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Any Major Soul 1973 – Vol. 1

February 26th, 2015 9 comments

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Is 1972 the greatest year in soul music, or is it 1973? We have had two mixes covering 1972 (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2), and now we have the first volume of 1973. Either way, it was the golden age in which utter gems like Leroy Hutson’s Love Oh Love went by quite unnoticed. To have these two years concentrated in one mix, check out Any Major Soul 1972/73, perhaps one of the greatest soul mixes ever compiled — and the credit for that goes not in any way to the compiler, but to the great people who made that music.

And here’s the mindblowing thing: when you hear the fine music on this mix, remember that just a few of them were hits; most of them were not, many were even just album tracks. Hutson’s Love Oh Love was released as a single: it reached #75 on the “Black Charts”.

One of the album tracks was the Isley Brothers’ If You Were There from the outstanding 3+3 LP. Eleven years later it was covered by Wham!, on their Make It Big album, introducing this fine song to a teenage audience.

On the Undisputed Truth’s Law Of The Land album Girl You’re Alright (spelled on the label incorrectly as “your”, anticipating Facebook grammar by almost four decades) is Track 3. It’s a fine song, but the track of greater interest is the one that precedes it: the original version of Papa Was A Rolling Stone. One day I’ll make a mix of original recordings of songs that became big Motown for others, and the Undisputed Truth will feature with that.

Margie Joseph’s Touch Your Woman might also feature in the “Covered With Soul” series — it was a hit the previous year for Dolly Parton. Dolly sang it in a way that suggests that a nice embrace will get her over the present spat (apart from one knowing inflection in the delivery of the title), but there is no doubt what Margie is talking: passionate make-up sex.

Letta Mbulu’s 1973 Naturally LP was an eclectic affair, with the sounds of her native South Africa, Afro-soul and straight soul. The featured track was written by the late, lamented Joe Sample.

Finally, I assure you that the sequencing of Darondo’s Didn’t I followed by Sylvia Robinson’s song of the same title is purely coincidental. They just went well together.


1. The Three Degrees – Year Of Decision
2. Freda Payne – Right Back Where I Started From
3. Bobby Womack – Lookin’ For A Love
4. Margie Joseph – Touch Your Woman
5. Denise LaSalle – There Ain’t Enough Hate Around (To Make Me Turn Around)
6. Irma Thomas – She’ll Never Be Your Wife
7. Four Tops – It Won’t Be The First Time
8. Leroy Hutson – Love, Oh Love
9. Baby Washington & Don Gardner – Lay A Little Lovin’ On Me
10. The Isley Brothers – If You Were There
11. John Edwards – Spread The News
12. The Spinners – One Of A Kind (Love Affair)
13. Bloodstone – Outside Woman
14. Al Green – Have You Been Making Out O.K.
15. Darondo – Didn’t I
16. Sylvia – Didn’t I
17. Terry Callier – Just As Long As We’re In Love
18. Inez Foxx – You’re Saving Me For A Rainy Day
19. Pat Lundy – He’s The Father Of My Children
20. Letta Mbulu – Now We May Begin
21. The Undisputed Truth – Girl You’re Alright
22. Sly & the Family Stone – Skin I’m In
23. Lyn Collins – Take Me Just As I Am

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Any Major Soul 1972 – Vol. 2

August 28th, 2014 9 comments

Any Major Soul 1972 - Vol.2

The second volume of Any Major Soul 1972 features a number of well-known acts, but few of them doing their better-known songs. This compilation demonstrates the sheer quality from which labels could choose singles.

Aretha Franklin, for example, covers Dusty Springfield’s “A Brand New Me” (though I prefer the original). A composition by Philly soul giants Thom Bell, Jerry Butler and Kenneth Gamble, Aretha departs from the early Philly soul to give it a southern soul vibe which turns into an extended jazzy outro.

One famous name missing on both volumes is Stevie Wonder, who released two soul classics in 1972, Music Of My Mind and Talking Book. Like the two Donny Hathaway classics also issued that year, these should be in every good record collection. Stevie is represented here by his ex-wife Syreeta, whose eponymous album he produced and wrote seven out of nine songs for, including the featured “Keep Him Like He Is”.

Few soul songs have give rise to a documentary. Billy Paul’s “Am I Black Enough For You” provided the context for a 2009 documentary by Swedish director Göran Hugo Olsson, which examines the career of Billy Paul, Philly soul, money in the record business and black politics. The song was Paul’s follow-up single to the crossover mega-hit “Me And Mrs Jones”. Needless to say that it did not provide another crossover hit. An expression of Paul’s political activism, its choice as a single did much to undermine the career of Billy Paul, even as it appeared at the same time of soul singers making statements of African-American assertiveness — it was the year, after all, in which Aretha Franklin, universally admired Queen of Soul, titled her LP Young, Gifted and Black.

