biSoultennial – Vote for your Top Ten Memphis Soul Songs!

biSoultennial – Vote for your Top Ten Memphis Soul Songs!

The Stax Museum of American Soul Music is helping celebrate its 16th birthday and the 200th birthday of the epicenter of American music, Memphis, Tennessee, by compiling a list of the 200 most indelible soul songs recorded in Memphis between 1957 and 1975. From Stax stars Otis Redding and Sam & Dave to Hi Records royalty Al Green and Ann Peebles, and all artists, labels, and studios in between, the list covers dozens of artists who recorded at studios throughout Memphis during that golden era of soul music.

“These are the 200 songs we feel best represent “Memphis Soul,” said Jeff Kollath, executive director of the Stax Museum. “Our only rules were no more than five songs per artist and it had to be predominantly recorded in Memphis between 1957 and 1975. We have created a list that goes across record label, studio, and era. Certainly, there are going to be some songs that the fans want to see represented, but just because it is not on the list doesn’t mean they can’t vote for it – just like a regular election, you can write-in! And we encourage everyone to share their ballots on social media and defend their selections!”

The museum invites everyone to participate and VOTE for their Top Ten starting May 15 and running through June 30!

BEGIN VOTING ON YOUR FAVORITE TOP TEN MAY 15 – JUNE 30 HERE!

 

SOUL TALKIN' with David Nathan & Kevin Goins: SOULMUSIC RECORDS REISSUES: BILLY PAUL, SHIRLEY MURDOCK

SOUL TALKIN’ with David Nathan & Kevin Goins: SOULMUSIC RECORDS REISSUES: BILLY PAUL, SHIRLEY MURDOCK

In this edition of Soul Talkin,’ David Nathan and Kevin Goins discuss the latest releases from SoulMusic Records – one being a compilation of classics from BILLY PAUL – ME & MRS. JONES, THE ANTHOLOGY, the other an expanded edition of the 1986 debut album by SHIRLEY MURDOCK, which features her biggest hit, “As We Lay”. All this and more reissue talk with David and Kevin!

 

REISSUE REVIEW (May 2019): MARVIN GAYE - YOU'RE THE MAN (Tamla)

REISSUE REVIEW (May 2019): MARVIN GAYE – YOU’RE THE MAN (Tamla)

Why this was hyped as the ‘lost’ album is confusing because the material isn’t new as such which I think we were led to believe in the pre-publicity.  Most of the tracks have snuck out as individual items in one form or another, on compilations like “Marvin Gaye: The Anthology”, “Motown Remembers Marvin Gaye:Never Before Released Masters”, “The Master: 1961-1984” and so on. So strictly speaking, the songs weren’t lost.  However, having said that, I can fully appreciate why the album stayed under wraps as the track “You’re The Man Part 1” bombed when released as a single in America only during April 1972. Here’s a little back track. Hot on the heels of Marvin’s “What’s Going On” project which ignited music from the soul for the soul. A work dictated by human conscience, highlighting in music intense, soul searching issues that included unlocking the secrets of environmental disasters, and crying unashamedly over the futility of war.  “What’s Going On” was a masterpiece on so many levels and changed, not only Motown’s strict code of recording, but that of the industry as a whole, and inspired other artists, like Stevie Wonder for instance, to have the courage to tread into previously forbidden territories.

Following the release of “What’s Going On” Marvin toyed around with ideas, fielded off third party material, with a state of mind that was far from solid. Gutted that “You’re The Man Part 1” died, and Berry Gordy’s directive that the proposed project be squashed, he said “I had a whole album planned around that track because I very much wanted to work in the movie field and I wanted to use this music as a soundtrack.”   So, he strove to regain public acceptance once more, and while Motown was cautious about taking too many chances with his work, they both realised it was an impossibility to follow “What’s Going On”.  Every aspect of Marvin’s life conflicted at this time; his personal life changed for the worst while his career expanded, yet Marvin lived one day at a time. “There were disputes over financial matters, over promotion, over a whole heap of things. Also my marriage was beginning to run into difficulties. Anna (Gordy) and I had in fact separated.”

