Archive for the ‘70s Soul’ Category

Any Major Soul 1978/79

November 25th, 2009 7 comments

It”s tempting to dismiss the soul music produced in the disco era. I think this mix shows that it was still a golden era for soul, if not of quite the incredible standards a few years earlier when there was the happy confluence of the influences exerted by the likes of Philly, Motown, Hi, Muscle Shoals, Atlantic, and the Chicago scene.

If I was asked which of these tracks in this mix I”d take with me to a desert island, I would be hard pressed to choose between Bill Withers” Love Is and Minnie Riperton“s Never Existed Before. I think the latter would win. Released after her death from cancer, Minnie”s vocals are equally cute and sexy (nobody has done cute and sexy as well as Minnie did). It”s not the best-known track from the Minnie LP, but it is my favourite Riperton song.

Several of the songs here are touched by disco golddust. The Gary Toms Empire are perhaps more disco than soul. Former Motown writers Ashford & Simpson certainly were in their disco groove, and You Know How To Love Me by Phyllis Hyman (another wonderful soul singer who died too young, in 1995, the same year Bobby DeBarge, featured in the bonus tracks, died) is the sort of mid-tempo song one can dance or chill to.

Cheryl Lynn is better remembered for one of the great dance tracks, Got To Be Real. The track featured here, You”re The One, comes from the same eponymous 1978 album, one of the few ballads on the LP on which the 21-year-old Lynn delivered a fine, octave-traversing vocal performance. Signed by CBS on strength of her winning performance on the TV talent programme The Gong Show, Cheryl Lynn was a prodigious session singer too. It”s her soaring voice on Toto”s excellent Georgy Porgy, and she also backed Lenny Williams, whom we encounter in the bonus tracks.

Peabo Bryson does not have a good reputation among soul fans (with that name, it”s surprising he ever enjoyed any credibility), while Natalie Cole“s soul credentials have taken a knock with her endeavours to become her father. Don”t let such perceptions worry you as you hear their excellent jazzy cover of Bobby Caldwell”s What You Won”t Do For Love.

Jean Carn (later rendered as Carne, for “numerological” reasons) sang with Duke Ellington”s orchestra just before his death. Through her stint as a regular on US TV shows she was picked up by Gamble & Huff for their Philadelphia International Records label.

The Jones Girls also found success with Gamble & Huff, via two soul legends. The Chicago sisters were first mentored by Curtis Mayfield, through whom they got to work with Aretha Franklin. It was as a support act for Diana Ross that the Jones Girls “” Shirley, Brenda and Valerie “” came to Gamble & Huff”s attention. Besides releasing their own albums, they also provided backing vocals for the PIR roster.

Johnny “˜Guitar” Watson was cited by Jimi Hendrix as a major influence. He might also have been nicknamed “Organ”, for he played keyboard for Herb Alpert during the 1960s, reuniting with Alpert for his 1979 hit Rise [EDIT: Apparently he didn’t. See comments]. Before that, the man known as “Elvis” private guitar player” had toured with Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson. Here he gets seriously funky, providing one of the few instances of snoring released on vinyl. Another legend, Wilson Pickett, made a brief comeback fusing the funk with old school soul, creating a sound which Tom Jones has tried to emulate for years, but never coming near his ambition.

The “Pops” in the title of the penultimate track is, of course, Berry Gordy, paid tribute here by four of the greatest stars in music history. I”d not have included it was it not for this year being Motown”s 50th birthday.

PW is amdwhah.

1. Gary Toms Empire – Welcome To Harlem
2. Ashford & Simpson – It Seems To Hang On
3. Jean Carn – Don’t Let It Get To Your Head
4. Bill Withers – Love Is
5. Rufus and Chaka Khan – Stay
6. Cheryl Lynn – You’re The One
7. Denise LaSalle – A Miracle You And Me
8. Neville Brothers – Washable Ink
9. Minnie Riperton – Never Existed Before
10. Natalie Cole & Peabo Bryson – What You Won’t Do For Love
11. Phyllis Hyman – You Know How To Love Me
12. The Jones Girls – You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else
13. Johnny Guitar Watson – It’s A Damn Shame
14. Wilson Pickett – Lay Me Like You Hate Me
15. The Whispers – Let’s Go All The Way
16. Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & Stevie Wonder – Pops, We Love You
17. Roberta Flack – And The Feeling’s Good





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Any Major Soul 1976-77

September 25th, 2009 8 comments

Any Major Soul 1976-77

The cull to bring the 1976/77 mix down to CD-R length was more brutal than I had anticipated. So much good music that failed to make the cut (hence all the bonus tracks)! Here then is a mix of a few fairly well-known songs, a couple of album tracks, and a handful of quite rare “” and certainly not familiar “” numbers. A few of these rarities are not of great sound quality; I hope the excellence of the music compensates for that.

