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Any Major Soul 1988-89

August 27th, 2010 10 comments

The cycle of soul compilations covering the 1970s and “80s is coming to an end with this mix, some 13 months after I posted the first (which drew a comment from Jerry Plunk, singer of the Flaming Ember). I have had feedback from a number of people who said they have collected the whole series. One reader told me that he burnt the compilations on CD, printed the covers and gave the set as a present to a soul-loving relative. It”s feedback like this that makes me not ditch this lonely blogging thing.

Of the lot here, I really like Keni Stevens, a British soulster of distinctive style and voice who never made it big. I previously posted my favourite song of his, 24-7-365 (download it here).  Somehow he was not marketable because he was not sufficiently upbeat. Soul lost a fine artist, who released only three albums.

A cursory listen to Charlie Singleton“s track will doubtless cause the savvy listener to call to mind Cameo”s 1985 hit Single Life. Singleton was the guitarist of Cameo until the Single Life album. So all he”s doing is to rip off himself. I hear that lately he”s been performing with Cameo again.

Three songs featured here have a tangential link: Mica Paris and Paul Johnson (the latter featured also on Any Major Soul 1986-87) perform a song from Mica”s 1988 debut album. Another singer who duetted with Paris on the album was the greatly gifted Will Downing, featured here with a track from his eponymously titled debut album. And the gorgeous song here by Al Jarrreau from 1989 originally appeared on Mica Paris” debut.

This mix features a slate of new artists, but also a few singers in the twilight of their careers. Shortly after releasing his Take It To The Streets album, on which the lovely Doo Be Down appeared, Curtis Mayfield suffered the accident that paralysed him. Johnnie Taylor had been a Stax headliner in the early 1970s and made the transition to disco. By the 1980s, he was on the fringes of soul music, though he made a brief comeback in 1996, four years before his death at 62.

New York-born Nicole McCloud never made it big, despite creating a minor soul classic with New York Eyes, her duet with Timmy Thomas (which featured on the New York City Mix Vol. 2). Her  1989 album Rock The House, a mostly poorly produced effort, was Nicole”s second. She released two more, in 1996 and 2002.

TRACKLISTING
1. Womack & Womack – Teardrops
2. Johnnie Taylor – You Knocked My Heart Out Of Line
3. Al Jarreau – So Good
4. Curtis Mayfield – Do Be Down
5. Teddy Pendergrass – 2 A.M.
6. Chuckii Booker – Turned Away
7. BeBe & CeCe Winans – Lost Without You
8. Mica Paris & Paul Johnson – Words Into Action
9. Keni Stevens – Hurt This Way
10. Maze featuring Frankie Beverley – Can’t Get Over You
11. Charlie Singleton – Good Bad Ugly
12. Will Downing – That Good Morning Love
13. Anita Baker – Lead Me Into Love
14. Regina Belle – It Doesn’t Hurt Anymore
15. Brenda Russell – Piano In The Dark
16. Narada Michael Walden – I Belong
17. Nicole – So Lost Without Your Love

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Any Major Soul 1970-71
Any Major Soul 1972-73
Any Major Soul 1974-75
Any Major Soul 1976-77
Any Major Soul 1978-79
Any Major Soul 1980-81
Any Major Soul 1982-83
Any Major Soul 1984-85
Any Major Soul 1986-87

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Any Major Soul 1986-87

July 16th, 2010 No comments

As the mid-1980s turned into the late-“80s, the Quiet Storm sound, invented by Smokey Robinson and perfected by Luther Vandross, became the genre”s standard. When it was good, it really was good. People like Freddy Jackson, Anita Baker and Jeffrey Osborne were turning out some great music of that type (perhaps even the best); but when Michael Fucking Bolton started to muscle in on it, and Peabo Bryson sang MFB covers, Quiet Storm had to go (even if it had to be replaced by New Jack Swing and the soul-free wailers Boyz II Men). In any case, this mix represents much more than Quiet Storm material.

Southern Soul man Marvin Sease is in a rather restrained mood here. His surname rhymes with an adjective that would accurately describe the general gist of his lyrics (I certainly do endorse the title of his rather good 2001 album, A Woman Would Rather Be Licked). Here, however, he is not proposing the reciprocal performance of lewd acts, but old-fashioned marriage. Success took long to come to Sease: by the time he made his breakthrough as a solo artist in 1986, he already was 40.

One of my all-time favourite soul songs is on this mix, Tashan”s Ooh We Baby. Tashan (pronounced Tay-shon), who was signed on Def Jam, was received well critically, but never broke through commercially. It”s a pity; his 1986 album Chasing A Dream is one of the finest soul albums of the 1980s. The singer, born Thomas Jerome Pearse, is still performing, apparently releasing a new album this year.

