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Diana Ross Sings Covers

March 26th, 2024 2 comments

 

Today, March 26, Diana Ross turns 80. To mark that milestone, here’s a collection of La Ross doing cover versions, drawing from the 1970s and early 1980s.

It is claimed by some that Ross wasn’t even the second-best singer in The Supremes. That may or may not be so, but what she had over her two fellow Supremes was an excess of charisma, which found expression in her physical appearance and also in her vocal interpretation of the songs she performed.

This collection highlights the interpretative attributes of Ross, her charisma and her confidence in delivery. Her best, and best-known, cover is that of Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, featured here in its full length from Diana’s self-titled debut album in 1970.

That cover is lightning in a bottle. Produced by Ashford & Simpson, also the song’s writers, the Ross version was arranged by Paul Riser, who had also arranged tracks like Gaye’s version I Heard It Through The Grapevine, My Girl, The Tears Of A Clown, What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted, Ross’ own Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand), and, later, The Temptations’ Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone. The Ross version completely reinvents the original, with Ross’ spoken intro barely hinting at the impending musical tsunami. The best vocal bit: when Diana goes “A-OW!”

Diana’s 1971 reworking of the Four Tops’ glorious Reach Out, I’ll Be There slows down the song — not in the pretentious ways of whispy-voiced-girls-with-guitars that blight TV ads these days, but a total reinvention, also produced by Ashford & Simpson, that builds up as it goes along.

On this collection, that track is followed by a straight, though renamed, cover of Aretha Franklin’s Call Me. Aretha, of course, was the subject of a previous … Sings Covers mix (available here). As was Al Green, though I know of no covers of his songs by Ross. I can imagine her covering Let’s Stay Together, and nailing it.

Some of the originals of songs featured here appeared on The Originals – Motown Edition, specifically the two Stylistics tracks, and Thelma Houstons Do You Know Where Youre Going To, which in Ross hands became the Theme of Mahogany. That mix also includes a couple of originals of Supremes tracks.

Marvin Gaye looms large in this collection. On two tracks, Diana duets with him, three are covers of Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell originals, and half a track covers Marvin from his What’s Going On album (which was Recovered in 2021. On that collection, Dizzy Gillespie covers Save The Children). On April 2, we will commemorate the 40th anniversary of Marvin Gaye’s murder. Of course, Diana Ross later recorded a song in tribute to Marvin, titled Missing You.

The tracklisting provides the year of Ross’ version and the name of the act that recorded the song’s best-known version, not necessarily the original artist.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes self-covered covers. PW in comments.

1. What You Gave Me (1978 – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell)
2. Baby, I Love Your Way (1983 – Peter Frampton)
3. I Can’t Give Back The Love I Feel For You (1971 – Syreeta)
4. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (1970 – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell)
5. You Are Everything (with Marvin Gaye) (1973 – The Stylistics)
6. Stop, Look, Listen To Your Heart (with Marvin Gaye) (1973 – The Stylistics)
7. You’re All I Need To Get By (1970 – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell)
8. Reach Out, I’ll Be There (1971 – The Four Tops)
9. I Love You (Call Me) (1970 – Aretha Franklin)
10. Brown Baby/Save The Children (1973 – Nina Simone/Marvin Gaye)
11. Something (1970 – The Beatles)
12. Theme From Mahogany (1976 – Thelma Houston)
13. Too Shy To Say (1977 – Stevie Wonder)
14. (They Long To Be) Close To You (1970 – Carpenters)
15. I Won’t Last A Day Without You (1973 – Carpenters)
16. Where Did We Go Wrong (1978 – Maureen McGovern)
17. Imagine (1973 – John Lennon)
18. Smile (1976 – Charlie Chaplin)
19. All Of Me (1972 – Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra a.o.)
20. I Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl (1977 – Bessie Smith)

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Peviously in Sings Covers:
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Tina Turner Sings Covers

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Any Major Soul Women

March 15th, 2024 3 comments

Coincidence can be a strange thing. A while ago, as I was leaving my house to do some shopping, I had an Amy Winehouse track playing (Love Is A Losing Game). As I got into the car, I switched on the radio, and another Amy Winehouse song was playing (Rehab, predictably). And I was thinking of a mix of soul women which I had posted alongside my reflections on her death in 2011, with the idea that I should repost the collection.

A day later, I received a request from regular reader and coffee-buyer rat-ta-tat for a few re-ups. One of them was the Soul Women mix on the Winehouse post. I happily obliged.

But here is the repost of the mix, separated from the Winehouse article (which today I might frame a little differently), because it really is a fine set of music.