Making music was all he had, yet his next project was an unexpected move which once again stretched Motown’s promotion department to the limit.  In the wake of Isaac Hayes penning the movie soundtrack for Shaft and the growing popularity in low budget, semi-violent black flicks, Marvin jumped on the merry-go-round to write his only film score “Trouble Man”.  He totally immersed himself in the project, adopting the role of the film’s main character ‘Mr T’ to write the whole album.  The result was moody and jazz-tinged, almost a sinister reflection of his darkest moments.  Despite offering film-goers similar ingredients as the other black flicks, “Trouble Man” was a non-starter, much to Marvin’s annoyance.  Without the film’s visuals to support the music much of the excitement of “Trouble Man” was lost. “I wanted to say that I could divert from ‘What’s Going On’ and actually go into another area completely.”  Following its release, Marvin admitted it wasn’t the official follow-up to “What’s Going On”, but rather a diversion, because he planned to write about his two passions in life – women and sex – and the “Let’s Get It On” ball breaker was conceived.

So, here we are, back to now, re-living songs recorded during this experimental period of indecision, where Marvin was in a dangerously fragile state of mind, where his sense of normality was scorched, and his cluttered mind bursting with ideas and emotions that made him unpredictable.  His musical route was born from his confusion and this compilation is the result. From the opening and title track where he mercilessly attacks the political way of thinking which, to be honest, has changed not at all, we’re treated “The World Is Rated X” where Marvin returns to dissect certain aspects of “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)”.   Gloria Jones and Pam Sawyer’s composition “Piece Of Clay” is divine as it weaves through the way people are moulded like clay by dictatorship, while “You Are That Special One” is an upbeat Willie Hutch song, and a favourite of mine. Marvin’s unique falsetto voice inspires “Where Are We Going” and it’s an optimistic singer who sings “We Can Make It Baby”.  Listening to “Symphony” sent shivers up my spine; beautifully conceived and styled; likewise “I’d Give My Life For You”, leaving a more funkier style to seep through on “Try It, You’ll Like It”.  I smiled at the cheeky inclusion of “I Want To Come Home For Christmas” because it’s relevant to the period in Marvin’s life, yet so out of place here.

With a fresh vision injected into some of the songs by Salaam Remi, wiping the dust from the grooves, this compilation is a previously-loved collection of songs, and bringing them together as an 80th birthday present, was a stroke of genius, or was it a stroke of a quick dollar? However, accepting it as the former, it’s with a sad and happy heart that fans like myself will play this again and again, reminding ourselves that despite the tormented traumas Marvin was living through at this time, these songs are reflective of his unquestionable talent. As an aside, I wonder if the man himself would have approved?

Rating: 10

 

 

CD REISSUE REVIEWS - APRIL 2019

CD REISSUE REVIEWS – APRIL 2019

BILLY PAUL: ME & MRS JONES: THE ANTHOLOGY (SOULMUSIC RECORDS)
Now this is an interesting 31-track package as it spans the ten studio albums between 1969-1985 by a man who’s considered to be one of the top soul/jazz stylists of our age, and one of the most distinguished names on the Philadelphia International artist roster. Mr Billy Paul, known to the world for his 1972 chart topping single “Me & Mrs Jones”, recorded powerful political songs alongside the tenderest of love tunes, with a sincerity that convinced the listener Billy suffered or enjoyed every moment. Telling of an extra-marital affair between and man and his lover, who meet in secret ‘every day at the same café’, “Me & Mrs Jones” tugged at millions of heart strings; some experiencing the same situation or others wishing they could. With a nice pulsating beat, “Bring The Family Back” is slightly overshadowed by “Brown Baby”, with its subtle support vocals melting into the hookline. While Paul McCartney took a personal view in his composition “Let ‘Em In”, Billy Paul pulls back the shutters to take on a civil rights stance with explicit lyrics, snippets of speeches from Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, alongside mentioning past civil rights leaders like the Kennedy brothers and Elijah Muhammad. A landmark release, but not the only one to carry a message: check out “We All Got A Mission” or “False Faces”. Then, on the other hand, Billy re-works Elton John’s “Your Song” to the extreme, by dramatising and, perhaps, soul-ising the pop song, with the added attraction of over-vocalising in sections.

