Joe to spend some time in Philly to complete an album. "It's finished now," Joe told me from his dressing room on his first week-long engagement since coming out of the studio. "The album and a new single will be on the street by the end of the month and we are all very excited. In fact, the company tell me that sales are already in excess of 115,000 and that's just on advance. They also told me that "Drowning" is coming close to 2 million in sales and that the next single, "Pool Of Bad Luck", is getting good advance sales, too. Kenny and Leon wrote the new single as well — they also wrote most of the material for the album, or if they didn't, then the people with their company did. The album will naturally include both the single and their 'B' sides plus I'm doing a version on the Stylistics "You're My Everything" which we all liked very much. And there's another original that has got us all excited and that's called "Old Night Owl"."

One cannot dispute the depth of talent of Messrs. Gamble and Huff but, more than anything, their knack for coming up with success as producers and writers. They do possess a definite 'sound' and Joe has benefitted from that 'sound'. It's also true to say that Kenny and Leon have been patiently waiting for a 'replacement' for Jerry Butler, who parted company with the Philadelphia sound some two years ago and has never been the same since. "I really like the set-up down there." Joe happily explained. "I was able to communicate with the people down there and we had a sort of 'together' relationship that made the whole thing very enjoyable for me."

Certainly, the trip to Philly has given Joe's career the momentum at a good time. He's booked now for the next three months and, if he wanted, could be taking bookings for the rest of the year.

Now, let's just keep our fingers crossed that "Drowning" gives him the long-awaited break outside of the States.




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