Between The Blossoms and The Glass House there was some controversy. The latter were on Holland-Dozier-Holland’s Invictus Records; the former were ready to sign for the label. The Blossoms — Darlene Love, Fanita James and Jean King — had been one of the great backing bands of the 1960s. Some great Phil Spector productions, such as The Crystal’s “He’s A Rebel”, were recorded by the trio but were credited to others.  By 1972 they were recording with the Dozier and the Holland brothers.

The trouble came when they apparently released The Blossoms’ recording of a great gospel-soul song titled “Touch Me Jesus” (which featured on Saved! Vol. 2) under the Glass House moniker, even though Glass House singer Scherrie Payne (Freda’s sister) sounded nothing like the very recognisable Darlene Love. The Blossoms didn’t sign with Invictus, and — probably still pissed off at the betrayals of Spector — sued H-D-H instead. Don’t let that put you off The Glass House, though — they were excellent.

Jazz fans might be surprised to encounter Leon Thomas here, and, indeed, Thomas was a jazz singer, even singing with Count Basie’s band in the 1960s. But he also dabbled in soul, as he did on 1972’s Blues And The Soulful Truth, which has some soul songs, a few funk numbers, a bit of blues, and some jazz, including a ten-minute avant-garde piece titled “Gypsy Queen”.

Followers of 1990s soul will be interested to learn that the lead singer of The Montclairs was Phil Perry, who in 1991 had a hit with a cover of Aretha’s “Call Me”. Perry was scheduled to play a set of lunchtime jazz at the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001. Luckily he had not yet arrived when the towers came down, but for years after he was in an artistic depression. With The Montclairs he recorded only one album, 1972’s Dreaming Out Of Season.

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

1. The Temptations – What It Is
2. Billy Paul – Am I Black Enough For You?
3. Ann Peebles – How Strong Is A Woman
4. Earth, Wind & Fire – They Don’t See
5. The Dramatics – Thank You For Your Love
6. The Glass House – V.I.P.
7. The Montclairs – Dreaming’s Out Of Season
8. Al Green – What Is This Feeling
9. Aretha Franklin – A Brand New Me
10. Bobby Womack – Woman’s Gotta Have It
11. Bill Withers – Lonely Town, Lonely Street
12. Syreeta – Keep Him Like He Is
13. Leon Thomas – Love Each Other
14. Grady Tate – I Just Wanna Be There
15. Eddie Kendricks – Someday We’ll Have A Better World
16. The Soul Children – Hearsay
17. The Bar Kays – Be Yourself
18. Bobby Patterson – I Get My Groove From You
19. Ollie Nightengale – Here I Am Again
20. The Blossoms – Cherish What Is Dear To You
21. The Supremes – Your Wonderful Sweet Sweet Love
22. Ruby Andrews – You Made A Believer Out Of Me

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Any Major Soul 1972 – Vol. 1

July 17th, 2014 7 comments

Any Major Soul 1972 - Vol.1

Was 1972 the greatest year in soul music? I don’t know, but I have two full mixes for the year with enough good stuff to easily fill a third without having to duplicate an artist or compromise quality (but let’s not get stuck on one year). So here goes the first gorgeous compilation.

I might have included almost any song from Lyn CollinsThink (About It) album, produced by James Brown, with the JBs backing. In memory of DJ EZ Rock, who died in April, I went with the title track, from which he and Rob Base — and loads of others — sampled for their big 1988 hit, “It Takes Two”, borrowing the line of their title and, more importantly the “Yeah! Woo!” (voices by Bobby Byrd and James Brown).

Possibly the best song ever about alcohol abuse — and by that I mean songs that note the destructive sides of it, not its celebration — is “So Many Ways To Die” by Barbara Jean English. The song, featured on Any Major Soul 1972/73, is heartbreaking. The track featured here sounds a lot more upbeat, though its subject matter is not very upbeat either. English sang with a number of vocal groups, most notably the Clickettes. Sadly she released only two solo albums in the 1970s, plus another in 1989.

Ernie Hines also did not have much mainstream success in soul music, which is a shame, because his one major album, Electrified, was quite excellent. From the album, issued by Stax-subsidiary We Produce, the track “Our Generation” was covered by John Legend & The Roots in 2010. To me the highlight is the gospel groove “A Better World (For Everyone)”. Hines is still performing and recording as a gospel singer.