Another unusually named singer here is Sherrick, who had a UK hit in 1987 with the excellent Just Call (which is on Any Major 80s Soul Vol 1) . The song featured here, Baby I”m Real, is a cover of the song by The Originals (I”ve always wanted to write that) and appeared on the same LP as Just Call. Sherrick evidently styled his look on DeBarge: dainty moustache and oiled hair just this side of the jheri curl. Like DeBarge, Sherrick (born Lamont Smith) had recorded on Motown, as the singer of the clumsily-named Kagny & the Dirty Rats; in fact, he was discovered by Berry Gordy”s wife Raynoma. His only solo LP, as far as I can ascertain, was released on Warner Brothers. Sadly, Sherrick died in 1999 at 41, just as he was beginning to record new songs.

It”s an injustice that English soul singer Paul Johnson did not have much success. His song When Love Comes Calling should be a soul classic. That and Half A World Away were produced by fellow UK soulster Junior Giscombe (Mama Used To Say). Johnson, who had a mean falsetto, had previously been a singer with the group Paradise. He later duetted with Mica Paris on her debut LP and released a second album in 1989. He has a Facegroup group, on which he writes: “My life is now somewhat removed from the music industry. I am head of a department in an inner city college where I work with young people and adults who despite very difficult circumstances are attempting to improve their lives through accessing education.”

I trust that nobody is going to confuse Shirley Jones with the mom of the Partridge Family. This Shirley Jones was one of the fabulous Jones Girls (who featured on Any Major Soul 1978-79 and 1980-81). I think that Shirley”s 1986 album, Always In The Mood, was her only solo effort. Do You Get Enough Love is the LP”s stand-out track, and topped the R&B charts. Apparently Jones took an extended break from recording after that to raise her son. She still performs on stage (find her on MySpace)

Shirley Jones” MySpace page reveals that she has lately shared a stage with fellow Philly star Jean Carne (who added the “˜e” to her name for reasons of numerology in the 1980s). Born in 1947 as Sarah Jean Perkins (Carne is her married name), she has had a long career, starting in the early 1970s “” including a stint as female lead on Earth Wind & Fire”s first two albums “” and reaching its zenith on Gamble & Huff”s Philadelphia International label (she featured on Any Major Soul 1978-79). Closer Than Close topped the R&B charts, but further commercial success eluded her. Carne is probably one of very few soul singers fluent in Russian.

Chicago-born Miki Howard launched her career with her Come Share My Love album, which included the hit Imagination. The daughter of gospel singers stepped out with the late Gerald Levert for a while, and played Billie Holiday in Spike Lee”s film Malcolm X. She had some success until the mid-1990s, when she retired from recording and became a radio DJ in Atlanta instead. She came out of retirement in the early 2000s and now performs as a jazz singer.

Prince Phillip Mitchell is better known as a successful songwriter than as a singer. He started his career as a teenage member of The Premiers and The Checkmates in the late 1950s. Like Jean Carn, in the “70s he sang on Norman Connors records. His solo LPs made little impact, and in 1979 he withdrew from recording, reappearing briefly in 1986 with the rather good Devastation LP. He seems like a great guy with a good story. Check out this 2001 interview.

TRACKLISTING
1. Maze featuring Frankie Beverley – Before I Let Go (live)
2. Alexander O’Neal & Cherelle – Never Knew Love Like This
3. Force M.D.’s – Love Is A House
4. Sherrick – Baby I’m For Real
5. Marvin Sease – Let’s Get Married Today
6. Jean Carne – Closer Than Close
7. Tashan – Ooh We Baby
8. Freddie Jackson – Have You Ever Loved Somebody
9. Shirley Jones – Do You Get Enough Love
10. Kashif & Meli’sa Morgan – Love Changes
11. Jeffrey Osborne – You Should Be Mine (Woo Woo Song)
12. Luther Vandross feat Gregory Hines – There’s Nothing Better Than Love
13. Miki Howard – Come Share My Love
14. Paul Johnson – Half A World Away
15. The Winans feat Anita Baker – Ain’t No Need To Worry (12″ version)
16. Prince Phillip Mitchell – I Taught Her Everything

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Any Major Soul 1984-85

May 11th, 2010 3 comments

This mix should persuade those who believe that soul music was dying by the mid-1980s of their error. There is much that”s great on this mix, and among tracks that did not make the cut.