In the 1960s and ’70s, rock music was still holding on to its patriarchal ways, even as strong women emerged from the singer-songwriter scene. Soul didn’t have that members-only Men’s Club mindset of rock music. Of course, female artists in soul music often faced challenges and barriers in a male-dominated industry. They had to navigate issues such as unequal pay, limited creative control, and stereotypes about women’s roles in music.Still, there were many women in soul music. Leading them were the legends, like Aretha Franklin or Diana Ross, who were so big that they crossed over with great success. But by the 1970s especially, there were many other strong women in soul: Millie Jackson, Gladys Knight, Betty Wright, Marlena Shaw, Jean Knight, Lyn Collins and so on.

They were singing of love and sex, and of empowerment and social justice. They embodied the strength and resilience of women, and the aspiration and/or declaration of emancipation.

Women also brought a diversity of styles and voices to the soul, ranging from the gritty, blues-inflected vocals of Etta James to the polished, poppy sound of Diana Ross

This mix covers 11 years of soul women, from Mitty Collier’s Little Miss Loneliness in 1963 to Sandra Wright’s Wounded Woman, which was recorded in 1974 but not released until many years later. It features a few quite well-known singers — Candi Staton, Tammi Terrell, Fontella Bass, Betty Everett, the recently late Marlena Shaw — who tend to be known widely for only a few songs, and some whom time has forgotten such as Lorraine Ellison, Ila Vann, Marie ‘Queenie’ Lyons, or Linda Jones, who died of diabetes-related causes in 1972 at the age of 27.

Most have featured in the Any Major Soul series at some point, but the idea is to highlight singers who ought to be better known than they are.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-emancipated covers. PW in comments.

1. Anna King – Sittin’ In The Dark (1964)
2. Baby Washington – You Are What You Are (1966)
3. Betty Everett – Until You Were Gone (1964)
4. Rhetta Hughes – Cry Myself To Sleep (1969)
5. Irma Thomas – She’ll Never Be Your Wife (1973)
6. Laura Lee – Mama’s Got A Good Thing (1972)
7. Ila Vann – Got To Get To Jim Johnson (1967)
8. Erma Franklin – You’ve Been Cancelled (1969)
9. Fontella Bass – I Surrender (1966)
10. Marlena Shaw – Go Away, Little Boy (1969)
11. Mitty Collier – Little Miss Loneliness (1963)
12. Tami Lynn – I’m Gonna Run Away From You (1972)
13. Candi Staton – I’ll Drop Everything And Come Running (1972)
14. Jean Knight – Pick Up The Pieces (1970)
15. Sandra Wright – Wounded Woman (1974)
16. Esther Phillips – I Don’t Want To Do Wrong (1972)
17. Margie Joseph – Sweeter Tomorrow (1971)
18. Lyn Collins – Take Me Just As I Am (1973)
19. Marie ‘Queenie’ Lyons – Your Thing Ain’t No Good Without My Thing (1970)
20. Linda Jones – Don’t Go (I Can’t Bear To Be Alone) (1972)
21. Barbara Mason – I Miss You Gordon (1973)
22. Rosetta Hightower – I Don’t Blame You At All (1971)
23. Tammi Terrell – That’s What Boys Are Made For (1968)
24. Brenda Holloway – I’ll Always Love You (1964)
25. Dee Dee Warwick – We’re Doing Fine (1965)
26. Jean Wells – Have A Little Mercy (1968)
27. Lorraine Ellison – Try (1969)
28. Ruby Andrews – Overdose Of Love (1972)

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Any Major Blaxploitation Tracks

October 12th, 2021 6 comments

Last month filmmaker and musician Melvin Van Peebles died, so this is a good time to launch a mix of music from the Blaxploitation genre which Van Peebles helped pioneer with his 1971 film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.

There are lots of opinions about Blaxploitation movies: some see them as having given African-Americans a presence in film that previously had been lacking; others see them as a denigration of black dignity, much like gangsta rap in the 1990s. The NAACP was critical of many those movies, seeing unwelcome racial stereotypes and a glorification of crime and violence in them, while other leaders saw these movies as vehicles for Black Pride.

I wouldn’t like to offer my opinion on those arguments because, as a white man, it isn’t my place to do so. But there cannot be no blanket opinion about a genre that had many sub-genres. It wasn’t all movies about gritty drug dealers, pimps, junkies, vigilantes and private dicks who are bad mutha-shut-your-mouths, the kind which Quentin Tarantino would later appropriate and fetishize. There were also flicks of comedy, horror, martial arts, nostalgia, musical and so on.

I have enjoyed some films in that genre, including the gritty street movies. Especially as time capsules of a particular time and setting, even the less brilliant ones are fascinating. Some have greater artistic merit and production values than others, but the soundtracks tend to be quite outstanding, regardless of the quality of the movie. It is a happy circumstance that the era of Blaxploitation — roughly 1968 to 1978 — coincided with a creatively fertile period in soul and funk music.

