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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 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 Blue-Eyed Soul

June 27th, 2023 6 comments

 

 

(This post is recycled from February 2019)

The term commonly used for white people doing R&B, or music influenced by the genre, is “blue-eyed soul”. I’m not sure I like the term much, because it suggests that only black people are able to produce authentic soul music. This mix shows that this notion is nonsense.

This lot of songs draws from, the period 1964-73, the prime of soul music. For the challenge of it, I’ve even left out some obvious choices, such as the Righteous Brothers, The Four Seasons or Motown’s Chris Clark. And not all of the acts here were strictly or always soul, but they all produced records that nonetheless merit inclusion in the genre. Including the effort by a future country superstar.

 

Linda Lyndell, targetted by racist assholes for singing soul music.

One of the artists here had her career destroyed by the Ku Klax Klan. Linda Lyndell was beginning to enjoy some success on Stax records with the original version of the Salt N Pepa hit What A Man when death threats by the KKK, which objected to a white woman singing black music on a black label, persuaded her to go into retirement. She made a comeback much later, and still performs occasionally.

Another white singer, from a country background, once recorded soul music before selling records by the shedload to audiences which included KKK types. Charlie Rich started his career in the late 1950s as a rock & roll singer. In the mid-1960s he branched out into soul, recording with Willie Mitchell at Hi Records, including the original recording of the Sam & Dave classic When Something Is Wrong With My Baby (which went unreleased until 1988). The Silver Fox escaped commercial success as a soul singer and the wrath of racists, and went on to become the self-appointed guardian of pure country.

Another exponent of blue-eyed soul who went country was Roy Head, whose Treat Her Right is something of a blue-eyed soul anthem, having been kept off the US #1 by The Beatles’ Yesterday.

On December 9, 1967, Mitch Ryder played with Otis Redding on a Cleveland TV station (the song was Knock On Wood.) The following day, Otis Redding died in a plane crash. Had Otis lived, he might well have made a star of a white teenage kid with a real soul voice whom he had discovered in Pittsburgh, Johnny Daye. In the event, Daye released just a few singles on Stax before retiring from music in 1968. The featured song is the flip side of his best-known song, What’ll I Do for Satisfaction (which Janet Jackson covered in 1993 as What’ll I Do).

 

Bob Kuban & The In-Men, with the ill-fated lead singer Walter Scott in front.

Bob Kuban & The In-Men occupy a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s one-hit wonder exhibit for their 1966 #12 hit The Cheater, which features here. The eponymous Bob Kuban was the bandleader and drummer. The singer on The Cheater was Walter Scott. In a cruel twist of irony, Scott was murdered with premeditation in 1983 by his wife’s lover, who had also killed his own wife. There’s another murder coming up later.

We know Robert John better for his 1979 hit Sad Eyes (which featured on Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 1). He had enjoyed his first chart action as a 12-year-old in 1958 under his birth-name, Bobby Pedrick Jr. His claim to blue-eyed soulness dates to his short-lived time at A&M records, which saw the release of only two singles.

Jimmy Beaumont was the lead singer of the doo wop band The Skyliners – who had hits with their superb Since I Don’t Have You and Pennies Of Heaven – before he tried his hand as a soul singer. Commercial success eluded him, but soul aficionados know to appreciate his vocal stylings. Later life Beaumont returned to The Skyliners, whom he fronted until his death in 2017.

We have a few UK artists doing their soulful thing; Dusty Springfield‘s meddling in the genre is well-known, especially her Dusty In Memphis album, whence the featured track comes. Kiki Dee is less celebrated for her soul exploits (and internationally most famous for her 1976 duet with Elton John, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart). Early in her career, Kiki Dee was styled as a Spectoresque girl singer. She also did backing vocals for Dusty Springfield. She was doing well enough as a soul singer to become the first white British artist to be signed by Motown in 1970. Other UK acts featured here are the Spencer Davis Group and Junior Campbell, whom I introduced in the Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 9 post.

 

South African soul singer Una Valli, pictured in 1964.

Geographically most remote is South Africa’s Una Valli, who as a white woman singing black music probably did not earn the love of the apartheid regime. Valli performed almost exclusively cover versions of soul and pop songs. In any other world, she might have become a stone-cold soul legend (she previously featured on Covered With Soul Vol. 6 and Vol. 11 and Covered With Soul: Beatles Edition). Stop Thief is one of her more obscure covers, a Carla Thomas b-side written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter. Half of Valli’s 1968 album Soul Meeting was recorded with the backing of a pop group called The Peanut Butter Conspiracy; the other half (including Stop Thief) with a soul-funk band called The Flames, whose Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin later joined the Beach Boys on three albums.

Two years after the featured song by Bill Deal and the Rhondels was released, saxophonist Freddy Owens joined the group. In 1979 the band was playing in Richmond, Virginia, when Owens was shot dead in the pursuit of a man who had raped his wife. Bill Deal never really got over that and four years later quit the music industry. He died in 2003.

Several of the songs featured here were favourites on England’s Northern Soul scene, in which DJs would compete to find the most obscure 1960s soul records to be played in specialist clubs which were located mostly in northern England. The most famous venue in this sub-culture, which had its own dress codes and dancing styles, was the Wigan Casino. When the venue closed in 1981, Dean Parrish‘s I’m On My Way was the last record to be played there. Six years earlier, the popularity of the 1967 tune on the Northern Soul scene had led to its re-release, selling a million copies in the UK – and Parrish earned no money from it.

