Sunday, November 23, 2008

Get on Down ... #31!

The Third Anniversary show is now online and will be on iTunes soon! Enjoy! Here's the playlist:

1. The Holidays - All That Is Required Is You
2. The Artistics - Hard to Carry On
3. Smokey Robinson & The Miracles - If You Can Want
4. Ocie Smith - Everybody But Me
5. Rose Batiste - Come Back in a Hurry
6. Garnet Mimms - Stop and Think It Over
7. Terri Bryant - (You'd Better) Straighten Up and Fly Right
8. The Drifters - Coca-Cola Radio Ad
9. Tammi Terrell - All I Do (Is Think About You)
10. The Profiles - Got to Be Your Lover
11. Roy Lee Johnson - Boogaloo #3
12. Herbie Mann - Philly Dog
13. Stu Gardner - Never Gonna Hurt Again
14. Charles Spurling - That Woman
15. Earl Van Dyke - The Whip A Rang
16. Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band "Express Yourself" Radio Ad
17. Helene Smith - I Am Controlled by Your Love
18. Maurice & Mac - Lean on Me
19. Phillip Mitchell - Keep on Talking
20. Percy Sledge - Baby, Help Me
21. Dizzy Jones - Just As Sure (As You Play, You Must Pay)
22. G. L. Crockett - Gonna Make You Love Me
23. Diamond Joe - Fair Play
24. Jr. Walker & The All-Stars - Sweet Soul

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The 2008 Soul of Sir Tom!

Tom Jones - The Hitter (stream only)

Your everlovin' Stepfather of Soul is working on a playlist for a new podcast, but in the meantime, the new CD by Tom Jones, 24 Hours (to be released in the US on Tuesday), has been getting some of my attention since the kind folks at Giant Step sent me a review copy.

Yes, I'm talking about that Tom Jones. The tight slacks-wearing Welshman whose place in the pantheon of cheese sometimes obscures some serious chops and, as I discussed when Luciano Pavarotti died, some serious soul, despite his not being a soul singer, per se. (And, of course, serious soul fans are aware of several Parrot sides of his that meet "soul record" standards. Some of my fellow soul bloggers have covered some of them.)

Anyway, 24 Hours is one of those "autumnal" albums like Solomon Burke's Don't Give Up on Me was: Jones still sounds good at age 68, but time has added something to his voice that makes songs like today's selection particularly poignant. Miami soul queen Betty Wright co-produced Jones' cover of Bruce Springsteen's "The Hitter," and in his hands the song's dark story takes on extra weight thanks to an arrangement that turns Springsteen's song into a Southern Soul-flavored thing with its 12/8 rhythm and strong horn charts. Although the lyrics clearly reflect a broken boxer's return home after a fall from the top, Jones' vocals, which at times sound almost as if channeling Burke, capture the world-weariness of the song perfectly. This is strong stuff! Tom Jones has got soul, y'all!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Chicago Soul Antidote

Syl Johnson - Sorry 'Bout Dat!

Last night I fired up the DVR and watched two episodes of the new VH1 Soul series Soul Cities, hosted by Nelson George. The premise of the series is that George visits cities that figure(d) heavily into the soul music scene and explores the music, musicians and culture of said cities. I saw the Philadelphia and Chicago episodes, and ended up disappointed. First of all, the shows are only thirty minutes long, and both cities could have easily yielded an hour's worth of material; as a result, the music history part of the shows is pretty superficial. Second, although I understand that the culture of the cities was to be featured, the segments about Philly cheesesteaks and Chicago deep-dish pizza (in which George went into restaurant kitchens and was shown how these delicacies are prepared) looked more like they belonged on Food Network instead of VH1 Soul, and the time spent on them could've allowed for more music to be featured. Third, I feel like Nelson George was highly under-utilized in the program. George's The Death of Rhythm & Blues was a cornerstone of my education about soul music history, and his writing about newer R&B and hip-hop is equally enlightening, but the overall superficiality of the shows made him appear to me more as a generic travelogue host rather than the insightful music scholar he is.