Some of these soundtracks are rightly famous: Isaac Hayes’ Shaft, Bobby Womack’s Across 110th Street, Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man, Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly. In the case of the latter, Mayfield went as far subverting the tone of the movie, which took an agnostic view on the morality of the drug trade. Mayfield stakes out his position clearly: pushing dope for The Man is bad, and, as he sings in No Thing On Me, “You want it funky, but you don’t have to be no junkie”. But since most of Mayfield’s tracks were instrumentals in the film, with lyrics added for the soundtrack album, that message didn’t resound in the cinemas.

From Superfly, I’ve opted to include Freddie’s Dead, which on the single release was described as the movie’s theme song, presumably because it plays over the opening sequence.

Blaxploitation soundtrack music is usually associated with funky guitars, wah-wah pedals, driving basslines, and brass and/or flutes. It’s fair to say that these elements are common, but this mix shows that these soundtracks mustn’t be reduced to cliché.

Many of the acts here are well-known, but who were Sister Goose And The Ducklings? One (pretty great) song on the soundtrack of 1973’s Gordon’s War is the extent of their recording career, it seems.

For once, this mix doesn’t fit on a standard CD-R (it comes in at 1h45min), but it does includes home-shafted covers, this text in an illustrated PDF file, and a collection of posters of the films featured on this mix. PW in comments.

1. Bobby Womack – Across 110th Street (Across 110th Street) (1972)
2. Barry White – Somebody’s Gonna Off The Man (Together Brothers) (1974)
3. James Brown – Slaughter’s Theme (Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off) (1973)
4. Willie Hutch – Mack Man (Got to Get Over) (The Mack) (1972)
5. Isaac Hayes – Truck Turner Main Title (Truck Turner) (1974)
6. Curtis Mayfield – Freddie’s Dead (Superfly) (1972)
7. Marvin Gaye – Trouble Man (Trouble Man) (1972)
8. Millie Jackson – Love Doctor (Cleopatra Jones) (1973)
9. Edwin Starr – Don’t It Feel Good To Be Free (Hell Up In Harlem) (1973)
10. JJ. Johnson feat. Martha Reeves – Willie D (Willie Dynamite) (1974)
11. Dennis Coffey – Congress Six (Black Belt Jones) (1974)
12. Roy Ayers with Dee Dee Bridgewater – Coffy Is The Color (Coffy) (1973)
13. Monk Higgins & Alex Brown feat. Barbara Mason – Sheba, Baby (Sheba, Baby) (1975)
14. The Originals – Supernatural Voodoo Woman (Sugar Hill) (1974)
15. Sister Goose And The Ducklings – Super Shine #9 (Gordon’s War) (1973)
16. The Hues Corporation – There He Is Again (Blacula) (1972)
17. Lyn Collins – Mama Feelgood (Black Caesar) (1973)
18. Melvin Van Peebles – Mojo Woman (Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song) (1971)
19. Isaac Hayes – Soulsville (Shaft) (1971)
20. Mary Love – Power Of Your Love (Dolemite) (1975)
21. The Dells – No Way Back (No Way Back) (1976)
22. Willie Hutch – Foxy Lady (Foxy Brown) (1974)
23. Grant Green – The Final Comedown (The Final Comedown) (1972)
24. Rose Royce – Car Wash (Car Wash) (1977)
25. Rudy Ray Moore – The Human Tornado (The Human Tornado) (1976)
26. Don Julian & The Larks – Shorty The Pimp (Shorty The Pimp)(1972)
27. The Impressions – That’s What Love Will Do (Three The Hard Way) (1974)
28. H.B. Barnum – Hit Man (What You’re Gonna Do) (Hit Man) (1972)
29. Booker T. & the M.G.’s – Time Is Tight (UpTight) (1969)
30. Bobby Womack – Across 110th Street, Pt. 2 (Across 110th Street) (1972)

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Any Major Live Festival – Soul Vol. 1

August 19th, 2021 4 comments

 

This collection of soul acts performing their songs live on stage was inspired by the superb documentary The Summer of Soul, which tells the story of a series of six free music festivals held in Harlem in the summer of 1969 (see the trailer here). Despite drawing an audience of 300,000 and featuring an array of big stars, the Harlem Cultural Festival was practically forgotten — while the mostly white Woodstock was mythologised, in nearly an instant (and not unfairly so, as I suggested at its 50th anniversary).

I knew about 1972’s Operation PUSH Expo’s “Save The Children” festival in Chicago, having cherished the double album soundtrack since the 1980s, and about 1972’s Wattstax festival. Both events provide a number of tracks on this mix. But I had never heard of the Harlem Cultural Festival, and I don’t suppose that this owed to a blind spot in my soul education. The event was filmed, but found no takers. So it languished in a basement for decades.