To me the centre piece in the mix is Marlena Shaw“s Yu-Ma/Go Away Little Boy, the boy of the title being a bit of a waster whom Marlena knows she ought to get rid of “” but when he nibbles her earlobes”¦ooooh! Here Shaw recorded her big-bandish song from the 1969 The Spice Of Life album and added the Yu-Ma monologue. It is marvellous.  Shaw is treasured among the soul and jazz cognoscenti, but wider fame has sadly eluded her. Shaw”s career, which started with a performance at age 10 at the Harlem Apollo, was certainly distinguished. She was not yet out of her teens when she co-wrote the jazz classic Wade In The Water with Ramsey Lewis. Careering between jazz and soul, she fronted the Count Basie band from 1968-72, and before that came up with some soul gems, such as California Soul and Liberation Conversation. By the mid-’70s she had no recording contract. A CBS record exec heard her sing Go Away Little Boy at a nightclub, and signed her up, giving her career a new lease.

The singer with the most off-putting name in this set must be Bunny Sigler. Born Walter Sigler, the nickname refers to the timing of his birth: two days before Easter 1941. The Philadelphia native was an early collaborator with Philly Soul godfather Leon Huff. He had a couple of minor hits in the 1960s, including 1967″s Let The Good Times Roll (featured on Any Major “60s Soul Vol. 1), and was central in the ascent of Philly Soul in the “70s, not only as a singer but also as a writer and producer. Like Marlena Shaw, Sigler continues to perform today.

Billy Paul“s Let “˜Em In is a cover of the Wings song, but with entirely different lyrics, paying tribute to Malcolm X, Martin Luther Kind, Louis Armstrong et al. Vastly superior McCartney”s original, a truth I hold as self-evident.

Arthur Alexander occupies a rare, perhaps unique, position in music history: he had his original songs covered by the Beatles (Anna), Elvis Presley (Burnin” Love) and the Rolling Stones (You Better Move On). More of a writer and arranger than a hitmaker, Alexander enjoyed a very brief revival in the mid-“70s. The gorgeous Sharing The Night Together, which was written by Muscle Shoals composers Ava Aldridge and Eddie Struzick, reached only #92 in the R&B charts. Typically, somebody else had greater success with it, in this case Dr Hook. Thereafter Alexander drifted out of the music industry, working as a bus driver. Just as he began making music again in 1993, he died of a heart attack. He was 53.

Bo Kirkland and Ruth Davis represent the disco influence in this mix. They were both recording independently until put together at Claridge Records, to whom both had signed. The smoothly funky You’re Gonna Get Next To Me was their only hit, reaching #12 in Britain in 1977.

The New World (not to be confused with the early”70s Australian group) were Curtis Mayfield proteges who did not seem to have recorded much more than one single. We”re Gonna Make It was the flip side of Help The Man, a funky number which you can find at the I Wish You Would blog. Curtis Mayfield is represented here with a really lovely track from 1977″s Never Say You Can’t Survive album .

The Fiestas were veterans by the time their Philly soul-a-like was released. The group had enjoyed some success since starting out as an R&B group in 1959, when they had a #11 US hit with So Fine. They later also covered Arthur Alexander”s Anna. Released in 1977, Gonna Hate Myself made no chart impact at all, which is a great shame.

Oh, and about the Lou Rawls” title: it is not me taking liberty with the Queen”s English.

1. Billy Paul – Let ‘Em In
2. Arthur Alexander – Sharing The Night Together
3. The Fiestas – Gonna Hate Myself
4. The Spinners – The Rubberband Man
5. Innersection – I’m In Debt To You
6 . Curtis Mayfield – Show Me Love
7. High Inergy – You Can’t Turn Me Off (In The Middle Of Turning Me On)
8. Marlena Shaw – Yu-Ma/Go Away Little Boy
9. Bessie Banks – Try To Leave Me If You Can (I Bet You Can’t Do It)
10. Bunny Sigler – That’s How Long I’ll Be Loving You
11. Candi Staton – Before The Next Teardop Falls
12. L.T.D. – Love Ballad
13. Lou Rawls – See You When I Git There
14. Tavares – Whodunnit
15. Bo Kirkland & Ruth Davis – You’re Gonna Get Next To Me
16. Eddie Kendricks – Skeleton In Your Closet
17. New World – We’re Gonna Make It
18. Dee Edwards – I Can Deal With That
19. Brothers Johnson – I’ll Be Good To You
20. Marvin Gaye – After The Dance




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Any Major Soul 1974-75

September 11th, 2009 8 comments

Any Major Soul 1974-75

By the mid-1970s, soul had by and large left behind its R&B roots and the influence of funk and what would become widely known as disco was beginning to manifest itself “” many soul acts of the period crossed back and forth between soul, funk and disco.