Now, don't get me wrong - it's highly unlikely that the show was intended for hardcore soul fans, and the need to cover music history, culture, and present music in the cities within a thirty-minute frame means that corners had to be cut. And there were some highlights, such as George's discussion with Gamble and Huff on the Philadelphia show, which included the two doing an impromptu performance of "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine," a chat with the newly-reunited Labelle (featuring a quick line or two of "For the Love of Money" which proved that Patti, Sarah and Nona are still on-point vocally), a visit to Val Shively's amazingly overwhelming record store (I'm talking floor to ceiling records here), and, if I saw correctly, a visit to Mr. Peabody's in Chicago, which is one of my favorite record shops.

I'm featuring Chicago soul today as an antidote to all that disappointment, which is needed also because Chicago soul and its musicians were given an even shorter shrift in its episode than Philly soul and its artists were on the other episode. Syl Johnson's funky groovers for Twilight/Twinight are not that uncommon to rare soul fans, but they are always a treat to hear. Johnson's wailing is complimented by hard-hitting bands (the Deacons and Pieces of Peace for the Chicago-recorded stuff and the Hi Rhythm Section on Memphis-recorded sides like "Dresses Too Short"), and the tunes crackle with an energy that was somewhat lost when Johnson moved formally to Hi Records and slipped into the velvet grooves that Willie Mitchell was concocting for labelmates Al Green and Ann Peebles. "Sorry 'Bout Dat!" was the B-side of Johnson's second Twinight single, and while the groove surges along, Johnson's tongue-in-cheek apology for making folks dance so hard is worthy of a chuckle.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Get on Down" ... In It's Fourth Year!

Rita Dacosta - Don't Bring Me Down

In the flurry of activity that has surrounded bar exam results and new job adjustments, your ever-lovin' Stepfather of Soul has forgotten to celebrate the third anniversary of this blog! Although this year I have not been able to keep the near-daily pace I kept in 2005, 2006 and 2007, I hope that you, dear readers, are still enjoying my offerings! Hopefully, I'll get an anniversary podcast up here soon!

Today's selection is one of the Northern Soul anthems that truly defines the spirit and magic that drove the NS movement in its heyday. "Don't Bring Me Down" by Rita Dacosta is one of those records that sells for big bank today (the original Mohawk 45 sells for around $500 and Mohawk and Contempo reissues come in at around $30), and for good reason. The mysterious Dacosta (my research yielded an album and a discussion of whether she was married to jazz great Stanley Turrentine) brings a classy reading to this stomper, and the optimistic lyrics and dramatic arrangement ("come on up and let me love you, let me love you; we're gonna fly - you've got to try - we're gonna fly - here is the sky") evokes in my mind images of punters working it out at Wigan and other Northern Soul venues, carried away by the tune's surging magic.

Thanks to R. Soos for this track!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Soul Men: Together, Yet Apart

Sam & Dave - Don't Pull Your Love

Sam Moore must be one of the most litigation-minded soul singers out there. On the right side of justice, he's lobbied for better royalties for classic soul artists, but on the other hand he's taken possessory stances about songs like "Soul Man" which are not legally tenable and make him look, in my opinion, somewhat foolish. His newest foray is a lawsuit against the makers of the Bernie Mac-Samuel L. Jackson movie Soul Men, which opens this weekend. He takes umbrage at the title, of course, but also the story, which he claims is based on the Sam & Dave story. Naturally, there are some parallels (two estranged soul singers who were once very close), but a look at the movie's trailer makes that whole argument sound foolish: at most, this movie is probably going to be a "black Blues Brothers" type of thing. Fortunately, we can always turn to Sam & Dave's music, which is awesome regardless of Moore's quixotic courtroom activities.

"Don't Pull Your Love," a cover of the Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds hit, was a 1971 Atlantic single for Sam & Dave, whose relationship by that time was strictly personal, as the two were not on speaking terms. The estrangement almost shows in the record, as the two men sound as if they recorded their parts separately: Dave handles all of the verses and the song's bridge, and Sam sings the choruses. The arrangement choice was wise, as the brassy groove of the Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds record was replaced by a slower, churchy sound (dig the piano opening). It's a fine recording, certainly better than the record's flip, an answer record to Johnnie Taylor's "Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone" called "Jody Ryder Got Killed"!