Also coming from a gospel background was… well, virtually everybody in this series. One of them was the relatively obscure but rather wonderful Debbie Taylor, who released eight singles and one album between 1967 and 1975. The featured track comes from the album, Comin’ Down On You. After 1975 she disappeared, apparently after refusing to sign a record deal which would have meant severing ties with her long-time producer and arranger. Taylor’s name was actually a pseudonym:  born Maydie Myles, she changed it because her religious parents disapproved of secular music. After retiring the Taylor persona she sang on several dance tracks. In 2011 she released a CD, as Maydie Myles, and at the same time revealed that she was Debbie Taylor, getting many soul fans very excited.

EDIT: It seems that the Millie Jackson track in the mix is corrupted. I have upped it separately. Just overwrite it in the folder with THIS FILE.

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

1. The Whispers – Here Comes Tomorrow
2. Michael Jackson – I Wanna Be Where You Are
3. The O’Jays – This Air I Breathe
4. Lyn Collins – Think (About It)
5. Laura Lee – Wedlock Is A Padlock
6. Ernie Hines – A Better World (For Everyone)
7. Billy Preston – Will It Go Round in Circles
8. Labelle – Sunday’s News
9. Patti & The Lovelites – Is That Loving In Your Heart
10. Betty Wright – Don’t Let It End This Way
11. Debbie Taylor – (I Just Can’t Believe I’m) Touching You
12. The Chi-Lites – Living In The Footsteps Of Another Man
13. The Delfonics – Walk Right Up To The Sun
14. Cornelius Brothers And Sister Rose – Too Late To Turn Back Now
15. Ronnie McNeir – I’m So Thankful
16. Millie Jackson – Ask Me What You Want
17. Barbara Jean English – I’m Living A Lie
18. The Ovations – One In A Million
19. Brighter Side Of Darkness – Oh Baby
20. Kimberley Briggs – Give A Man An Inch
21. The Staple Singers – We The People
22. Curtis Mayfield – No Thing On Me
23. Luther Ingram – Oh Baby, You Can Depend On Me
24. Timmy Thomas – Rainbow Power

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Any Major Soul 1971

February 20th, 2014 9 comments

Any Major Soul 1971

It has been a while since we last had a Any Major Soul post — back in October — so let’s remedy that by continuing our year-by-year journey through soul music with the year 1971.

The thing kicks off with Chris Hills, a multi-instrumentalist and arranger whom we previously encountered on The Ghetto Vol. 1 (one of my all-time favourite mixes on this blog) with the opening track of his excellent  Everything Is Everything: Comin’ Out Of The Ghetto album, which was co-produced by jazz flautist Herbie Mann. The LP might have suggested the artist’s emergence from the projects, but more likely Hills had just visited, for he was white. The vocals on “Talkin’ About Soul”, which issues a roll-call of’60s soul legends and sounds like it, are by Chico Walters.

Another white act on this mix are the Flaming Ember, whose singer-drummer Jerry Plunk once left a comment here to thank me for posting the group’s music, on the Any Major Soul 1970-71 mix four years ago.

The Flaming Ember are, of course, best known for their great hit “Westbound #9”. Likewise, The Presidents are best remembered for their 1970 hit “5-10-15-20 (25-30 Years of Love)”. The featured song here, “Sweet Magic”, is one of those happiness-inducing soul songs that were such a hallmark of early ’70s soul. The Presidents, as the name hints at, came from Washington D.C., and were produced by fellow Washingtonian Van McCoy.

The early 1970s provided the good years for the doomed Holland-Dozier-Holland  labels, Invictus and Hot Wax, which the songwriting trio founded after leaving Motown. Among H-D-H artists featured here are the Flaming Ember, The Honey Cone, The 8th Day and Glass House (there was no space for Freda Payne, Chairmen of the Board or Parliament).

The 8th Day in 1971 was the group 100 Proof (Aged in Soul) by another name. After the pseudonymous had minor hits with “She’s Not Just Another Woman” and the song featured here, “You’ve Got To Crawl (Before You Can Walk)”, H-D-H put together a proper 8th Day group, but that incarnation enjoyed only modest success.

Lolleatta Holloway is probably best known for her 1980 disco hit “Love Sensation”, which was sampled so liberally for Black Box’s 1989 hit “Ride On Time”, including Holloway’s vocals (albeit uncredited). But before all that, Holloway was a superb soul singer. Alas, she died in 2011.

The Detroit trio Love Peace & Happiness were short-lived, releasing only two LPs, but the three members — former Marvelettes member Ann Bogan (she replaced Gladys Horton in 1968) and Leslie and Melvin Wilson — found greater success after they were absorbed into the reconstituted New Birth, who went on to have a string of hits throughout the 1970s.