This Anthology features all thirteen American hits for Philadelphia International, like, the up tempo funky, message laden “Am I Black Enough For You”, the follow-up to “Me & Mrs Jones”; “New Day, New World Comes” and “Thanks For Saving My Life”. I was instantly drawn to his version of Jerry Butler’s “Only The Strong Survive” which, lyrically alone, begs attention. Of the ballads, there’s “This Is Your Life”, or “Sexual Therapy” which respected/acknowledged his friend Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing”. So, there’s a mood, lyric and style for everyone here; political statements and love whispers, so what’s not to like?
Rating: 9

 
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THE BAR-KAYS: THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION (ROBINSONGS)
This is a mammoth Bar-Kays release across a 3-CD package covering 1967 – 1989, combining releases on Warner Brothers, Volt, Stax and Mercury, tracing the Bar-Kays evolution from a raw Memphis-based unit into a global, headlining act. Of the 46 tracks here, all their top ten R&B hits are included like, of course, their evergreen anthem “Soul Finger”, their debut single. Reviewing their career would cover pages but suffice to say it covered “tragedy to triumph, plane crash to gold discs, Otis Redding to Isaac Hayes” – and they survived all to tell the tale and play on. Some titles also crossed over into the US mainstream chart, including “Son Of Shaft”, a top sixty hit in 1971; “Shake Your Rump To The Funk”, top thirty in 1976; “Too Hot To Stop”, top eighty, a year later; “Move Your Boogie Body”, top sixty in 1979; “Today Is The Day”, top sixty, a year later; and “Freakshow On The Dance Floor”, top eighty, 1984, from the film “Breakin’”. And there’s so much more here that highlight the changing styles of a dedicated bunch of musicians, like “Dirty Dancer” and “Let’s Have Some Fun”.

From a studio session group at Stax Records, the Bar-Kays were chosen by Otis Redding as his backing group, exposing them to growing audiences. Throughout the years, their membership altered for various reasons, but the music continued from early R&B through to the funk years of the seventies. Next to Motown’s Funk Brothers, the Bar-Kays rose from nowhere to everywhere, with musical visions that went a long way to define the music we love.
Rating: 10

 
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TOMMY HUNT: COMPLETE MAN – 60s NYC SOUL SONGS (KENT RECORDS)
It was Dusty Springfield’s version of “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” that encouraged me to seek out more from Tommy Hunt, who, as you know, recorded the original during 1962. Then, when the Four Tops recorded “It’s All In The Game”, I looked some more. Tommy’s early life wasn’t easy. When he was ten years old he was released from reform school to move to Chicago with his mother, where, following a stint in the US air force, he deserted to be with his then dying mum. He subsequently served a prison sentence, then pursued his love of music. He formed The Five Echoes, which later led to him joining The Flamingos, where he enjoyed several hit singles including their top twenty pop hit “I Only Have Eyes For You” in 1959. Leaving them a year later, following musical clashes, Tommy met Luther Dixon who signed him to the Dynamo label. Here the pop-slanted “The Parade Of The Broken Hearts” with the slowie “Human” on the flipside, was released. His deeply rich and powerful voice, coupled with his smooth talking ways and the hippest of struts, he became very much in demand.

