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Any Major Soul 1983

August 17th, 2023 2 comments

 

Nobody vaguely sane has ever claimed that 1983 represents a pinnacle in soul music. Still, there was enough good stuff around to produce a fine mix — one on which synth stabs and lazily programmed drum machines, which blighted so much soul in the ’80s, are in short supply. So the music on this mix is relatively timeless, rather than being a time capsule.

If Patti LaBelle’s Love, Need And Want You sounds vaguely familiar, then it is because it was prominently sampled by Nelly for his 2002 hit with Kelly Rowland, the superb Dilemma. In the video, LaBelle appeared as Kelly’s mother, which was a great touch.

The Mary Jane Girls’ All Night Long has also been liberally sampled, most famously by LL Cool J on his 1991 hit Around The Way Girl, and a few years later by Mary J Blige on Mary Jane (All Night Long), which was more tribute than sample. But in recording the Mary Jane Girls song, Rick James did a bit of copying themselves: the bassline borrows from Keni Burke’s song Risin’ To The Top from a year earlier.

Perhaps the most sampled song on this mix is Between The Sheets by the Isley Brothers. Wikipedia counts 50 samples, including on Da Brat’s Funkified, The Notorious B.I.G.’s Big Poppa, Doja Cat’s Like That, Gwen Stefani’s Luxurious, and Pretty Ricky’s On The Hotline.

One place you probably would not begin a search for soul music is Sweden. And yet, our Scandinavian friends are represented here in the form of the band Shine. The band’s creative main man was the Ghanaian/Dutch jazz funk musician Kofi Bentsi-Enchill, who also takes lead vocals on So Into You, along with Swedish-French jazz singer Babette Kontomanou. Shine released one album, and then faded away. Babette went on to have a good solo career.

Joyce Lawson has three albums to her credit. Her eponymous 1983 debut was followed by an album in 1987, and a third set 14 years after that. Her career took off after winning the US talent programme The Gong Show. I have found no further biographical info on Lawson, except that she appears to be no longer with us.

I think I ought to issue an earworm warning in regard to Baby I’m Scared Of You by Womack & Womack. That line, “Houdini, was great magician, he could crack a lock [dut dut] from any position”, has kept me awake as it refused to leave my ear. And once I succeeded to dispel it, there was Cecil Womack sitting in my ear: “Oh, like Rudolph Valentino, I can fall down on my knees…” You’ve been warned!

The great cover version of Superstar by Luther Vandross was one of the first tracks on my shortlist, but at nine minutes it’s rather too long to be included on a CD-R length mix. It’s included as a bonus track. Superstar is the redeeming feature of the album it closes, Busy Body, which I regard as Luther Vandross’ weakest effort.

By the way, all Any Major Soul mixes from 1964 onwards are up again.

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

1. Rufus & Chaka Khan – Ain’t Nobody
2. Lionel Richie – Love Will Find A Way
3. Isley Brothers – Between The Sheets
4. The Manhattans – Forever By Your Side
5. Womack & Womack – Baby I’m Scared Of You Baby
6. Patti LaBelle – Love, Need And Want You
7. Al Jarreau – I Will Be Here For You (Nitakungodea Milele)
8. Randy Crawford – Why?
9. Roberta Flack & Peabo Bryson – Maybe
10. Enchantment – Don’t Fight The Feeling
11. Gwen Guthrie – Oh What A Life
12. Shine – So Into You
13. Joyce Lawson – Try Me Tonight
14. Sister Sledge – Gotta Get Back To Love
15. Atlantic Starr – Touch A Four Leaf Clover
16. Mtume – Juicy Fruit
17. Mary Jane Girls – All Night Long
Bonus Track:
Luther Vandross – Superstar

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Any Major Soul 1982

November 15th, 2022 2 comments

The alert follower of this corner of the Internet will have spotted that the Any Major Soul series now runs only once a year, to mark the 40th anniversary of the featured year. And when I contemplate that 1982 is now equidistant to 1942, I feel quite dizzy. But somehow, I don’t think the distance between now and 1982 is as culturally, socially or politically big as that between 1982 and 1942.

That, I think, applies to music as well. In fact, today’s R&B artists especially have an affinity for the stuff that was big four decades ago.

Before the ‘Betrayal’
The opening track on this mix shows how quick things can go downhill. In 1982, Stevie Wonder was still in best form, with songs like That Girl and the majestic Do I Do. By 1984, Stevie issued that song which for once confirms received wisdom, the shameful I Just Called To Say I Love You; a song I could not hate more if it was sung by Michael F Bolton. I had anticipated the new Stevie song with such anticipation that September day in 1984, and felt betrayed when I heard it on the radio. To wash the grease of I Just Called… out of my ears, I put on the Original Musiquarium album. On that “Best Of” type double-LP set, every side ended with a previously unreleased track. All of these would have merited a place on any of the great Stevie Wonder albums of the 1970s.