The mix ends with a track by Frankie Beverley’s Raw Soul, a forerunner of the mighty Maze. At this point Frankie was still in Philadelphia, were he had previously led, with little success, a group called The Butlers (they featured on Any Major Soul 1960-63). In 1971 Beverley made some personnel changes to Raw Soul, moved to San Francisco and was discovered there by Marvin Gaye. The band changed its name, at Gaye’s suggestion, to Maze in 1976.

As always: CD-R length, covers, PW in comments

1. Chris Hills – Talkin’ Bout Soul
2. Tommy Tate – I Remember
3. The Presidents – Sweet Magic
4. The Whatnauts – I Dig Your Act
5. William Bell – I Can’t Make It (All By Myself)
6. Honey Cone – Blessed Be Our Love
7. The Flirtations – Little Darling (I Need You)
8. The 8th Day – You’ve Got To Crawl (Before You Can Walk)
9. Loleatta Holloway – Our Love
10. Margie Joseph – I’ll Always Love You
11. Donnie Elbert – Can’t Get Over Losing You
12. Bobby Byrd – It’s I Who Love You (Not Him Anymore)
13. Labelle – Time And Love
14. Madeline Bell – Sweet Lovin’
15. The New Rotary Connection – Hey, Love
16. Shuggie Otis – Sweet Thang
17. S.O.U.L. – Memphis Underground
18. Love Peace & Happiness – Strip Me Naked
19. The Dells – Freedom Means
20. Melba Moore – Look What You’re Doing To The Man
21. Vessie Simmons – Baby Me
22. The Glass House – I Surrendered
23. Flaming Ember – The Empty Crowded Room
24. Frankie Beverly’s Raw Soul – Color Blind

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Any Major Soul 1970

October 17th, 2013 6 comments

Any Major Soul 1970

And so we tumble into the 1970s, with a mix of soul songs that came out in 1970. Still a year before Marvin Gaye issued his meditation on social justice and the ecology, the consciousness is very much evident here, albeit in sometimes rather more upbeat terms. So we have The Chi-Lites and The Main Ingredient calling for brotherly love as the solution. Curtis Mayfield can be relied on to be more incisive in his observations.

And almost four decades before Barack Obama coined the campaign slogan,  Lee Dorsey pronounced, “Yes We Can”. Dorsey could have been Obama’s scriptwriter; read this verse in POTUS’ oratory voice: “Make this land a better land than the world in which we live, and help each man be a better man with the kindness that we give.”

Dusty Springfield’s inclusion in a soul mix might raise some eyebrows. I’ve said so before, and I’ll do it again: when Dusty sang soul, she was a soul singer. And her version of Jerry Butler’s “Brand New Me” provides ample proof of that.

The links for the previous season of ’70s soul songs, and those from the 1980s, are all up again.
1. The Chi-Lites – Love Uprising
2. Willie Henderson and the Soul Explosions – Can I Change My Mind
3. Marvin Gaye – Gonna Give Her All The Love I’ve Got
4. Jerry Butler – I Could Write A Book
5. The Main Ingredient – Brotherly Love
6. The Moments – Lovely Way She Loves
7. 100 Proof Aged In Soul – I’ve Come To Save You
8. Billy Paul – Ebony Woman
9. Nancy Wilson – Joe
10. Vivian Reed – Yours Until Tomorrow
11. Syl Johnson – Black Balloons
12. Willie Hutch – Trying To Understand A Woman
13. Gene Chandler – Simply Call It Love
14. Curtis Mayfield – The Other Side Of Town
15. Lee Dorsey – Yes We Can (Part I)
16. Eugene McDaniels – Welfare City
17. Freda Payne – Unhooked Generation
18. Ronnie Dyson – I Don’t Want To Cry
19. The Chairmen Of The Board – Since The Days Of Pigtails & Fairytales
20. Hearts Of Stone – It’s A Lonesome Road
21. Marie ‘Queenie’ Lyons – Your Thing Ain’t No Good Without My Thing
22. Dorothy Morrison – Rain
23. David Porter – One Part Two Parts
24. Clarence Carter – Getting The Bills (But No Merchandise)
25. Jean Knight – Pick Up The Pieces
26. Dusty Springfield – A Brand New Me
27. The Lovelites – My Conscience
28. Maxine Weldon – Grits Ain’t Groceries (All Around The World)

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(PW same as always; if you need it, look here)

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The Ghetto Vol. 2

May 16th, 2013 6 comments

Like the first mix of The Ghetto, the second mix has some serious soul, with S.O.U.L. paying tribute to the sounds of the ghetto, including by sampling the track that follows theirs. And after Donny Hathaway‘s anthem comes Ruth McFadden‘s breathtaking Ghetto Woman, produced by Gamble & Huff of Philadelphia soul fame and released on the obscure Huff Puff label.

