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Any Major Soul 1990-92

 

 

While the Any Major Soul series will continue with the mixes covering the 1980s year-by-year (the most recent being Any Major Soul 1981), we’ll also be jumping ahead to the 1990s.

It was arguably the last “golden age” of soul, and the last decade in which soul was the dominant African-American genre. One might have fruitful arguments about how hip hop and soul have fused to such an extent that they are merchandise in the same bag, symbolised by the union of Beyoncé and Jay-Z. But today is not the time for that discussion, though the flirtation between soul and hip hop had already begun in the 1990s.

As the 1980s turned into the 1990s, soul became more youthful, even as veterans such as Roberta Flack and Luther Vandross were still scoring hits. Indeed, on this mix, several veterans strut their middle-aged stuff: Chaka Khan, Curtis Mayfield, Anita Baker and Gerald Alston (former lead singer of The Manhattans).

At the dawn of the 1990s, there was the New Jack Swing movement, pioneered already in the ’80s by people like Keith Sweat (remarkably, his real name), which drew from the rhythms of hip hop. In its purest form, it was short-lived, but its legacy was heavily felt throughout the decade and beyond. The awful 1980s synthethisers and screeching movie soundtrack guitars were fading away, and the primacy of the bass returned.

Return of the Band

After a decade-and-half of solo singers grabbing most of the success, groups were back. And their influences went way back to doo wop, as outfits like Boyz II Men (featured here with the marvellous Motownphilly), Shai, All-4-One et al showed. Girl bands were also back, and this time they needn’t be families like the Pointers, Sledges or Joneses.  Now there were mostly trios of Sistas: TLC, En Vogue, SWV, Jade, Eternal, Xscape, Brownstone and so on.

Of course, there were still solo singers, and some of them were of the old school, like the singer of this set’s stand-out track, Keith Washington. But new stars emerged, even if for a brief shift at the top. One of them was Johnny Gill, alumnus of New Edition, whose My My My offered the promise of first-rate sex in the class of Teddy Pendergrass. But where TP was all hairy face, Gill was shaved balls. Soul machismo had a new look, all short-sides and flattop, and waxed chests.

Sex ‘n’ Soul

In the 1990s, soul music became more sexually explicit, though not yet in the misogynistic crudeness which would be spearheaded in hip hop with its demeaning rhymes about assorted bitches and ho’s who reportedly ain’t shit. Our soul singers were still cut from the romantic cloth, and their romancing included few sartorial uses, other than the strategic discarding of garments. The vague suggestion of sweet lovin’ through the night, baby, became more specific in the soul mainstream, recalling TP’s radical proposal a decade earlier of showering together for the purpose of mutually administered personal hygiene before sweaty proceedings could commence in the darkness.

Case in point: cunnilingus. Previously all kinds of metaphors would protect the fainthearted from exposure to this particular form of oral sex (and here we welcome the lost porn-googlers. Stick around, new arrivals, and enjoy the music). Pop band Spandau Ballet pushed the tongue out wide when in True, their 1983 hit, they referred to the “pill on my tongue”, which was not a pharmaceutical reference. Ten years later, Tony Toni Toné in their song Put Your Head On My Pillow issued an explicit instruction manual to cunnilingus (you find that track on Any Major Babymaking Music Vol. 2). And we will not even mention that unmentionable Bump n’ Grinder.

Soul Yodel

The 1990s produced the girl groups, but the decade also offered scope to female solo singers. The decade’s two biggest stars in soul were ground-breaking women: Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey (neither feature on this mix, but might well have). Both of them have become symbols for bombastic vocals with an excessive of melisma (the proper term for soul yodelling). Yet. both singers merit a thorough rehabilitation. They were magnificent vocalists with some great pop and a few superb soul songs (and also some unfortunate material). I shall discuss the melisma mania in the linernotes for the next mix, but it would be negligent of me to fail pointing out that summarily dismissing the vocals of I Will Always Love You or Vision Of Love simply because they include vocal gymnastics is an act of foolishness.

Women were taking their place of primacy in soul. I don’t imagine any major soul mix of the 1980s would kick off with five songs by women, or have a female presence of about two-thirds of the playlist. In my selection of tracks, this was entirely unintended. Even on the shortlist, men constituted only half of the volume. But it shows that in the 1990s, things in soul were changing.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-shellsuited covers and the text above in PDF format. PW in comments.

1. Soul II Soul feat. Kym Mazelle – Missing You (1990)
2. The Chimes – True Love (1990)
3. Mary J. Blige – Real Love (1992)
4. SWV – Weak (1992)
5. Cheryl Pepsii Riley – I Don’t Wanna Be Alone (1991)
6. Keith Washington – Kissing You (1991)
7. Curtis Mayfield – Do Be Down (1990)
8. Gerald Alston – Slow Motion (1990)
9. Chanté Moore – Love’s Taken Over (1992)
10. Jade – Don’t Walk Away (1992)
11. Johnny Gill – My My My (1990)
12. Mica Paris – You Put A Move On My Heart (1992)
13. Lisa Fischer – How Can I Ease The Pain (1991)
14. Anita Baker – Soul Inspiration (1990)
15. Chaka Khan – Love You All My Lifetime (1992)
16. Boyz II Men – Motownphilly (1991)
17. Shai – If I Ever Fall In Love (1992)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    July 15th, 2021 at 22:22 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

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