Some of the songs are surprising. Cameo are more usually associated with funk and camp codpieces, not deep soul music as this duet between Larry Blackmon and Barbara Mitchell of Hi Inergy (who featured on Any Major Soul 1976-77). Denise LaSalle, during the time covered by this mix, had a hit with the awful Don”t Mess With My Toot Toot; the song here, an old-fashioned southern soul number, preceded that atrocity  by a year. And those who associate Amii Stewart only with thumping Euro disco will hear another side to the long-legged Washington-born and Italy-based singer. And if there has been a perception that Deniece Williams had sold out to pop with Johnny Mathis duets and Let”s Hear It For The Boy, Black Butterfly (from the same album on which the latter appeared on) will dispel that notion.

The 1980s saw much collaboration and crossing over between jazz fusion and soul. We saw this on the Any Major Soul 1980-81 mix, on which the great Grady Tate provided vocals for Grover Washington. Likewise, here Roberta Flack guests with Japanese saxman Sadao Watanabe on the very lovely Here”s To Love. Likewise Bobby Womack guests on Crusaders” saxophonist Wilton Felder“s cumbersomely titled but gorgeous (No Matter How High I Get) I”ll Still Be Looking Up You. Womack, who had previously sung on Felder”s Inherit The Wind, was accompanied by Alltrinna Grayson. Grayson was discovered by Womack while singing in a burger joint; when Patti LaBelle dropped out of Womack”s tour, he roped in Grayson (her vocals here suggest that she was an astute replacement for LaBelle).

Bernard Wright, like his childhood friend Tom Browne, had a jazz-funk background and recorded on Dave Grusin”s GRP label, though Mr Wright, on which the featured song appeared, was released on EMI subsidiary Manhattan.

Paris L. Holley is the son of a bandleader for Billie Holliday, and recorded in Chicago, apparently only this one single “” but what a magnificent single! Google reveals that there is a music producer and web developer of that name, but I have no idea if that”s the same person.

A few veterans from the 1970s were making comebacks: The Intruders had been recording since 1961, though their breakthrough came only in 1968. After success through the 1970s, two of the trio left to become Jehovah”s Witnesses, and the other member, Eugene Daugherty, became a truck driver. In 1984, he left the road to reform The Intruders with a new line-up, and scored a hit with Who Do You Love. The Spinners went back even further, when as the Domingos they shared the stage with the Four Ames, who”d become the Four Tops. After a stint with Motown and various personnel changes, the Spinners enjoyed their most successful period in the 1970s. Their last big chart hit was in 1980.

And Teddy Pendergrass made his comeback with Love Language in 1984, two years after the car crash that left him paralysed. Truth be told, Love Language was mostly inferior by TP”s standards (he”d hit a final high in 1988 with his Joy LP). In My Time is standard ’80s soul crooning fare, but I think TP’s understated vocals are rather touching.

If I had to choose favourites from this set, the contenders would certainly include the two opening tracks, and the Cameo song and Patrice Rushen“s High In Me from her Now album, the tape of which I wore out driving on the Autobahn in 1984. Hear a podcast interview with Rushen at the fine jazz blog Straight No Chaser.

PW is amdwhah.

TRACKLISTING
1. Sadao Watanabe & Roberta Flack – Here’s To Love
2. Bill Withers – Oh Yeah
3. Paris – I Choose You
4. Amii Stewart – Friends
5. Alexander O’Neal – A Broken Heart Can Mend
6. Bernard Wright – Just When I Thought You Were Mine
7. Denise LaSalle & Latimore – Right Place Right Time
8. Wilton Felder feat. Bobby Womack & Alltinna Grayson – (No Matter How High I Get) I’ll Still Be Looking Up To You
9. Deniece Williams – Black Butterfly
10. Cameo – I’ll Never Look For Love
11. Patrice Rushen – High In Me
12. The Intruders – Who Do You Love?
13. S.O.S. Band – Just The Way You Like It
14. DeBarge – Time Will Reveal
15. The Spinners – Love Don’t Love Nobody
16. Teddy Pendergrass – In My Time

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Any Major Soul 1982-83

March 26th, 2010 3 comments

If I had any concerns that I might not be able to cover the 1980s with great soul music, then I was entirely mistaken. This series will go up to 1988-89 (at which point I”ll consider whether 1990-91 is worth covering). The 1982/83 season saw the continued rise of the Quiet Storm, corporate smooth soul stuff which would eventually choke the genre. There isn”t much of that on this collection (and where there is, such as Beau Williams” Elvina, it”s great).