A few notes on some of the featured acts:

The Impressions had soldiered on after Curtis Mayfield went solo in 1970. By the time they had a trio of hits in 1974/75, Mayfield”s successor as lead singer, Leroy Hutson had departed as well, having been replaced by Reggie Torian and Ralph Johnson (the latter left in 1976). The song featured here was not a hit, but might be the best Impressions song of the period. The Natural Four, incidentally, were signed to Mayfield”s Curtom label and produced by Leroy Hutson at the time of Can This Be Real.

William DeVaughn sounds vaguely like Mayfield channelling Timmy Thomas. DeVaughn paid $900 to record Be Thankful For What You Got in 1972 in Philadelphia, with the MFSB band backing him. On its release in 1974 it became a massive hit. Yo La Tengo and Massive Attack fans will know the song from those groups” covers. It”s a boss groove which Squeeze must have known when they conjured the chorus of 1987″s Hourglass. Everybody now: “Diamond in the back, sunroof top, diggin” the scene with a gangsta lean.”

The Soul Children were formed in the late 1960s by Isaac Hayes and David Porter for Stax. The group included John Colbert (who would take the stagename J Blackfoot), who before becoming one of the four soul children had been serving a prison sentence with Johnny Bragg of The Prisonaires. After his release he met Otis Redding who invited him to travel on the plane that would kill Redding and most of the Bar-Keys. There was no room on the plane.

“I”ll Be The Other Woman, written by Homer Banks and Carl Hampton, belongs in the canon of great cheating songs. Here “the other woman” warns her adulterous lover not to cheat on her.

Sidney Joe Qualls was billed as “the new Al Green” when he appeared on the scene. He never reached the Reverend”s great heights, but his How Can You Say Goodbye To Someone might well be one of the best Al Green tracks Al never recorded.

The Moments, whose Sexy Mama is much better than the title would suggest, soon would have to change their name for contractual reasons, despite having recorded under that moniker for close to a decade, even scoring two UK Top 10 hits and a UK #3 hit with Girls, their collaboration with the Whatnauts. We will meet them again in this series as Ray Goodman Brown. Sexy Mama would be a great companion piece to Billy Paul“s Let”s Make A Baby (posted here as a bonus track).

Gene Page, whose instrumental All Our Dreams Are Coming True is this set”s most conspicuous nod to disco, was noted more as an arranger, having worked with artists as diverse as Buffalo Springfield, The Righteous Brothers, The Supremes, Elton John and Barbra Streisand.

Syreeta featured on the 1970/71 mix as a co-writer of Stevie Wonder”s If You Really Love Me. She was briefly married to Wonder, who continued to promote her career after they split, to the extent that the 1974 album on which the bluesy Black Maybe appears was titled Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta.

1. Billy Preston – Nothing From Nothing
2. The Main Ingredient – Just Dont Want To Be Lonely
3. The Tymes – You Little Trustmaker
4. Blue Magic – What’s Come Over Me
5. William DeVaughn – Be Thankful For What You Got
6. Sydney Joe Qualls – How Can You Say Goodbye
7. Major Harris – Love Won’t Let Me Wait
8. Rufus & Chaka Khan – Sweet Thing
9. Minnie Riperton – Simple Things
10. Latimore – Let’s Straighten It Out
11. Soul Children – Ill Be The Other Woman
12. The Impressions – If It’s In You To Do Wrong
13. Aretha Franklin – I’m In Love
14. Syreeta – Black Maybe
15. Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes – Wake Up Everybody
16. The Moments – Sexy Mama
17. Gene Page – All Our Dreams Are Coming True
18. Natural Four – Can This Be Real
19. The Spinners – Mighty Love
20. Earth, Wind & Fire – That’s The Way Of The World (Latin Expedition)



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Any Major Soul 1972-73

August 25th, 2009 4 comments

I was delighted to see a comment from Jerry Plunk, lead singer and drummer of the Flying Embers, thanking me for including the group”s Westbound #9 in the Any Major Soul 1970/71 mix (and a comment from Jerry Lawson from the Persuasions, appreciating the inclusion of his group”s version of He Ain”t Heavy/You”ve Got A Friend in The Originals Vol. 30). I hope that this series of “70s soul mixes will create some interest in acts and songs that are not as widely remembered as they ought to be. So this compilation excludes the most obvious picks for the years 1972/73, and includes what I hope are a few great new discoveries, or indeed re-discoveries. As before, it was a struggle to keep the mix down to the standard CD-R length.

