Every now and then I think of some great soul artist that I've still not included, played or mentioned on this site. Since I can't do a discography for every soul artist, as much as I would like to, I thought of doing this tribute page where I'll pay homage to some artists/aspects of soul music which have not yet been represented here..
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My Motown (a.k.a The Soul of Motown)
The other side of Stax
The deep soul of James Brown
Ray Charles - the Soul Years
To start things off, I chose to put up some audio clips representing the Motown record label, a tribute that nicely coincides with their 40th anniversary. There's not much of Motown elsewhere on this site, but if you think that means I'm an anti-Motown snob - well then baby you're wrong. The reason why there's little mention of Motown elsewhere on this site is much due to the fact that it is oriented towards making the less well known sides of soul heard. In a way, I felt that Motown can take care of themselves - with many of their records being played on every oldies radio show throughout the world. So here I chose to pick some of my own Motown faves, concentrating on ones that are not that well known, i.e. were not big chart hits. Which doesn't mean I don't like I can't help myself, My girl, Where did our love grow etc. - you just don't need me for those. The same goes for the Motown tracks - rare or not, that have been played on the northern scene. This is just a personal choice of some Motown tracks, so I call it -
My Motown (a.k.a The Soul of Motown)
You've been a long time coming - Marvin Gaye (Tamla)
The ballad flip of I'll be doggone. Marvin utilizes the higher part of his vocal range, much like he did years later in his career, and the result is quite an amazing vocal performance.
Purple Rain Drops - Stevie Wonder (Tamla)
Staying with the ballad B sides, this is the flip of Uptight (everything's allright). Again a relatively high pitched vocal - well Stevie was just 15 when this was soulful track was recorded - 1965.
Feels like fire - The Four Tops (Motown)
As I said this selection is not Northern Soul oriented, but I just think this is the Four Tops best ever track, northern or not.
Danger heartbreak dead ahead - The Marvelettes (Tamla)
This was a medium sized hit in the States and quite popular on UK dancing floors in the early days.
Take some time out for love - The Isley Brothers (Tamla)
The Isleys did not stay with Motown that long, but on their three years on Tamla they produced some of the finest Motown magic. This one is full force uptempo soul with killer lyrics:
"If your baby lives away across town ... if your hands are tied and you just can't seem to get 'em free.. just take some time out, take some time out, no matter what you doing yeh yeh, take some time out for love..."
I miss you (how I miss you) - Marv Johnson (Gordy)
Although he was one of the veterans, Marv Johnson's career at Motown was not a huge commercial success, but he produced several brilliant tracks, including this one.
Bad bad weather - The Spinners (Tamla Motown LP)
I got this from the LP "The Second Time Around", on UK Tamla Motown. Michael Lofthouse tells me this was issued on a Motown 45 in the States. Anyway, a great mid to uptempo number, complete with thunder sound effects, and some superb singing.
Sweet Daddy Deacon - Jr. Walker and the All Stars (Soul LP)
Jr. Walker was Motown's man from the south, and luckily they didn't try to control his sound, but just let him play and sing his own brand of funky soul. In fact, he was second only to James Brown in creating one-chord, polyrhythmic early funk masterpieces - worlds apart from the mainstream of Motown. This one is from the Home Cookin' album - just one of scores of tracks I could have picked. Later on he mellowed down, but did it gracefully and soulfully. On stage though he kept on going fast and funky as ever, almost until his last day, a few years ago. RIP, Jr,. your sax licks and husky voice live on.
Here come the judge - Shorty Long (Soul)
An R&B hit - #4 - which is not played too much. A novelty record, but if you listen to the backing track, you'll hear some fine musicianship. Shorty was killed in a boating accident in 1969 - hey what's this, come to think of it too many Motown artists are no longer with us - David, Eddie, Marvin, Marv, Junior, Shorty, Tammi, Lawrence Peyton (of the Four Tops), O'kelly Isley. All of them born in the 30's or 40's - they should've still been here.
I've got to find myself a brand new baby - David Ruffin (Motown LP)
This is from the album My Whole World Ended - a fantastic version of this song from one of soul music's greatest, sadly missed, voices.
I'm so glad I fell for you - David Ruffin (Motown LP)
This is from Feelin' Good - no sign of the typical Motown beat, just a wonderful soul ballad.
One too many heartaches - Bobby Taylor (Tamla Motown LP)
From the LP Taylor made soul, comes a wonderful version of this soulful ballad, by one of Motown's outsiders, from Vancouver, Canada. In fact, his 45's were credited to Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers, but on this LP he appears as just Bobby Taylor.
Baby I'll get it - Chuck Jackson (V.I.P.)
What an absolute scorcher from Chuck, from his not very commercially successful stay with Motown. Not many people realize that Motown could produce such deep deep soul. A perfect record, everything here is A1 - the melody, lyrics, production and vocal performance.
A Norman Whitfield production from 1969, on one of the first of the new wave of group whose name was in singular... I can't stop tapping my feet when I hear this one, but guess what: there are no drums on this record. What an original idea, and it works just fine. Which goes to show you, you don't quite have to hit the (electronic) snare every beat on the beat, like they do on most records nowadays.