Tony Clarke, featured here with 1967’s Ghetto Man, had a solitary hit with The Entertainer. He was more successful as a songwriter; among his credits were the Etta James hits Pushover and Two Sides To Every Story. Clarke died in 1971 at the age of 31, killed by his estranged wife in apparent self-defence.

The most bizarre track here is Ghetto Kung Fu by Mody-Vation, a cash-in on the martial arts craze of the mid-1970s, apparently recorded by a bunch Germans led by a long-haired guy called Thomas Glanz for the Hansa label, home to many Euro-disco artists. It’s catchy stuff.

There were several versions of Woman Of The Ghetto on my shortlist; I went for Marlena Shaw‘s original, because Marlena Shaw tends to trump everyone. But if there is a third mix, one of the contenders might make the cut.

The first mix was firmly set in the 1970s; this one strays into the 1980s. Sylvia St. James was a member of the  Mike Curb Congregation and then the singer of disco outfit Side Effect before she went solo, without great success.

The eagle-eyed reader will notice that one song here lacks the word “ghetto” in the title. But Isaac Hayes‘ Soulsville, from the Shaft sountrack, is very much set in the ghetto.

The ghetto is a common and obvious theme of social consciousness songs, but a few songs here note that the people of the ghetto also have normal lives which include romance and sex — and who better to deal with these subjects than Marvin Sease and Rick James?

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a CD-R, and includes front and back covers. Do I still need to post the PW in the comments? It’s always the same.

TRACKLISTING
1. S.O.U.L. – Down In The Ghetto (1971)
2. Donny Hathaway – The Ghetto (1970)
3. Ruth McFadden – Ghetto Woman (Parts 1 & 2) (1972)
4. Tony Clarke – Ghetto Man (1967)
5. Carlos Malcolm – Busting Out Of The Ghetto (1970)
6. The Mody-Vation – Ghetto Kung Fu (Part 1) (1974)
7. Gil Scott-Heron – Sex Education Ghetto Style (1972)
8. Marlena Shaw – Woman Of The Ghetto (1969)
9. Sylvia St. James – Ghetto Lament (1980)
10. Stevie Wonder – Village Ghetto Land (1976)
11. Isaac Hayes – Soulsville (1971)
12. Phillip Bailey – Children Of The Ghetto (1985)
13. Marvin Sease – Ghetto Man (1986)
14. Rick James – Ghetto Life (1982)
15. Luther Ingram – Ghetto Train (1972)
16. Boris Gardiner – Rough & Tough In The Ghetto (1973)
17. Jackie Mittoo – Ghetto Organ (1972)
18. B.B. King – Ghetto Woman (1971)

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The Ghetto Vol. 1
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The Ghetto Vol. 1

October 18th, 2012 5 comments

The word ghetto comes from the Venetian island of Ghèto, where Jews were forced to live (Shakespeare’s Shylock from The Merchant of Venice lived there). In fact, it is a Jewish quarter even today, though the residents are no longer compelled to live there.

Of course, we now understand that term to refer to underdeveloped and overcrowded suburbs populated mainly by African Americans. In the early 1970s, the ghetto inspired a cinematic genre, the so-called blaxploitation movies, and several songs, most of which reside in the arenas of funk, jazz-funk or up-beat soul. Often the lyrics had a social message, sometimes the ghetto served as a metaphor.

The most famous artist here probably is Sammy Davis Jr, singing the most famous song with the word “ghetto” in the title: Elvis’ In The Ghetto. I can’t make out whether Sammy, a product of the ghetto and yet an admirer of Richard Nixon, is ripping the piss or whether he is being hip. Dig!

Perhaps the second most famous song with the word “ghetto” in the title is War’s “The World Is A Ghetto”. It is featured here in a quite brilliant jazz version by the great Ahmad Jamal.

Boris Gardiner might be best remembered for his insipid 1986 reggae ballad I Want To Wake Up With You, but he was actually a serious purveyor of reggae and funk in his day. On his 1973 soundtrack to a forgotten flick titled Every Nigger Is A Star, he drew from both genres, and included three songs with the word “ghetto” in the title. His instrumental number here is followed by another track from a blaxploitation soundtrack.

The Ghetto Brothers could have been the subject of such movies. In the ’70s they were a highly politicised Puerto Rican gang in the South Bronx with a progressive attitude to women that also recorded music. In the 1990s they merged with another gang to form Los Solidos.

The Philadelphia All-Stars were the stars of the Gamble & Huff’s PIR label: Lou Rawls. Billy Paul, Archie Bell, Teddy Pendergrass, The O’Jays, and Dee Dee Sharp Gamble.