Knitted Jersey Soul
For those who lived through the ’80s, it is tempting to dismiss Lionel Richie as a somewhat naff pop singer of syrupy ballads and party tunes, whose sartorial style was like a parody of 1980s fashion when 1980s fashion was still happening. And fair enough, I don’t like Dancing On The Ceiling or Hello or Ballerina Girl. But Richie, we must never forget, was also the man from The Commodores, whose place in the pantheon of soul acts is unassailable. And that Richie was also present on his solo albums. The featured track, Round And Round, is a delightfully upbeat song from his eponymous 1982 album.

Not a Smith
I recall arriving in London in 1984 and seeing concert listings announcing gigs by Morrissey-Mullen. I had no ideas what music I might hear at such gigs, and I never sought to find out. But since I loved The Smiths, the name stuck in my mind. Later I learnt that this lot had no truck with the pretentious lyrics and nasty bigotry of their part-namesake. Morrissey-Mullen were a pretty funky jazz fusion act, with Dick Morrissey on saxophones and flute, and Jim Mullen on guitar. Morrissey left us in 2000 at the age of 60.

On the featured track, their groove is given life by the vocals by British singer Carol Kenyon, whose voice you may well know from Heaven 17’s 1983 hit Temptation (featured on A Life in Vinyl 1983), or from Paul Hardcastle’s 1986 hit Don’t Waste My Time. She was a prolific backing singer.

Fifth Stairstep
Keni Burke started his career as a kid in the Five Stairsteps, and wrote the group’s first successful single, You Waited Too Long, in 1966, before he was even 13. A talented multi-instrumentalist, he backed some of the biggest names in soul music while also pursuing a solo career that yielded three albums between 1977 and 1982, followed by another in 1998.

Short Careers
It is a little sad to know that Mighty Fire released only two albums, in 1981 and ’82, before they split. Member Darryl K. Roberts, a singer, bassist and keyboardist, went on to write the Anita Baker song Same Ole Love. Mel Bolton, who also produced the Mighty Fire, had been an arranger for Motown, including the tribute to Berry Gordy, Pops, We Love You, which was recorded by two acts that also feature on this mix: Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder (along with Diana Ross and Smokey Robinson).

Even fewer releases were issued by Wisconsin soul acts Majestics: one single, the featured The Key To Love Is Understanding. The song must have sounded dated in 1982. Today, it is a gorgeous slow burner that really belongs in the 1970s.

Was he?
You may recognise Sweet Pea Atkinson’s voice from Was (Not Was) hits like Spy In The House Of Love and Walk The Dinosaur. On his own Atkinson, who died in 2020, released only two albums, one in 1982 and the other in 2017. Who knows, maybe I’ll feature a track from the latter on this blog in 2057.

A Original?
On the Originals of 1990s hits I included Linda Clifford’s first version 1990 Whitney Houston hit All The Man I Need. It is actually not clear whether Clifford’s version or that by Sister Sledge was the original version. Both were released in 1980, and if Discogs and Wikipedia are correct, the Sister Sledge version came out a month before Clifford’s (other sources date the release of the former to four months later). If Secondhandsongs.com and Whosampledwho.com have it right, Clifford’s recording precedes that of the sisters. Whatever the case, the Sister Sledge version is included here. The uncredited male vocals on what is really Kathy Sledge’s song, by what sounds like Barry White’s kid brother, are those of Philadelphia singer David Simmons.

Long Note
Finally, Melba Moore needs no introduction. But do listen to that absurdly long note she holds at the end of The Other Side Of The Rainbow. That’s no saxophone; it’s Melba!

A companion mix to this collection is Any Major Soul 1982/83, which I posted — gulp — 12 years ago. The Zippy link is still live.

As always, CD-R length, covers, text above in PDF, PW in comments…

1. Stevie Wonder – That Girl
2. Junior – Mama Used To Say
3. Mighty Fire – Just A Little Bit
4. Marvin Gaye – My Love Is Waiting
5. Lionel Richie – Round And Round
6. Luther Vandross – Once You Know How
7. Morrissey-Mullen feat. Carol Kenyon – Ships That Pass In The Night
8. Marlena Shaw – Next Time I Fall In Love
9. Syl Johnson – They Can’t See Your Good Side
10. Majestics – Key To Love Is Understanding
11. Melba Moore – The Other Side Of The Rainbow
12. Patrice Rushen – Where There Is Love
13. Howard Johnson – Take Me Through The Night
14. Mike & Brenda Sutton – All Worth Loving For
15. Sweet Pea Atkinson – Don’t Walk Away
16. Z.Z. Hill – Cheating In The Next Room
17. Keni Burke – One Minute More
18. Sister Sledge feat. David Simmons – All The Man I Need

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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 Soul 1990-92

July 15th, 2021 1 comment

 

 

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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Any Major Soul 1981

March 25th, 2021 3 comments

There was still a lot of great soul in the early 1980s. In fact, there was a lot of great soul throughout the decade; it’s just the famous hits that got worse.

Dimples
One of the better hits of the mid-1980s was the rather misogynist Oran ‘Juice’ Jones hit The Rain, in which the singer delivers a spoken diatribe to effect a break-up with his cheating girlfriend (“Don’t touch that coat!”). On this mix, the roles are reversed as Betty Wright cuts down the hapless Richard ‘Dimples’ Fields, on whom she has served divorce papers. And with good reason, for he is seeking to get his jollies elsewhere. Her rap as she cuts the cad down to size is quite spectacular. Fields, who begins the track by framing himself as a victim, merits our applause for setting himself up in this song as a target for a woman’s righteous fury.

Fields went on to have an R&B hit in 1982 with If It Ain’t One Thing, It’s Another (a re-recording of a track he had originally released in 1975), and a number of low-charting releases, but he enjoyed less success than he deserved. Dimples, his nickname by which he went on his later recordings (given to him for his ready smile), died at only 57 in 2000.

Jones Girls
His She’s Got Papers On Me is one of two tracks here which I might have held back for a mix I’m plotting of songs with spoken words; the other is The Jones Girls I Just Love The Man, in which the girl’s take issue with the quality of a sister’s no-good boyfriend. In some families, I suspect, this song could be the national anthem.

The sisters — Shirley, Brenda and Valerie  — found success with Gamble & Huff, having first been 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 came to Gamble & Huff’s attention. Besides releasing their own albums, they also provided backing vocals for the PIR roster. Of the three sisters, only lead singer Shirley (who in the featured song is the no-good man’s girlfriend) is still alive. Valorie died in 2001; Brenda in 2017. The Jones Girls previously featured on Any Major Soul 1980/81 and Any Major Soul 1978/79.

Apollo Creed sings!
One singer here is more famous as a movie star, or even as an American football player than as a soul crooner. In 1981, Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed in Rocky). You Ought To Be With Me, on which the actor has a writing credit, was his single foray into recording music. Which is a pity: Weathers is doing a creditable job of it.

Blues ‘n’ Soul
Another act is not really known as a soul singer. Bobby Rush was a veteran blues singer by the time Talk To Your Daughter came out. As a young man, he was friends with blues legends like Elmore James and Pinetop Perkins, and with Ike Turner. The featured track is from the period in his long career when Rush was produced by Philly soul pioneer Kenny Gamble. Rush, who veers into the fields of soul, funk and even hip hop, won his first Grammy in 2017, at the age of 87.

Tutored by B.B.
And a nephew of Rush’s old pal Emore James features here, too. L.V. Johnson was better known as a session guitarist — he was taught to play that instrument by B.B. King — for acts like the Bar-Kays, Johnnie Taylor, and the Soul Children. After strumming and also writing for other acts, and releasing a few singles in the 1970s, he released his debut album in 1981 (it also included a soul version of Danny Boy, featured on Covered With Soul Vol. 22). Several albums followed, none particularly successful. L.V. Johnson died in 1994 at the age of 48.

Feva
Sandra Feva released three LPs and a succession of singles, under her stage name and real name, Sandra Richardson. The breakthrough never came, but in the 1980s Feva was also a session singer, backing he likes of Aretha Franklin (including on Who’s Zooming Who), Prince, George Clinton/Paliament/Funkadelic, and others. Feva died at 73 in 2020.

As always, CD-R length, covers, text above in PDF, PW in comments…

1. The Whispers – Love Is Where You Find It
2. Luther Vandross – Sugar And Spice
3. Ray Parker Jr. – A Woman Needs Love
4. Sandra Feva – Tell ’Em That I Heard It
5. Tyrone Davis – Love (Ain’t Over There)
6. Chaka Khan – Any Old Sunday
7. The Jones Girls – I Just Love The Man
8. Richard ‘Dimples’ Fields feat. Betty Wright – She’s Got Papers On Me
9. Al Jarreau – Breakin’ Away
10. Debra Laws feat. Ronnie Laws – Very Special
11. Bobby Womack – Where Do We Go From Here?
12. Thelma Houston – There’s No Running Away From Love
13. Carl Weathers – You Ought To Be With Me
14. Yvonne Gage – Tonight (I Wanna Love You)
15. Earth, Wind & Fire – Wanna Be With You
16. L.V. Johnson – We Belong Together
17. Bobby Rush – Talk To Your Daughter
Bonus track: Fifth Avenue – Miracles

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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 Soul 1980

May 21st, 2020 3 comments

By popular request, the Any Major Soul series will go into the 1980s. And by popular request I mean the two people who expressed their wish to this effect.