Point it out - Smokey Robinson & the Miracles (Tamla)
Always an original, Smokey reached one of his peaks with this one, towards the end of 1969.
Gonna keep on trying till I win your love - The Temptations (Gordy)
Flip of Superstar (1971). This is the second Tempts version of the same song, and the one I prefer by far. I featured David Ruffin on solo tracks, so I thought I'll slip in an Eddie Kendricks led number to represent the Temptations. What a clear soprano this man had.
Who's lovin' you - The Jackson 5 (Motown)
Flip of I want you back (1970). A Smokey Robinson song, earlier recorded by the Miracles, but what a vocal performance here from a very young Michael Jackson. If he'd only kept singing like this... In fact, signs of watering down were evident even in this very track when it was included on the Jakson's Bros first album, as sweetened strings and harmonies not present on the 45 were added. Which why I used the single version here, even though my copy jumps a bit at the beginning.
Make me the woman you go home to - Gladys Knight and the Pips (Soul)
From 1971 again - this was a #3 r&b hit, but I don't hear it too much on the oldies circuit or on any circuit for that matter, so I thought I'd give it a virtual spin - being the great soul ballad that it is. No wonder they put Gladys on the Soul label - she did represent the more soulful, grittier side of Motown, as did some of her label mates. e.g. Jr. Walker, Shorty Long.
A couple of additions, suggested by Andrew Hamilton from Cleveland, Ohio
That day when she needed me - The Contours (Gordy)
Flip of Can you jerk like me. The Contours began their career with dance-craze records, but this is a piece of mellow brilliance.
A love like yours don't come knocking - Martha & the Vandellas (Gordy)
A beautiful romantic ballad from Martha & the girls, again not typical of the rest of their work for Motown.
When the Stax box sets were released a few years ago, it was a feast for lovers of soul music everywhere. There was only one fault in these sets: most B sides were not included. I don't know about you, but for me, there are two sides to every 45. Not that I always like both sides equally - I seldom do - but whether I prefer one side or the other has nothing to do with its being the official A side. True, many of Stax's B sides were released on albums, most of which are available again on CD today. But many were not, and are still confined to their original 7" release. So until Atlantic/Fantasy/UK Ace decide to release the B side sets, here is the Soul of the Net's own little compilation of...
The Other Side of Stax
You belong to her - Barbara & the Browns (Stax)
Recorded in 1964, this flip-side track to "Big Party" on Stax 150 is one of the first full-fledged southern soul ballads released on Stax/Volt by someone other than Otis.
Baby Walk - Rufus Thomas (Stax)
From 1965, one of his most underrated tracks. If you have a baby around the house, put this 45 on the turntable and have a family party.
Goodnight baby - Sam & Dave (Stax)
The other side of "A place nobody can find", their first Stax single, and indicative of their many wonderful ballads recorded for Stax - and part of what I call "The Sam & Dave Night Trilogy" - look for it on the Trivia Page.
Reap what you sow - Wendy Rene (Stax)
Wendy answers Willian Bell's You don't miss your water with another saying, keeping most of the melody and lyrics the same as the original. Many thanks to Patrick Montier for this one! His copy is a little rough as you will hear, but better rough than nothing, I say.
Don't stop now - William Bell (Stax)
Another one from that formative year of 1965. Most of William Bell's successes - both commercially and artistically - were ballads and mid-tempo tracks, but this one is shows he could handle uptempo stuff just as well. This one also fits nicely with the "Northern Soul" musical template.
Never let you go - Rufus & Carla (Stax)
Father and daughter Thomas - leaning much more to Rufus's musical direction than to Carla's - and shoes Carla could shout if she wanted to.
Changes - Johnnie Taylor (Stax)
Flip of "I had a dream" - I wonder why this excellent slice of uptempo soul was not included on the album "Wanted One Soul Singer".
Soldier's Goodbye - William Bell (Stax)
A great bluesy ballad, with a vocal that's more gritty than William Bell's generally mellower style. Flip of "Never like this before". Eric Karten informs me that this has been made available on CD, on the Soul of Vietnam compilation on Sony, issued in 1993. Well, I don't have that CD but it gives me an idea for a new topic on the Trivia page!
Feels good - Bobby Wilson (Volt)
A good uptempo number, could be danced to up north, flip of Let me down slow. Atypically produced - or was it not recorded in Stax but leased to it? I should do my homework and find that out.
My Pride won't let me - Eddie Purrell (Volt)
Another relatively unknown name on the Stax/Volt roster - but what a scorching ballad this is. Flip of "The spoiler".
Keep on keepin' on - Ruby Johnson - (Volt)
OK, I know that, unlike the other records listed here, this HAS seen CD release, on the excellent Ruby Johnson compilation released a few years ago, but it's so good I'd still like to include it here as a classic Stax/Volt B side. There were a few soul records with that title, this is my favorite one.