The most unexpected track here must be Paul Ngozi’s In The Ghetto (no relation to the famous hit song). Paul Ngozi – real name Paul Dobson Nyirongo  – was a Zambian psychedelic funk-rock (or Zamrock) musician whose lyrics were always socially aware. He died in 1989 at the age of 40. Earlier this year he was posthumously awarded the inaugural Zambia Music Pioneer prize.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-baked cover. Password in the Comments section.

1. Chris Hills – Comin’ Outta The Ghetto (1971)
2. Bobby Patterson – This Whole Funky World Is A Ghetto (1972)
3. The Boris Gardiner Happening – Ghetto Funk (1973)
4. Curtis Mayfield – Ghetto Child (1972)
5. Leroy Hutson – The Ghetto ’74 (1974)
6. Jon Lucien – The Ghetto Song (1974)
7. The Sons Of Truth – The Ghetto (1972)
8. Al Wilson – Queen Of The Ghetto (1973)
9. The Spinners – Ghetto Child (1973)
10. Donny Hathaway – Little Ghetto Boy (1972)
11. Willie Hutch – Life’s No Fun Living In The Ghetto (1974)
12. Gil Scott-Heron – The Get Out Of The Ghetto Blues (1972)
13. Paul Ngozi – In The Ghetto (1976)
14. Sammy Davis Jr – In The Ghetto (1970)
15. Ahmad Jamal – The World Is A Ghetto (1973)
16. Graham Central Station – Ghetto (1973)
17. Ghetto Brothers – Ghetto Brothers Power (1971)
18. Sons Of Slum – 16 Miles Of Plastic Ghetto (c.1971)
19. The Philadelphia All-Stars – Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto (1977)

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TV Themes: Soul Train

February 1st, 2012 4 comments

I posted this piece on November 24 last year. I re-post it now as a tribute to Don Cornelius, who died, apparently by his own hand, at the age of 75 today, February 1. Don Cornelius was the father of my favourite sub-genre of music, early 1970s soul. With this, I salute him.

 

 

If you say Soul Train, Americans of a certain generation and fans of soul and funk anywhere will think of funky dancers with big ’fros and hot threads, Don Cornelius’ flamboyantly fashionable suits and baritone voice, the animated train, hair care products ads, scrambleboards, awkward audience questions, cool catchphrases and great music. You could bet your last dollar, it was gonna be a stone gas, honey.

Soul Train’s cultural impact was tremendous. The first nationally syndicated black music show, it was owned by a black man (presenter Cornelius), staffed mostly by black people, sponsored by a black company selling black hair products, and featured black artists who did not often feature on TV. Socially, Soul Train was TV’s raised fist of black consciousness. Culturally, Soul Train helped popularise dances, fashion and hair.

 

Still from the famous Afro Sheen commercial with civil war era activist Frederick Douglass administering a lesson in 'fro-dom.

 

The afro, it is said, became so potent a symbol of black identity – the hirsute extension of the Rev Jesse Jackson’s “I Am Somebody” mantra – in large part thanks to Soul Train (and its sponsors, the Johnson Company with its Black Sheen products). The dances were widely copied, by the kids at home and by the stars. Michael Jackson copied the Moonwalk from Jeffrey Daniels, and breakdancing took its cue from Bodypopping, Locking, The Robot and other moves pioneered on Soul Train. And when rap broke in New York, Soul Train helped break it nationally – much as Cornelius resented hip hop. Soul Train even produced its own superstar musical act: Shalamar comprised Soul Train dancers Jeffrey Daniel, Jody Watley and, after a couple of personnel changes, Howard Hewett (boyfriend of Cornelius’ secretary), and in the US were signed to Cornelius’ Soul Train Records label.

And, of course, that’s what Soul Train was about most of all: spreading black music, from the smooth harmonies of The Delfonics to the gangsta rap of Snoop Dogg. This did not mean that the show practiced apartheid. Gino Vanelli was the first white artist to appear on the show (Cornelius told the Italo-Canadian jazz-funkster that he was “half-black”; the first white act to feature was Dennis Coffey, whose funk anthem Scorpio provided the music for a Soul Train Gang dance number; the first mixed act to appear on the show was Tower of Power). Soon after, acts such as Elton John, David Bowie, Average White Band, Frankie Valli and Michael McDonald appeared on the show (in later years, such unsoul acts as Duran Duran, Sting, A-ha  and Berlin, as well as the dreaded Michael F Bolton, took a ride on the Soul Train).

 

The Soul Train Gang in action, 1972.