The Any Major Soul 1980/81 mix showed that soul was still in good health as the 1970s turned into the ’80s. Bass and synth-driven disco had already made its impact on soul, and the harmonising falsettos and strings of just five years earlier were out of fashion.

But by then disco was dying, living on by whatever name in black music, without the distractions of the cultural appropriation by white suits and Ethel Merman. It was a happy marriage between funky dance music and balladeering soul.

A good example of that is Positive Force, whose We Got The Funk (as featured on Any Major Funk Vol. 1) was a minor hit in many parts of the world — except in the US. Here they feature with a fine mid-tempo number. The eight-piece band recorded on Sugar Hill Records, and the party ambience on that label’s breakthrough hit, Rapper’s Delight, was created by them. After an unsuccessful second LP, the force turned negative, and the band was done.

The set opens with a track by a singer who deserves to be better known than she is. Sylvia St. James was a backing singer and member of Side Effect before going solo in 1979. Her two albums of sophisticated soul were very good but brought no commercial success. St. James returned to session work, backing acts like Stevie Wonder, George Duke, Barbra Streisand, Harry Connick, Jr. and Michael Bublé.

Her previous band, Side Effect, also feature here, with a song from the LP they released after St. James departed. The group was produced by the Crusaders’ Wayne Henderson, and at one point featured singer Niki Howard on vocals.

Two acts here have singers whose voices you may recognise (if you don’t already know that these singers fronted the bands). It is well-known that Jeffrey Osborne sang with L.T.D., who had 1970s hits with Back In Love Again and Love Ballad. The other group is Zingara, who featured James Ingram on the lead vocals.

The expert and the eagle-eyed student of ID3 tags will notice that the Zingara album from which Love’s Calling comes was released in 1981; the song itself was issued as a single in 1980. The same applies to the Debra Laws song featured here.

Debra Laws, who featured on Any Major Disco Vol. 4 with the wonderful On My Own, comes from a famous jazz/soul family: she is the sister of Eloise, Ronnie and Hubert Laws. Two albums, in 1981 and 1993, and a bunch of singles accounted for Laws’ career.

Ty Karim is an insider’s tip for quality 1960s soul especially her 1967 song Lightin’ Up, but commercial success eluded her; she never even released an LP. In the 1970s she briefly recorded as Towana & The Total Destruction. Karim’s 1980 collaboration with George Griffin, Keep On Doin’ Whatcha Doin’, which features here, enjoyed some popularity on the UK club circuit, but didn’t provide a hit either. Karim died in 1983.

One singer who featured on previous Any Major Soul mixes died this month, and is represented here on backing vocals on the Stevie Wonder track — quite by coincidence; this mix was put together well before the death of Betty Wright. She featured on Any Major Soul 1968, 1970-71, 1972 and 1974 as well as on Covered With Soul Vol. 5Any Major Disco Vol. 6

As always, CD-R length, home-souled covers, PW in comments. If you’re digging this mix, thank readers Wolfgang and JOI for asking me to carry Any Major Soul into the 1980s.

1. Sylvia St. James – Can’t Make You Mine
2. Randy Brown – We Ought To Be Doin’ It
3. L.T.D. – You Gave Me Love
4. Positive Force – Tell Me What You See
5. Crown Heights Affair – Tell Me You Love Me
6. The Manhattans – Shining Star
7. Zingara – Love’s Calling
8. George Benson – Midnight Love Affair
9. Stevie Wonder – All I Do
10. Earth, Wind & Fire – Sparkle
11. Debra Laws – Be Yourself
12. Chaka Khan – Papillon (AKA Hot Butterfly)
13. Edmund Sylvers – Beauty Of Nature
14. Sister Sledge – All The Man I Need
15. Dee Dee Sharp Gamble – If We’re Going To Stay Together
16. Odyssey – Never Had It At All
17. Larry Graham – One In A Million
18. Side Effect – The Thrill Is Gone
19. Ty Karim & George Griffin – Keep On Doin’ Whatcha Doin’

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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
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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.

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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