Flip of "If I ever needed love".
One plus one - William Bell (Stax)
Flip of Eloise (Hang On In There), this is a forgotten ballad which I rate as one of his best..
It takes a lot of good love - Judy Clay (Stax)
What a singer Judy Clay is. This is good slab of classic uptempo Stax is to be found on the other side of You can't run away from your heart.
I love love - Johnny Daye (Stax)
Over to the Yellow Stax period - the early part of it was musically a straight continuation of the later part of the Blue-label period. This is the deeply funky B side of one of soul music's most outstanding 45's - the other side is the mesmerizing ballad "Stay baby Stay" (played on my first Soul of the Net Radio show), and it's even more amazing considering that the singer is white.
Love-eye-tis - Judy Clay & William Bell (Stax)
Ever flip "Private Number" over? If you did, you'd have found this exciting piece of uptempo soul.
Love in the streets - Johnnie Taylor (Stax)
The flip of Hijackin' Love is one of the most subtly beautiful tracks ever recorded by the great JT, one more time stressing the impotrance of fidelity. Bill Clinton would be a lot better off had he listened to JT records in the late 60's / early 70's.
James Brown is Mr. Soul, and the inventor of funk... but if you think deep soul was not his strength, then maybe you should get yourself acquainted with some of the following recordings sung and/or produced by JB. Here is some of...
The Deep Soul of James Brown (and his people)
You've got the power - James Brown and Vicki Anderson (King LP)
This is the later and less well known version of this song, first recorded by JB with Bea Ford in 1960, but to me this 1968 version, from the LP I got the feeling is the definitive one. What a voice Vicki has! A pity this was not included in the recent JB's Original Funky Divas LP, alongside the earlier hit version which is included.
You've got to change your mind - James Brown and Bobby Byrd (King)
Another duet, this time with JB's long time companion, the soulful Bobby Byrd. Untypically mentioning other soul stars like Otis Redding and Sam & Dave.
Tears of Joy - Vicki Anderson (King LP)
Another track which should have been on the Divas CD but wasn't. This is from the 1968 various artists LP James Brown Presents His Show of Tomorrow. In fact, none of the four tracks by Vicki Anderson and Marva Whitney that are on this wonderful LP are included on the CD. I wonder why. This is a marvelous ballad with a very interesting string-led arrangement, not to mention Vicki's magnificent soaring voice again.
If you love me - Marva Whitney (King LP)
Another track from the aforementioned LP, again brilliant production and beautiful singing.
I'll work it out - James Crawford (King LP)
Yet one more from the Show of Tomorrow LP - dead slow ballad, and to me one of the most mesmerizing examples of soul singing carried on a subtly perfect arrangement, from a vocalist that had scattered releases on various labels.
No one like my baby - Bobby Byrd (Smash)
A haunting ballad featuring the husky yet so soulful voice of Bobby Byrd, over a sparse arrangement with James Brown's typically strange organ playing in the fore.
Loving you - Bobby Byrd & Vicky Anderson (ABC)
Should have been titled "Things are getting better", a much more dominant phrase in the song. Again, some mighty soulful singing from both duetters here on a relatively fast 6/8 ballad.
To be continued...
Many credit Ray Charles for iventing soul music, when he recorded secularized gospel tracks like "I got a woman" and "What'd I say". I don't know about that - I think the soul movement was something that took place at different places at the same time, and many well known and unknown names contributed to the process... however when soul music reached its prime at the mid to late sixties, Ray Charles was not at the heart of the soul movement. Successful he was, but his hits were generally too country or too old fashioned at the time to be considered Soul.
However Brother Ray did record some awsome SOUL tracks, which somehow were not his most successful records - so in case you haven't heard this facet of ray Charles, here are a few examples of ...
Ray Charles - the Soul Years
I don't need no doctor - Ray Charles (ABC)
This is well known in Northern Soul circles - an uptempo dancer, this made the lower reaches of the US R&B charts (Billboard # 72) in late 1966. Written, by the way, by Ashford - Simpson - Armstead (Nicholas, Valerie and Joshie).
Somebody ought to write a book about it - Ray Charles (ABC)
Flip to the big 1967 hit "Here we go again" is a much more soulful ballad, written by two ace soul writers - Jimmy Holiday and Jimmy Lewis. Mr. Charles did employ some of the best writers, didn't he.
Sweet young thing like you - Ray Charles (ABC)
This one didn't make the charts at all in early 1969. Which only goes to show. Intense mid-tempo. Again a rather well known writer - Dee Erwin. (aka Irwin).
Let me love you - Ray Charles (ABC)
On this one Ray is right on the top of late sixties funky soul - an ace performance of an ace song written by Jimmy Holiday again. Though by mid '69 this style was not hitting the charts anymore - this one actually just barely made it though, reaching number 94 on the Billboard Soul top 100.
I'm satisfied - Ray Charles (ABC)
The flip of let me love you, this is a fine mid-tempo duet with an uncredited female vocalist, again written by Ashford - Simpson - Armstead.
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