 

Soul Train’s theme song might well be the best theme ever; I certainly can’t think of another TV theme that became a #1 in the US, and a massive hit all over the world (to borrow from its brief lyrics). In 1973 Cornelius approached Philadelphia soul maestros Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff to come up with a theme for the show to replace King Curtis’ Hot Potatoes, which it did in November 1973. The result was so good, that the composers wanted to release The Theme of Soul Train as a single. When they did, recorded by the Philadelphia International Records (PIR) house band M.F.S.B. with The Three Degrees providing backing vocals, it topped the charts and provided the sound of 1974.

But it didn’t chart under the title The Theme of Soul Train. Cornelius baulked at the idea that PIR release the song using the words “Soul Train” in the title because, as he recalled in a VH-1 documentary a couple of years ago, he was being overprotective of his trademark. He would describe that as the “worst decision” he had ever made. So today the Soul Train theme is known as T.S.O.P. (for The Sound Of Philadelphia).

In 1976, T.S.O.P. was replaced as a theme by The Soul Train Gang’s theme, but made a comeback in 1987 in George Duke’s version. It would remain the Soul Train theme, in several re-recordings, until the show’s end in 2006, some 13 years after Don Cornelius signed off for the last time with the words: “And as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and SOULLLLLL!”

The themes:
Soul Train Theme (1973)
M.F.S.B. – T.S.O.P.
Soul Train – Hot Potatoes Theme (1972)
George Duke – Soul Train Theme (1987)
Soul Train Gang – Soul Train Theme (Get On Board) (1976)

Plus:
Don Cornelius – Love, Peace and Soul sign-off
Souuuuuuuuul Train
Dexys Midnight Runners – T.S.O.P. (bonus track on the remaster of 1982’s Too-Rye-Ay album)

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And if you dig the pics in this post, there are 179 more which I made of Soul Train scenes HERE! (feel free to share the link to that collection with your Internet friends)

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Any Major Christmas Soul Vol. 3

December 8th, 2011 10 comments

Last year we had two compilations of classic Christmas soul (plus one featuring newer stuff); here is a third volume. It kicks off with a spoken intro by The Jackson 5. Jermaine is crying – and the manner in which that is established always makes my smile – and he needs yuletide comforting. Wonderful stuff.

Towards the middle we get socially conscious. Stevie Wonder, still just 17 years old, hopes for no hunger and no tears, but for peace and equality of man. Then the Harlem Children’s Choir, who sound rather older than children, provides some seasonal black consciousness from the ghetto, with an inevitable riff on notions of white Christmas.

The Shurfine Singers borrow a concept from Simon & Garfunkel as they sing Silent Night as a news broadcast runs in the background, speaking of war, protest and strife. As on the Simon & Garfunkel track, the news (now at 11pm, not at 7) becomes increasingly louder to drown out the hymn of peace. Unlike the S&G version, the news cast ends with an editorialising Christmas wish.

This is followed by two examples of a genre that was fairly popular at one point: the Vietnam Christmas song. We previously encountered Change Of Pace on Covered With Soul Vol 5 covering Freda Payne’s Bring The Boys Home as the more alliterative Bring My Buddies Back; here they send a letter from Vietnam, explaining that they won’t be home this Christmas. Johnny & Jon’s Christmas In Vietnam is representative of the anger African Americans felt at the disproportionate number of young black man drafted for the war. So, where in a country song the lament of an unhappy Christmas because “there’s Vietcong all around me” might provoke defiant flag waving, this sombre Southern Soul number seethes with resigned anger.

Things soon become Christmassy again, and we come across a pre-fame Luther Vandross with his band Luther, who perform a song he wrote (two years earlier, he had co-written David Bowie’s Fascination). Vandross clearly didn’t like the two Luther LPs; he later bought the rights to them and prevented their re-release.

James Brown closes the set with the second song called Soul Christmas; needless to say, it’s not the same song as Count Sidney’s. I rather enjoy JB thanking and loving his fans (“people like you don’t grow on trees”) for their support, urging them to come to his next show. So it’s a bit ironic that the man should have died on Christmas Day…

This is the first of three Christmas sets I’ll post this year: the others will cover country music and the acoustic lot. All are timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and I’m making front and back covers for all.