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

1. The O’Kaysions – The Soul Clap (1968)
2. Soul Survivors – Expressway To Your Heart (1967)
3. The Young Rascals – A Girl Like You (1967)
4. Robert John – Raindrops, Love And Sunshine (1970)
5. Bill Deal and the Rhondels – What Kind Of Fool Do You Think I Am (1969)
6. Charlie Rich – Don’t Tear Me Down (1966)
7. Johnny Daye – I Need Somebody (1968)
8. Linda Lyndell – What A Man (1969)
9. Roy Head – Treat Her Right (1965)
10. Sunday Funnies – Whatcha Gonna Do (When The Dance Is Over) (1967)
11. Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels – Sock It To Me Baby (1967)
12. Bob Kuban & The In-Men – The Cheater (1966)
13. Jimmy Beaumont – I Never Loved Her Anyway (1966)
14. Flaming Ember – The Empty Crowded Room (1971)
15. The Box Tops – Turn On A Dream (1967)
16. Kiki Dee – On A Magic Carpet Ride (1968)
17. Laura Nyro – Stoned Soul Picnic (1968)
18. Dusty Springfield – Just A Little Lovin’ (1969)
19. The Illusion – Falling In Love (1969)
20. Una Valli and The Flames – Stop Thief (1968)
21. The Monzas – Instant Love (1964)
22. Len Barry – 1-2-3 (1965)
23. The Grass Roots – Midnight Confessions (1967)
24. Junior Campbell – Sweet Illusion (1973)
25. Dean Parrish – I’m On My Way (1967)
26. The Spencer Davis Group – I’m A Man (1967)
27. Chi Coltrane – Thunder And Lightning (1971)
28. Tommy James & The Shondells – Crystal Blue Persuasion (1969)

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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 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 Southern Soul

November 19th, 2020 8 comments

 

After last week’s (pleasingly popular) freebirding mix of Southern Rock, it seems right to follow that up with a dose of soul music. I had two concepts in mind: keeping it geographically consistent with a set of Southern Soul, or congratulating Philadelphia for pushing President-elect Joe Biden over the needed 270 electorate votes. Well, there will be a Philly soul mix before too long, but here we are keeping it south.

Southern Soul is not an easy thing to define, less so because migration north saw similar sounds being created in places like Chicago. There isn’t really one Southern soul sound, though when you hear it, you usually can place it. When you hear horns, especially those striking jubilant tones followed soon by mournful minor notes (or vice versa) by the Memphis Horns, you might have a Southern Soul record. If it features a funky bass even on ballads, you might have a Southern Soul record. If the singer sounds like he or she is shouting, even when they aren’t, you might have a Southern Soul record. And so on…

Or use King Curtis’ recipe for Memphis Soul Stew: half a teacup of bass, a pound of fatback drums, four tablespoons of boiling Memphis guitars, just a little pinch of organ, and half a pint of horn…

For the purposes of this mix, all artists were born in the south, and their songs were recorded in the south, for labels such as Stax, Hi, Goldwax, Murco or Atlantic. I didn’t investigate whether every song here satisfies these criteria (Mitty Collier, for example recorded on Chess in Chicago, but came from the south); if they don’t, return to the previous paragraph.

Some obvious acts are missing — notably Aretha Franklin and Sam & Dave. But Aretha’s sister Erma is represented. And two singers here are cousins: Percy Sledge and Jimmy Hughes.

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

1. The Soul Children – Super Soul (1969)
2. Wilson Pickett – Don’t Fight It (1965)
3. Brenton Wood – Baby You Got It (1967)
4. Clarence Carter – Getting The Bills (But No Merchandise) (1970)
5. Spencer Wiggins – The Power Of A Woman (1967)
6. Bettye Swann – Tell It Like It Is (1968)
7. James Carr – A Lucky Loser (1967)
8. Syl Johnson – That’s Just My Luck (1975)
9. Phillip Mitchell – Turning Over The Ground (1973)
10. Jackie Moore – Precious Precious (1970)
11. Al Green – What a Wonderful Thing Love Is (1972)
12. Erma Coffee – You Made Me What I Am (1973)
13. Eddy ‘G’ Giles – Happy Man (1967)
14. Otis Redding – You Don’t Miss Your Water (1965)
15. Percy Sledge – The Dark End of the Street (1967)
16. Carla Thomas – A Woman’s Love (1964)
17. Don Covay – Everything Gonna Be Everything (1966)
18. Johnnie Taylor – Who’s Making Love (1968)
19. Bobby Rush – Bowlegged Woman, Knock-Kneed Man (1972)
20. Eddie Floyd – Things Get Better (1966)
21. Otis Clay – Brand New Thing (1971)
22. Marion Ester – Not Guilty (1969)
23. O.V. Wright – You’re Gonna Make Me Cry (1965)
24. Mitty Collier – It Looks Like Rain (1965)
25. Reuben Bell & The Casanovas – It’s Not That Easy (1968)
26. Erma Franklin – You’ve Been Cancelled (1969)
27. Jimmy Hughes – Neighbour Neighbour (1964)
28. King Curtis – Memphis Soul Stew (1967)

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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 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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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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