It was as if a conspiracy of silence suppressed the event. Why? Well, it was an event of black consciousness at which the Panthers provided security (because the NYPD refused to)! There was no place in Nixon’s America for such subversion, even if Republican NYC mayor Lindsey made a turn at the event. And, yes, it was political. Nina Simone alone was so powerful, she’d have Dewey Crow raise his fist in salute. But Wattstax was also political, and in Chicago, even Nixon-supporting Sammy Davis Jr asserted his blackness.

There was little overlap between the three events. Rev Jesse Jackson spoke at all three of them, every time delivering the “I Am Somebody” litany.  Gladys Knight and the Pips were at the Harlem and PUSH events; The Staples Singers at Harlem and Wattstax. And Sly & The Family Stone were at Harlem and Woodstock, that summer of ’69.

I thoroughly recommend The Summer of Soul, which was directed by Qwestlove of The Roots. It is engrossing, exhilarating and emotional. The Guardian called it the best-ever music documentary ever, which is an excited claim. But if it isn’t, it’s certainly right up there among the best.

This mix is bringing together performances by soul acts from 1972 (the first six tracks are from the Wattstax and PUSH events) to 1985 (Maze featuring Frankie Beverley). In that way, it’s a festival across ages. I think the concept works well, and I probably will compile more such mixes for my pleasure. If this mix is getting a good reaction, I shall share those too.

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

1. Isaac Hayes – Theme From Shaft (Los Angeles, 1973)
2. Isaac Hayes – Soulsville (Los Angeles, 1973)
3. The Staple Singers – Respect Yourself (Los Angeles, 1973)
4. The Main Ingredient – Everybody Plays The Fool (Chicago, 1973)
5. The Temptations – Papa Was A Rolling Stone (Chicago, 1973)
6. Rufus Thomas – The Breakdown (Los Angeles, 1973)
7. Curtis Mayfield – Superfly (Chicago, 1973)
8. Bill Withers – Ain’t No Sunshine (New York, 1972)
9. Earth, Wind & Fire – Shining Star (1975)
10. Earth, Wind & Fire – Devotion (1975)
11. Maze feat. Frankie Beverley – Before I Let Go (Los Angeles, 1985)
12. Maze feat. Frankie Beverley – Joy And Pain (Los Angeles, 1985)
13. Al Jarreau – We’re In This Love Together (London, 1984)
14. Al Jarreau & Randy Crawford – Your Precious Love (Montreux, 1981)
15. Randy Crawford & Yellowjackets – Imagine (Montreux, 1981)
16. Rufus and Chaka Khan – Stay (New York, 1982)
17. Rufus and Chaka Khan – What Cha’ Gonna Do For Me (New York, 1982)

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Any Major ABC of Soul

September 10th, 2020 2 comments

 

These ABCs of… mixes are a great way to spend some time: making them and, I hope, listening to them.

The concept is simple: one artist per letter (with solo artists going by the first letter of their first name), from A-Z. And that’s where the fun comes in: for most letters there are so many different acts one can choose, and from those so many different songs. My method was easy: instead of surveying every soul artist beginning with B or S, I went for the acts that first came to mind. For X, the search went on for a bit longer…

I set myself a challenge: it was my goal to limit the running time of the mix to fit the whole thing on to a standard CD-R. All the while keeping in mind that I’ll have to enjoy the end result. Well, I’ve listened to the result many times over, and I do enjoy it very much.

PW in comments.

1. Arthur Conley – Sweet Soul Music (1967)
2. Blackbyrds – Walking In Rhythm (1974)
3. Chairmen Of The Board – Pay To The Piper (1970)
4. Denise LaSalle – Trapped By A Thing Called Love (1972)
5. Earth, Wind & Fire – Sing A Song (1975)
6. Flirtations – Nothing But A Heartache (1969)
7. Geno Washington – Michael (1966)
8. Honey Cone – Want Ads (1971)
9. Irma Thomas – It’s Raining (1962)
10. Jimmy Ruffin – Its Wonderful (To Be Loved By You) (1970)
11. Keni Stevens – Never Gonna Give You Up (1988)
12. Laura Lee – Wedlock Is A Padlock (1972)
13. Marlena Shaw – Liberation Conversation (1969)
14. Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators – If This Ain’t Love (Don’t Know What Is) (2005)
15. O’Jays – Love Train (1972)
16. Peaches & Herb – Close Your Eyes (1967)
17. Quincy Jones – Betcha’ Wouldn’t Hurt Me (1980)
18. Randy Crawford – Tender Falls The Rain (1980)
19. Sly and The Family Stone – Everyday People (1969)
20. Temptations – Since I Lost My Baby (1965)
21. Una Valli– Satisfaction (1968)
22. Velvelettes – Needle In A Haystack (1964)
23. Windjammer – Tossing And Turning (1984)
24. Xscape – Who Can I Run To (1995)
25. Yellow Sunshine – Yellow Sunshine (1973)
26. Zulema – You Changed On Me (1974)

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Any Major Protest Soul Vol. 3

June 9th, 2020 2 comments

 

It’s not only recent events in the USA that make this third mix of Protest Soul overdue. The three years and counting since Donald Trump took office have seen an escalation of extrajudicial killings of black people by police, the weaponisation of white privilege by racists who call the police on black people, the legitimisation of racist rhetoric, and so on.

None of that arrived with Trump, of course. Trayvon Martin was executed by that stand-your-ground scumbag on Obama’s watch, and was declared innocent of murder by a jury of his racist peers before Trump descended that escalator of hate.

But consider this: In 1992, during the presidency of George Bush Sr, the riots in LA broke out because cops got off for assaulting Rodney King. In the fourth year of Trump’s reign, country-wide protests (and some riots) broke out because police murdered George Floyd. And Jamar Clark. And Philando Castile. And Dreasjon Reed. And Breonna Taylor. And Botham Jean. And Michael Brown. And Ezell Ford. And Eric Garner. And Michelle Shirley. And Redel Jones. And Stephon Clark. And 12-year-old Tamir Rice. And. And. And…

And don’t forget the lynching in Brunswick, Georgia, of Ahmaud Arbery, the jogger whose sickening murder by racist thugs who hunted him down was going to be covered up by the authorities until a video of it appeared.

Things have escalated from brutal assault sparking outrage to an endless series of murders of black people by police, as if the US has turned back the clock to the 1960s.

And this is where this mix of songs takes us: the aftermath of the civil rights era, when the freedom promised by the law still was elusive. As recent events have shown, they remain so.

Civil rights march in the 1960s. How much has changed in the 50 years since? (History in HD)

 

If the USA ever was beacon of hope and freedom for the rest of the world, that light has been extinguished by Trump’s America. The rest of the democratic world looks at the USA with sorrow and disdain. Three decades ago, people in Europe marched against the racist regime in South Africa. In 2020, they brave the coronavirus to take to the streets in protest against the systemic racism of the United States.

They see a race war that is being sought and, to some extent, prosecuted by a racist president and his minions, and by drooling specimen of the master race who hide their cowardice behind their guns, their trucks and their white privilege. The free world is saying: they must not win. It is the defeat of systemic racism and injustice that will make America great again.

The hope for that victory was present four or five decades ago, when most of the songs on this mix were made. It is a scandal that the content of these songs still speak to the reality of today.

Ferguson’s gotten me so upset, Brunswick made me lose my rest. And everybody knows about Minneapolis goddam!

1. Camille Yarbrough – All Hid (1975)
2. Nina Simone – Mississippi Goddam (1964)
3. The Staple Singers – We The People (1972)
4. Della Reese – Compared To What (1969)
5. Curtis Mayfield – We’re A Winner (live) (1971)
6. The Pointer Sisters – Yes We Can Can (1973)
7. Dorothy Morrison – Black California (1970)
8. Larry Williams – Wake Up (Nothing Comes To A Sleeper But A Dream) (1968)
9. Hank Ballard – Blackenized (1969)
10. Marion Black – Listen Black Brother (1972)
11. Solomon Burke – I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free) (1968)
12. Lou Bond – Why Must Our Eyes Always Be Turned Backwards (1974)
13. Claudia Lennear – Sister Angela (1973)
14. Gil Scott-Heron – Winter in America (1974)
15. Donny Hathaway – Someday We’ll All Be Free (1973)
16. Syl Johnson – Is It Because I’m Black (1970)
17. The Temptations – 1990 (1973)
18. Eugene McDaniels – Silent Majority (1970)

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Any Major Protest Soul Vol. 1
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Any Major Soul 1979

May 23rd, 2019 2 comments

 

 

The great soul tracks on this mix are 40 years old – which means that no autotune is in sight. It was a time when disco was at its height, but I suppose when I put this playlist together I was in no disco mood. Indeed, a few tracks are old school soul, especially Shirley Brown‘s After A Night Like This. A couple of tracks later, 1960s star O.C. Smith makes an appearance here with a track that sounds at once old-fashioned and very much of its time.

I realise that I’ve fostered one track already on the faithful reader, though that was six years ago. The closing track here by David Ruffin appeared on the Any Major Morning Vol. 1 mix (one Is still play regularly, as I do Any Major Morning Vol. 2).

There are a few acts whom we have not met yet in this long series (Any Major Soul 1960-63 was posted in 2012, and there was a series of Any Major Soul mixes, covering two years each, before that).

Lowrell is one of them. Born Lowrell Simon, he was a member of a couple of groups – The Vondells and The Lost Generation – before acting mostly as a songwriter and producer. Among the songs he co-wrote was How Can You Say Goodbye by Sydney Joe Qualls, which featured on Any Major Soul 1974-75. In 1979 he released his one solo LP on a label owned by, of all people, Liberace. Lowrell died in June 2018.