TRACKLISTING
1. Jackson 5 – Christmas Won’t Be The Same This Year (1970)
2. Count Sidney and his Dukes – Soul Christmas (1967)
3. Clarence Carter – Back Door Santa (1968)
4. Otis Redding & Carla Thomas – New Year’s Resolution (1967)
5. Mack Rice – Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’ (1972)
6. Brook Benton – You’re All I Want For Christmas (1963)
7. George Grant and the Castelles – At Christmas Time (1960)
8. The Staple Singers – The Last Month Of The Year (1962)
9. Aretha Franklin – The Christmas Song (1964)
10. The Temptations – My Christmas Tree (1970)
11. Stevie Wonder – Someday At Christmas (1967)
12. Harlem Children’s Chorus – Black Christmas (1973)
13. The Shurfine Singers – Silent Night & The 11 O’Clock News (1968)
14. Change Of Pace – Hello Darling (1971)
15. Johnny & Jon – Christmas In Viet Nam (1965)
16. Margie Joseph – Christmas Gift (1976)
17. Bill Withers – The Gift Of Giving (1972)
18. Donnie Hathaway – This Christmas (1970)
19. Luther – May Christmas Bring You Happiness (1976)
20. Smokey Robinson – A Child Is Waiting (1970)
21. Linda Lewis – Winter Wonderland (1976)
22. The Impressions – I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (1976)
23. The Supremes – White Christmas (1965)
24. Booker T. & The MG’s – Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (1966)
25. James Brown – Soulful Christmas (1968)

GET IT! (updated link. PW in comments)
..
Any Christmas Soul Vol. 1
Any Christmas Soul Vol. 2
Any Smooth Christmas (2010)
Any Christmas In Black & White
More Christmas In Black & White
Christmas Mix, Not For Mother
Any Major X-Mas Mix
PLUS: Rudolph, a victim of prejudice

More Christmas Mixes
More Mixes

Categories: 60s soul, 70s Soul, X-Mas Tags:

Tribute to Ashford & Simpson

August 24th, 2011 9 comments

I was going to post another mix today, but when one of your favourite songwriters dies, priorities take over. And much as I love Jerry Leiber’s repository of great lyrics – he was he Cole Porter of rock & roll – my tribute is for Nickolas Ashford, who with his wife Valerie Simpson wrote, produced and recorded over their career of five decades some of the finest soul music.

They deserve a lifetime achievement award alone for that string of wonderful songs they wrote and produced for Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell: Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing, Your Precious Love, You’re All I Need To Get By, The Onion Song, Keep On Lovin’ Me Honey and, of course,  Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. The Onion Song is rumoured to have used Valerie Simpson’s voice to stand in for the ailing Terrell (Simpson has denied it).

The inclusion of Kenny Lattimore and Chanté Moore’s version of You’re All I Need To Get By – it was that or that by Martha Reeves and GC Cameron – is rather nice, I think. Lattimore and Moore are a married couple, hopefully as solid (yeah!) as the writers of the song.

Then there were the Diana Ross songs: Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand), Surrender Remember Me, The Boss, It’s My House etc. Or the double-whammy for Ray Charles: I Don’t Need No Doctor and Let’s Go Get Stoned.

One clarifying note: the version of Reach Out And Touch Somebody’s Hand was the first hit for Diana Ross after she left The Supremes; the version here is that by the Ross-less Supremes with The Four Tops. This is, of course, the song which Ashford & Simpson sang at Live Aid with Teddy Pendegrass.

Well, let the music do the talking. Here is a mix of Ashford & Simpson songs (which is so good, it did not need the inclusion of their great hit, Solid).

Nick Ashford died of cancer on August 22, 2011. He was 69. May he rest in peace.

TRACKLISTING:
1. Ashford & Simpson – It Seems To Hang On (1978)
2. Quincy Jones with Chaka Khan – Stuff Like That (1981)
3. Diana Ross – It’s My House (1979)
4. Al Jarreau & Randy Crawford – Your Precious Love (1982)
5. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – Keep On Lovin’ Me Honey (1968)
6. The Marvelettes – Destination Anywhere (1968)
7. Ray Charles – Let’s Go Get Stoned (1966)
8. John Mayer & John Scofield – I Don’t Need No Doctor (2010)
9. Marlena Shaw – California Soul (1969)
10. Rosetta Hightower – Remember Me (1971)
11. Aretha Franklin – Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing (1974)
12. Gladys Knight & The Pips – Didn’t You Know (You’d Have To Cry Sometime) (1969)
13. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – The Onion Song (1969)
14. The Four Tops & The Supremes – Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand) (1970)
15. Chaka Khan – I’m Every Woman (1978)
16. Diana Ross – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (1970)
17. Kenny Lattimore & Chanté Moore – You’re All I Need To Get By (2003)
18. Roberta Flack – Uh-Uh Ooh-Ooh Look Out (Here It Comes) (1989)
19. Brothers Johnson – Ride-O-Rocket (1978)
20. Ashford & Simpson – Found A Cure (1979)

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More Songwriter Collections.

More Mix CD-Rs

Categories: 60s soul, 70s Soul, Mix CD-Rs, Songwriters Tags: