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More '80s Soul

November 14th, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

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

Atlantic Starr are often trivialised as the crooners who gave us the saccharine Always, which was a hit a year after the group’s other big ballad, the excellent adultery anthem Secret Lovers. So it’s easy to forget that they had some fantastic upbeat grooves, none more so than Silver Shadow. Even better than Silver Shadow is the other Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis production included here, Windjammer’s brilliantly urgent Tossin’ And Turnin’ (not to be confused with the Ivy League’s ’60s hit). Mtume’s much sampled Juicy Fruit sounds like it might be a Jam/Lewis production. It’s lyrics are deliciously sexy as the female singer fantasises about the action she and the addressee of the song will get down to. “Candy rain comin’ down, taste you in my mind and spread you all around.” Later she states her hope for being the recipient of cunnilingus. And that sort of smut was played on public radio! Won’t someone think of the children!!!

The cutest song here is Roberta Flack’s collaboration with the Japanese fusion maestro Sadao Watanabe. Flack’s vocals are gently percussive as she sweetly declares her love. Not at all innocent are the machinations of Eugene Wilde, a jheri-curled herbert with a pencil ‘tache in a shiny suit who promises his lady love an avalanche of orgasms (if the Dom Perignon doesn’t get her too drunk) because that’s how he roills as a loverman supreme. It should be awful, but it isn’t. How could it be when you can imagine Marvin Gaye singing it? Anyone who remembers the song will recall the woah-oh–oh-oh (2:34). Talking of Marvin, the collection kicks off with the closer of his final album, a song I rate even higher than Sexual Healing.

Marvin is just one of the veterans included here. You might not buy into jheri-curled Eugene’s braggadoccio, but you believe Bobby Womack’s pangs of conscience as he lusts for his best friend’s woman, and the way Curtis Mayfeld sings his song of love, he’d could have seduced even the Mother Superior among ice queens. It is said that countless babies have been conceived thanks to Luther Vandross’ silky croonings. I bet that Freddie Jackson can claim credit for quite a few 20-somethings as well. I had no space for the full 7-minute version of Rock Me Tonight, but the featured track, a duet with Melba Moore, is excellent in its own right. And probably more difficult to find.

Some songs, like Wilde’s, bring back memories of times, places, people. Sherrick is another one with a pencil ‘tache and too much wet hair gel. And a stupid name. But Just Call, with its great bassline, was one of my anthems of 1987. As was Amii Stewart’s Friends in 1985, a tune quite unlike the Euro disco songs for which she was briefly famous in the late ’70s. Sherrick might have been long forgotten, but does anyone remember Tashan, whose 1987 Chasin’ A Dream album was quite excellent (the ballad Ooh We Baby was a candidate for inclusion)? He never made it big, which is a great pity.

Two tracks here are based on jazz. Benson is joined by the very underrated Patti Austen to deliver a fine cover of King Pleasure’s Moody’s Mood For Love, which was based on a James Moody’s solo. Forget about Amy Winehouse’s uninspiring take, Benson and Austen nail it. Will Downing (labelmate of the excellent British soulstress Mica Paris, on whose 1988 debut he guested) based his A Love Supreme on John Coltrane’s classic jazz recording. Call me stupid, but I prefer Downing’s interpretation. Alas, Downing is now confined to a wheelchair due to a muscle disorder.

TRACKLISTING
1. Marvin Gaye – My Love Is Waiting (1982)
2. Sadao Watanabe & Roberta Flack – Here’s To Love (1984)
3. Phil Upchurch – When And If I Fall In Love (1983)
4. Sherrick – Just Call (1987)
5. Windjammer – Tossing And Turning (1984)
6. Eugene Wilde – Gotta Get You Home With Me Tonight (1984)
7. Freddie Jackson & Melba Moore – Just A Little Bit More (1986)
8. Amii Stewart – Friends (1985)
9. Mtume – Juicy Fruit (1983)
10. Mica Paris – My One Temptation (1988)
11. Will Downing – A Love Supreme (1988)
12. Tashan – Strung Out On You (1987)
13. Atlantic Starr – Silver Shadow (1985)
14. Jeffrey Osborne – You Should Be Mine (Woo Woo Song) (1986)
15. Womack & Womack – Teardrops (1988)
16. Curtis Mayfield – Do Be Down (1989)
17. Bobby Womack – I Wish He Didn’t Trust Me So Much (1985)
18. George Benson feat. Patti Austin – Moody’s Mood (1980)

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  1. a r n e l
    November 15th, 2008 at 22:06 | #1

    Now that is fine music, as I mentioned before.

  2. Davy H
    November 15th, 2008 at 23:07 | #2

    By a strange coincidence….I’ve rediscovered ‘My Love Is Waiting’recently after reading the David Ritz Marvin biog…it’s lovely, isnt it?

  3. Bill from Illinois
    November 17th, 2008 at 05:38 | #3

    Thanks for yet another very well-chosen mix. A lot of these were new to me: the Sherrick, the Phil Upchurch, the Womack & Womack — great stuff! One I did know already, and it's one of my all-time favorite underappreciated gems: Benson and Austin's Moody's Mood. A great, great choice, posting that one. Thanks for sharing all of these!

  4. My hmphs
    November 17th, 2008 at 18:07 | #4

    Thanks, AMD. Again, I know nothing on this list. This series continues to remind me of how incredibly white I am.

  5. Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop
    November 19th, 2008 at 18:32 | #5

    Reminds me of all that I hated in the 1980s, when this one-paced, largely melody-shy pop product seemed to dominate every radio station I flipped through and every night club I had the misfortune to frequent. Now it seems tolerable, rather than representing a cultural concrete wall barring everything the self-righteous pain that was me thought the world should have been listening to at the time. Your preference for this version of A Love Supreme is blasphemous, as of course you know. But I have it on a CD for the car, where it seems to belong, and where my 12-year-old likes it well enough. For all the effort, thanks.

  6. chas
    December 3rd, 2014 at 01:03 | #6

    Hi, great selection, great blog unfortunately all links for this one are dead. Any chance of a re-upload? Thanks in advance.

  7. halfhearteddude
    December 3rd, 2014 at 16:56 | #7

    These mixes are now dead, but you might enjoy the Any Major Soul series: http://www.halfhearteddude.com/category/80s-soul/

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