Featuring here with Heaven Must Have Made You, recorded the same year by Tower Of Power, is jazz-funk/soul outfit Pieces, which later that year became jazz-funk/soul outfit L.A.X. And that’s probably as interesting as it gets, perhaps other than to note that all four members had surnames starting with L.

Also from a jazz-funk background was spelling-bee nemeses Niteflyte, who released two albums. The band worked with high-calibre singers such as Phyllis Hyman and Jean Carn, and musicians such as David Sanborn, Michael & Randy Brecker and drummer Stephen Ferrone. With the present track Nyteflite even broke the Billboard Top 40.

Two acts here did not live to see the end of 1979. Minnie Riperton, whose album Minnie was released two months before her death, died of breast cancer on July 12 that year. She was only 31.

Donny Hathaway didn’t even see the release of the song here, a duet with Roberta Flack. He died on January 9 from an apparent suicide. The Stevie Wonder co-written You Are My Heaven was released on single in November 1979. The album that featured the two duets he recorded shortly before his death with Flack, which also included the hit Back Together Again, would be released only in 1980.

So, now we have covered the 1960s and the 1970s. Should I enter the 1980s, or has this thing run its course? You tell me.

As always, CD-R length, home-souled covers, PW in comments.

1. Candi Staton – Ain’t Got Nowhere To Go
2. Kool & the Gang – Too Hot
3. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – You Are My Heaven
4. Brenda Russell – So Good, So Right
5. Shirley Brown – After A Night Like This
6. Commodores – Sail On
7. O.C. Smith – Love To Burn
8. Minnie Riperton – Lover And Friend
9. Earth, Wind & Fire – Wait
10. Ronnie Dyson – Long Distance Lover
11. Patrice Rushen – Giving It Up Is Giving Up
12. High Inergy – Will We Ever Love Again
13. Pieces – Heaven Must Have Made You
14. Lowrell – You’re Playing Dirty
15. Ray, Goodman & Brown – Special Lady
16. Niteflyte – If You Want It
17. Leon Ware – What’s Your Name
18. Deniece Williams – Turn Around
19. Terry Callier – Pyramids Of Love
20. David Ruffin – Morning Sun Looks Blue

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Any Major Soul 1978

November 8th, 2018 2 comments

The Any Major Soul series is nearing the end of the 1970s, with this instalment covering the year 1978. Disco is in the air but not all soulsters got the memo. There are also the first signs of the supersmoothness of 1980s soul, but it’s not yet cloying.

In fact, Teddy Pendergrass might have been a pioneer of ’80s soul, but his brand of baby-making music is still a different animal to the missionary-positioned sounds of the likes of Luther Vandross. When Theodore promises to blow your mind, you know he’s not just bragging in the way of a 1984 jheri-curled 110-pounder with a stupid moustache. Teddy’s gonna steam up a refrigerator.

The sequence here has it that Pendergrass —the link between Philly soul and 1980s soul crooning — is followed by an act that still has 1973 in the back-mirror. Of course, Bloodstone would go on to become one of the great acts of the early 1980s.

On the other end of the spectrum we have a few acts that are on the disco train. But even the most dance-oriented album would have a few soulful ballads. Among the best of those, in my view, were Cheryl Lynn’s You’re The One, which featured on Any Major Soul 1978-79, and Odyssey’s If You’re Looking For A Way Out (on Any Major Soul 1980-81).

On this collection, an example of this is the track by Sassafras, a trio of women (not the hairy Welsh rock band of the early 1970s). They were produced by the Ingram family of session singers and musicians, and released on the label owned by our old pals Luigi Creatore and Hugo Peretti, the mafia associates we previously encountered in The Originals entries for Can’t Help Falling In Love and The Lion Sleeps Tonight. One of the three Sassafras, Vera Brown, went on to become the lead singer of the Ritchie Family.

 

Pacific Express, one of apartheid’s least favourite bands.

 

One act here is not from the US but from South Africa. Pacific Express were funk-rock and jazz-fusion legends in Cape Town before they became nationwide stars with Give A Little Love. At various times throughout the 1970s, unknown musicians went through the “Pacific Express School” to emerge as respected musicians in their own right. These include Jonathan Butler. As a group of people classified as “Coloured” by apartheid — people of mixed-race whose language was English and/or Afrikaans — Pacific Express regularly broke laws that aimed to prevent contact across the colour-lines. As a result, Pacific Express was frequently banned from the state broadcaster — including the video of Give A Little Love, just in case white people twigged that Coloureds were making great music and then sought to see them play live, with all the possibilities of miscegenation that would create. I’m not even joking.

Not featured on this mix is Earth, Wind & Fire, but a few acts here clearly borrow from Maurice White and pals. One of them is a new-fangled funk-soul kid from Minnesota called Prince. On his soul ballad here Prince owes more than a little to EWF, and to the many falsetto-singers of the decade.

Also borrowing from EWF are Mass Production, whose Slow Bump is about traffic safety in densely populated suburbs. The song actually sounds like an EWF track. On other tracks they operate more on the funk tracks of BT Express.

Breakwater was an eight-man outfit blended catchy funk with smooth fusion and soul harmonies — again recalling EWF. The Philadelphia band released only two albums, with their 1980 follow-up regarded as something of a funk classic (Daft Punk sampled from it).

The Patterson Twins also released only two albums: one in 1978 and the follow-up in 2006! They released several singles — some soul, some gospel — throughout the 1980s. Before 1978 they had recorded a series of singles as the Soul Twins.

Thelma Jones, featured here with a Sam Dees-penned track, also recorded her first album in 1978 and the follow-up in the 2000s. Jones released a series of singles between 1966 and ’68 — including the original of the Aretha Franklin song The House That Jack Built — then disappeared, due to being between labels, until 1976 when she enjoyed something of a comeback with Salty Tears (produced at Muscle Shoals). Her self-titled debut album, which featured Gwen Guthrie on backing vocals, is superb but unaccountably was a commercial flop.

Returning to Teddy Pendergrass, the singer of Chicago soul group Heaven And Earth, Dean Williams, shares many vocal mannerism with the great man. The group had some great tunes, and released four LPs between 1976 and 1981, but management issues and our old nemesis, poor promotion, prevented the group from making it big.

As ever, CD-R length, home-falsettoed covers, PW in comments.

1. Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr. – I Got The Words, You Got The Music
2. Lenny Williams – Shoo Doo Fu Fu Ooh!
3. The Whispers – Olivia (Lost And Turned Out)
4. Pacific Express – Give A Little Love
5. Thelma Jones – Lonely Enough To Try Anything Now
6. Natalie Cole – Our Love
7. Heaven And Earth – Let’s Work It Out
8. Prince – Baby
9. Mass Production – Slow Bump
10. Breakwater – That’s Not What We Came Here For
11. Patterson Twins – Gonna Find A True Love
12. Denise LaSalle – Talkin’ Bout My Best Friend
13. Sassafras – I Gave You Love
14. Bobby Thurston – Na Na Na Na Baby
15. Roberta Flack – What A Woman Really Means
16. Teddy Pendergrass – Close The Door
17. Bloodstone – Throw A Little Bit Of Love My Way
18. Allen Toussaint – To Be With You
19. Leroy Hutson – They’ve Got Love
20. Al Green – Lo And Behold

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Aretha Sings Covers

August 16th, 2018 13 comments

What needs to be said about the genius of Aretha Franklin and her influence has been said. One part of that genius was her ability to take possession of other people’s songs. Mention songs like Respect or Say A Little Prayer or Spanish Harlem, and few will say Otis Redding or Dionne Warwick or Ben. E. King. When Aretha took those songs, they became hers.

Many others she re-interpreted in such a way that her version would become virtually a different song, not infrequently eclipsing the almost ineclipsable. Consider what she did with the Beatles ballad The Long And Winding Road or Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water — both fine ballads beloved of crooner types — by giving them a bit of gospel. The Beatles track acquires a depth neither the composition nor Phil Spector’s production suggested in The Beatles hands. The S&G track acquires a spiritual dimension that was hinted at in the original but not quite realised

So by way of tribute, here is a mix of Aretha Franklin singing other people’s songs. In the parentheses I cite the respective song’s original performer.

As always, the mix is timed to fit in a standard CD-R length, includes home-shouted covers. PW in comments.

1. Soulville (1968 – Dinah Washington)
2. Groovin’ (1968 – The Young Rascals)
3. Until You Come Back To Me (1973 – Stevie Wonder)
4. You’re All I Need To Get By (1971 – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell)
5. Long And Winding Road (1972 – The Beatles)
6. Young, Gifted And Black (1972 – Nina Simone)
7. People Get Ready (1968 – The Impressions)
8. A Change Is Gonna Come (1967 – Sam Cooke)
9. Drown In My Own Tears (1967 – Sonny Thompson)
10. Bridge Over Troubled Water (1971 – Simon & Garfunkel)
11. Don’t Play That Song (1970 – Ben. E. King)
12. A Brand New Me (1972 – Jerry Butler)
13. Tracks Of My Tears (1968 – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles)
14. The Weight (1969 – The Band)
15. Dark End Of The Street (1970 – James Carr)
16. Eleanor Rigby (1970 – The Beatles)
17. Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing (1974 – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell)
18. Something He Can Feel (1976 – Irene Cara)
19. Oh Happy Day (with Mavis Staples) (1987 – Edwin Hawkins Singers)
20. Ever Changing Times (with Michael McDonald) (1991)
21. I Dreamed A Dream (1991 – from “Les Misérables”)

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1970s Soul

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Any Major Soul 1977

June 28th, 2018 1 comment

There was still some great soul music made in 1977, but the fuel of the great age was slowly diminishing, unable to compete with disco and slow to find a new direction.

