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Any Major Soul 1978

November 8th, 2018 Leave a comment Go to 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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  1. halfhearteddude
    November 8th, 2018 at 07:30 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Little Bill
    November 14th, 2018 at 06:56 | #2

    Thanks for this series amazing!

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