Opening track Time Is appeared on veteran funk group New Birth“s swansong album, I”m Back, a title that proved terminally temporary. Put together in the late 1960s by Harvey Fuqua, New Birth scored a number of R&B hits throughout the “70s.

The LIVE Band, from New York City, released only one album (on The Sound of Brooklyn label). The title feature here sounds a lot like a Maze song, especially Joy And Pain, with the vocalist doing his best to emulate Frankie Beverley”s phrasing. It would be horribly unfair to call this a pastiche, though. It”s a great track from a fine album.
Gayle Adams represents the Washington D.C. soul scene here. Like so many other artists on this set, her career was relatively short-lived. Perhaps best-known for her cover of the Four Tops” Baby I Need Your Loving or possibly the dance hit Love Fever, both from the album featuring Don”t Jump To Conclusion, the sets one mid-tempo number, with a rather nice guitar solo.

Among the bonus tracks for Any Major Soul 1978-79 were Switch, which included two brothers of the DeBarge clan, Bobby and Tommy. Through their good office the younger siblings, led by El DeBarge, landed a contract with Motown subsidiary Gordy. It would be an injustice if the group”s reputation were to hinge on the chart-fodder Rhythm Of The Night; the group produced some excellent soul music. Check out the acoustic guitar solo on All This Love.

I have been unable to find out anything about Lenard Lidell, or even if he ever released anything else but his 1983 four-track EP, Afternoon Affair, from which the lovely Sweetie Pie comes. It was released by the L.A.-based Jara Records. Likewise, I have no information on The Vosonics, other than that they apparently recorded in Oakland, California.
Beau Williams was going to become a replacement member of the Temptations, but was rejected because at 5″8″ he was considered too short. In reparation, of sorts, the Temps appeared on George Benson protégé Williams” 1983 debut album Stay With Me, on which Elvina appeared. The song is a classic in some Cape Town karaoke bars, invariably causing much distress to singer and listeners when it comes to the high note at 4:20.
Fred Parris was one of doo wop group Five Satins, who recorded the original version of In The Still Of The Night, and he still tours with an incarnation of the group. In the 1980s, he led the now unnumbered Satins on a very nice soul album. Homepage here.
Windjammer, from New Orleans, are probably best remembered for the 1984 hit Tossin” And Turnin”. Stay is from their self-titled debut, released 1982. Five years earlier, guitarist Ken McLin had ambushed Tito Jackson on a hotel escalator with a Windjammer demo. To his credit, Tito listened to the tape, and two years later that charming man Joe Jackson became their manager.

Like Windjammer, Atlantic Starr were for a while produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, a period that produced gems like Silver Shadow and Let The Sun In as well as MOR ballads like Always. Circles preceded that period, with James Anthony Carmichael doing producing duty, with Sharon Bryant still with the Lewis brothers before leaving and replaced with Barbara Weathers.

PW is amdwhah.

TRACKLISTING
1. The New Birth – Time Is
2. Vernon Burch – Simply Love
3. The LIVE Band – A Chance For Hope
4. O.T. Sykes – Lonelines Inside Of Me
5. Roberta Flack – I’m The One
6. Gayle Adams – Don’t Jump To Conclusions
7. DeBarge – All This Love
8. Lenard Lidell – Sweetie Pie
9. Beau Williams ““ Elvina
10. Bloodstone – Go On And Cry
11. Fred Parris and the Satins – Let Me Be The Last One
12. Windjammer ““ Stay
13. Randy Crawford – In Real Life
14. The Vosonics – Set My Soul On Fire
15. Gwen Guthrie – It Should Have Been You
16. Atlantic Starr ““ Circles
17. Mtume – Would You Like To Fool Around

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Any Major Soul 1980-81

February 5th, 2010 8 comments

I thought that this series would come to a natural end with 1979, but the early 1980s were not as deficient as one might imagine. The difference resides in the volume of quality and the widening chasm between the great and the utterly abject in the “80s. A lot of bad soul music was created in the “80s, and the genre has never recovered. The next couple of installments of Any Major Soul will, I hope, highlight the bright spots in a declining genre.

The two opening tracks, by Clyde Milton and Sam Butler, are apparently quite difficult to find. Both are excellent, and would merit being regarded as “80s soul classics ““ if they were more widely known outside the Northern Soul scene. Milton”s single sold on eBay for $199 last month; a promo copy of Butler”s single was going for $500 last week. I have not been able to find out anything about either singer.