That”s why after a few years that required two volumes each in the Any Major Soul series, 1977 merits only one. Some great tracks didn”t make the cut, and this mix has plenty of great music. Earth, Wind & Fire”s I”ll Write A Song For You, with Philip Bailey”s astonishing falsetto, in particular is a masterpiece, from the best soul album of the year, All “˜N All.

Two artists here turned out to become pastors. The conversion of Al Green, featured here with a track from his first record produced outside Hi Records “” was alluded to in my review of his biography. The other future preacher here is O.C. Smith, who some years earlier scored a big hits with The Son of Hickory Holler”s Tramp and Little Green Apples. He has featured here several times; I especially like his contribution to the first Any Major Fathers mix. Smith died in 2001 at the age of 69.

Frederick Knight appears here with the original of a song which two years later was released by K.C. & The Sunshine Band. Betcha Didn”t Know That, which is superior in the cover version, featured on Any Major B-Side (which also featured Al Green). Knight also wrote Anita Ward”s monster 1979 disco hit Ring My Bell. You can see Knight in the superb Wattstax documentary, on the “Black Woodstock” in 1972 (the full film is on YouTube).

The Joneses, not to be confused with the 1980s California rock band, were a harmonising singing quartet from Pittsburgh who initially were championed by Dionne Warwick. The group, whose members were not called Jones, had a minor hit in 1974 with Sugar Pie Guy and something of a disco hit in 1975 with Love Inflation. They then broke up before being briefly revived by member Glenn Dorsey to bring out an eponymous LP in 1977, of which the track featured here, Who Loves You, was the lead single. And that was it for The Joneses.

There is an interesting family connection for Roger Hatcher; his cousin was Edwin Starr (née Charles Hatcher). His brother Willie was a soul singer, too, and his other brother, Roosevelt, a saxophonist. Roger, a prolific songwriter, began recording in 1968 but he changed labels so often that he never enjoyed a breakthrough. In part this was due to Roger”s uncompromising personality, in part due to the manipulative and/or incompetent ways of record executives. Hatcher died in 2002.

The most obscure artist here must be Bill Brantley. As far as I can see, he released two singles under his name, and a few more singles as the latter half of the duo Van & Titus. The track here could have featured in the Covered With Soul series: it”s a version (in my view superior) of a Dr Hook song. It was recorded in Nashville, and the country vibe is evident.

Bill Brandon, who has featured a few times on this site, is another great singer who never made that great breakthrough.  He made his mark in the late 1960s, when Percy Sledge covered his song Self Preservation. He also got some attention for his superb Rainbow Road, a murder ballad written by Dan Penn which was later covered by Arthur Alexander. After a string of singles he finally released his first and only album in 1977. Brandon left the music business in 1987 and became a truck driver and later a night club owner.

There was also just one album for Allspice, who were produced by the Crusaders” Wayne Henderson “” and the jazz fusion influence runs strongly through it. The band “” made up of members of three soul groups “” appeared to together on another album, Ronnie Laws” Fever from 1976, which was also produced by Henderson.

The mix closes with a track from The Memphis Horns, who put out a series of albums besides plating on many soul classics. Led by Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love, their 1977 Get Up And Dance album also featured veteran soul saxophonists James Mitchell and Lewis Collins and trombonist Jack Hale.

1. Crown Heights Affair – Dreaming A Dream
2. The Emotions – A Feeling Is
3. High Inergy – Save It For A Rainy Day
4. Linda Clifford – Only Fooling Myself
5. Marlena Shaw – Look At Me-Look At You (We’re Flying)
6. Minnie Riperton – Stay In Love
7. Earth, Wind & Fire – I’ll Write A Song For You
8. Shirley Brown – Blessed Is The Woman (With A Man Like Mine)
9. Al Green – Belle
10. Bill Brantley – A Little Bit More
11. Natalie Cole – Annie Mae
12. Rose Royce – Ooh Boy
13. William Bell – Tryin’ To Love Two
14. Frederick Knight – I Betcha Didn’t Know That
15. The Joneses – Who Loves You
16. Roger Hatcher – Your Love Is A Masterpiece
17. O. C. Smith – Wham Bam (Blue Collar Man)
18. Teddy Pendergrass – I Don’t Love You Anymore
19. Bill Brandon – No Danger Of Heartbreak Ahead
20. Allspice – Destiny
21. Memphis Horns – Keep On Smilin’
BONUS TRACK: Mark Williams – House For Sale

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