As I was playing this collection, my wife heard Jermaine Jackson“s Daddy”s Home. She remembered that in her youth, this song and Earth, Wind & Fire”s Reasons (both by then a few years old) were the clarion call for young guys to ask the girls of their desire for a slow dance. Invariable, according to Any Major Wife With A Big Heart, the hapless girls who”d accept the invitation would feel something hard pressing against their stomachs; sometimes they”d have to fend off slobbering teen boys” mouths. If they succeeded in their horny designs, the song the boys should have played while making love is Donny Hathaway & Roberta Flack“s Be Real Black For Me (sampled to good effect by Scarface for the excellent My Block);

The era under review saw the rise of Philadelphia”s soul scene. The O”Jays, Billy Paul, Three Degrees and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes fell victim to the not-too-obvious rule, but represented here are still a number of exponents of Philly Soul, such as the Delfonics, Futures, Intruders (“She”s choice Grade A beef”!!!) , First Choice, Trammps and soul veteran Joe Simon, an early member of the Gamble & Huff stable.

Denise Lasalle may be better remembered for her disappointing 1985 hit Don”t Mess With My Tutu. Far better to get to know her through her gorgeous self-penned Trapped By A Thing Called Love produced by Memphis soul legend Willie Mitchell, who also produced Al Green in his soul prime, including the second cut on the Let”s Stay Together album, represented here. Sandwiched between the Mitchell-produced tracks is Barbara Jean English“s So Many Ways To Die, which is a bit of a showstopper, I think. Listen to the lyrics!. And talking of lyrics, check out the Free Movement: she tells him tearfully that she”s splitting for another guy; he tells her to calm down because he”s had an affair as well. A dirty, clean split.

Bloodstone supported Al Green on a UK tour before releasing their 1973 debut single and album, both titled Natural High. Their drummer, Steve Ferrone, later joined the Average White Band, which did a very good cover of the Isley Brothers” Work To Do.

Terry Callier was a friend of Curtis Mayfield”s in the Chicago scene who fused his soul music with folk. He later recorded with Paul Weller and Beth Orton. He should receive credit also for this entirely agreeable cover art. Keep your game UP-tight, Terry.

Bobby Womack“s Harry Hippie, by the way, is named after his brother Harry, who a few years later died in a traffic accident.

1. Joe Simon – Step By Step
2. The Trammps – Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart
3. First Choice – Smarty Pants
4. The Isley Brothers – Work To Do
5. Cymande – The Message
6. Al Wilson – Show And Tell
7. Denise Lasalle – Trapped By A Thing Called Love
8. Barbara Jean English – So Many Ways To Die
9. Al Green – La-La For You
10. Jermaine Jackson – Daddy’s Home
11. Ronnie Dyson – When You Get Right Down To It
12. The Delfonics – Think It Over
13. Free Movement – I’ve Found Someone Of My Own
14. The Futures – Love Is Here
15. Donny Hathaway & Roberta Flack – Be Real Black For Me
16. The Four Tops – Nature Planned It
17. Bobby Womack – Harry Hippie
18. The Intruders – She’s A Winner
19. Terry Callier – Ordinary Joe
20. Bloodstone – Natural High
21. Don Downing – Lonely Days, Lonely Nights
22. Jimmy Helms – Gonna Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse
23. Gladys Knight & The Pips – It’s Gotta Be That Way



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Any Major Soul 1970-71

August 5th, 2009 11 comments


Some people will reel in disbelief and perhaps go on by shouting out the first names of assorted soul deities as I proclaim: The 1970s were the golden age of soul music. Of course, “60s soul was fantastic, as the two volumes of Any Major”60s Soul compilations proved. But by the late 1960s and early “70s soul had acquired such a breadth of variety which the still nascent form of the previous decade did not have, by force of progress. The soul shouters were giving way to smooth guys, often singing in falsetto, and the Muscle Shoal horns went out and the string arrangements came in. And Motown and Stax had lost their way. As smooth as “70s often was, however, it still retained depth. For the first half of the decade at least, soul produced some of the most gorgeous sounds ever in music Read more…

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