Ruby Wilson has had a prolific if not necessarily high profile recording career, releasing ten albums. She has performed with the likes of Isaac Hayes and B.B. King, and apparently is a hugely popular on the Memphis circuit. She suffered a mild stroke in June last year, and has recently taken to the stage again. Check her out on Facebook, where visitors can learn how to donate towards her medical bills and order her greatest hits CD.

The Movers provide a fix of South African soul-funk. I can”t recall from which excellent site I got this track from, but I ought to express my appreciation for it.

The late Grover Washington Jr is not an obvious choice for a soul compilation, but Be Mine (Tonight) from the excellent Come Morning album does fit the bill. Grady Tate, a terribly under-appreciated singer, delivers the cool and very sexy vocals. The smash of the cymbal in the midst of the instrumental break at 5:45 is one of my favourite moment in popular music.

Con Funk Shun were founded in 1968 and after 1972 worked as a backing band at Stax. During that time they released a few albums on a local Memphis label. Their breakthrough came when they were signed by Mercury where they released a string of albums of varying quality.

Odyssey are better known for their great disco numbers, such as Native New Yorker and Going Back To My Roots. If You”re Looking For A Way Out is a slow soul song that will melt your heart, telling the story of a break-up from the point of view from a woman who still loves her man but has given up.

PW is amdwhah.

TRACKLISTING:
1. Clyde Milton – I’d Rather Leave On My Feet
2. Sam Butler – I Can’t Get Over Loving You
3. Grover Washington Jr feat Grady Tate – Be Mine (Tonight)
4. Maze feat Frankie Beverly – The Look In Your Eyes
5. The Dramatics – You’re The Best Thing In My Life
6. Ruby Wilson – Seeing You Again
7. Lou Rawls – I Go Crazy
8. Odyssey – If You’re Looking For A Way Out
9. The Jones Girls – At Peace With Woman
10. The Movers – Give Me A Day
11. Chaka Khan – Heed The Warning
12. Mtume – So You Wanna Be A Star
13. Tavares – I Don’t Want You Anymore
14. Patrice Rushen – Message In The Music
15. Ebonee Webb – Do Me Right (Everybody Needs A Little Love)
16. Con Funk Shun – All Up To You
17. Peaches & Herb – I Pledge My Love To You
18. Commodores – Lucy

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Yet more '80s soul

November 20th, 2008 5 comments

I’m not sure whether it is due to popular demand after last week’s compilation, but here is a second ’80s soul mix, with a third and final installment in the works. The first mix was an attempt to create a fairly representative cross-section of the genre. This mix is less self-conscious about that. What we have here, then, are some of my favourite soul tracks from that comparatively barren decade. As in any compilation of favourites, the measure of quality may be secondary to the compiler’s emotional connection to a song. Is Smokey’s Just To See Her any good? I don’t rightly know. It may not be a better song than Being With You. But much as I like Being With You, it does not transport me back to a particular time. Play Just To See Her, however, and I smell the girl’s hair, taste the vegetarian gunk I used to eat, feel the anticipation of going to the club and the anxiety of missing my friends in London. And so it is with many songs in this mix (especially Pendergrass’ wonderfully Marvin-esque Joy). Read more…

More '80s Soul

November 14th, 2008 7 comments

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Following on from last month’s post of ’80s soul, here’s a mix ““ as always timed to fit on a standard CD-R ““ of 18 of my favourite songs from the genre. I’ve tried to make it more or less representative: the old style soul singers getting their ’80s groove on (Mayfield, Womack), the soul funksters (Mtume, Tashan), the smooth stuff (Wilde, Osborne), the fusion influence (Flack, Benson, Upchurch), Jam & Lewis productions (Windjammer, Atlantic Starr), adult-oriented soul (Jackson & Moore, Womack & Womack)… There will be at least one more ’80s soul mix, so glaring omissions ““ Luther! ““ will be corrected. Read more…

80s Soul: The redemption – Vol.1

October 8th, 2008 5 comments
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After the glorious era of the “60s and “70s, soul music found itself in a bit of a rut in the “80s, and has never recovered from it. Where in the golden age the public standard bearers of soul were the likes of Aretha Franklin and Al Green, in the “80s it was Whitney Houston and Lionel Richie. I am referring to popular perception, of course. Still, the soul giant of the 1980s was Luther Vandross; rather a step down from Al, Ike, Marvin or Curtis (soul singers are always referred to by their first names). Much of “80s soul was too smooth to be sexual, even as the lyrics promised total sexual gratification, or your money back. The more the singers sang about makin” lurve to you awawawawall nighyeet, the more sexless the genre became. Things were called soul that weren”t much soulful. Like Whitney Houston, like Lionel Richie (though both made some excellent soul records). Read more…

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