Although his British success had been limited to the soul market, Tommy excelled as a headlining act at several Northern Soul events, and following a deal with Spark Records, went on to savour a couple of UK mainstream hit singles, “Crackin’ Up” and “Loving On The Losing Side”, followed by “One Fine Morning” during the mid-seventies. Anyway, back to this release which is a kaleidoscope of goodies. “One Of These Days” is a cool ballad of note, while the real romantic side of the man seeps through with songs like “Girls Are Sentimental”. The beat escalates with “The Work Song” and “The Pretty Part Of You”, and of the unissued Scepter recordings, there’s “What’s The Matter Baby” previously only released by The Shirelles. Tell you what, if you’d like to know more about this intriguing singer, do check out his autobiography “Only Human – My Soulful Life”, published by Bank House Books in 2008. Words with music, a great combination!
Rating: 7

 
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SLY & THE FAMILY STONE: RARE GROOVES (WIENERWORLD)
“Dance To The Music”, “Everyday People”, “Family Affair” – can’t be anyone else can it? Headed by Sylvester Stewart, this group of men and women was one of the first racially integrated units, who were a pioneering force in the development of psychedelic soul. Their music, therefore, was a melting pot of funk, rock/soul and psychedelia with huge influences from Stax and Motown thrown in for good measure. With their recognisable fuzz bass and wah-wah guitar, they enjoyed a hugely successful career. As Sly Stone became lost in the world of drugs, so the band suffered until it disintegrated during the seventies, whereupon Rose Stone recorded a solitary eponymous album for Motown under the name Rose Banks in 1976 and supported Marvin Gaye on tour. “Rare Grooves” is their re-named ‘comeback’ album “Back On The Right Track” from 1979 for Warner Brothers, with the bonus track “Somebody To You”. Singles “Remember Who You Are” and “The Same Thing (Makes You Laugh, Makes You Cry)” were poor sellers and, of course, this reflected on the album’s sales. Nonetheless, with several of the original members on board like, Rose, Pat Rizzo and Cynthia Robinson, Sly captured much of the group’s original funk/soul magic, without meandering into their previous darker social commentary. Check out the opening track “It Takes All Kinds” or “Sheer Energy” and you’ll see what I mean. A very worthwhile and enjoyable release for sure.
Rating: 7

SOUL TALKIN' with David Nathan & Kevin Goins: A TRIBUTE TO NANCY WILSON

SOUL TALKIN’ with David Nathan & Kevin Goins: A TRIBUTE TO NANCY WILSON

On March 2nd, David Nathan attended the memorial service honoring the late Nancy Wilson, who passed on in December 2018. We discuss that celebration of Nancy’s life as well as who was in attendance. In addition, we share the first time each of us had discovered her music as well as David’s recollections of his interviews and discussions with Ms. Wilson. All this and Nancy’s music too on this edition of Soul Talkin’

SOUL TALKIN' with David Nathan & Kevin Goins: A TRIBUTE TO JAMES INGRAM, SALUTING THOM BELL & DIONNE WARWICK

SOUL TALKIN’ with David Nathan & Kevin Goins: A TRIBUTE TO JAMES INGRAM, SALUTING THOM BELL & DIONNE WARWICK

On this edition of Soul Talkin’, we pay tribute to the late James Ingram as we discuss his contribution to music as a fine vocalist and songwriter. In our discussion, we talk about James’ second #1 hit (his only as a solo act), “I Don’t Have The Heart” – produced, arranged and conducted by the great Thom Bell (whom we chat about as well regarding his remarkable career). Leading up to our Dionne Warwick chat re: the Thom Bell-produced album “Track Of The Cat”, and a previously unreleased Dionne/Thom tune David had found in the Warner Bros. vault years ago. All this on the “expanded edition” of Soul Talkin’!

SOUL TALKIN'  With David Nathan & Kevin Goins: A TRIBUTE TO NINA SIMONE, Pts. 1 & 2

SOUL TALKIN’ With David Nathan & Kevin Goins: A TRIBUTE TO NINA SIMONE, Pts. 1 & 2

Pt. 1:
On this edition of Soul Talkin’, we pay homage to the departed NINA SIMONE, birth date Feb. 21, 1933. David shares his recollections of Nina and championing her career as the founder of the Appreciation Society named in her honor. In addition, Kevin recalls his discussion with composer/arranger Horace Ott about his writing “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, first recorded by Nina in 1964.  Photo is of David Nathan and Nina Simone, London, 1968.

Pt. 2:
The conclusion of our Soul Talkin’ conversation, honoring the late Nina Simone. Here, David continues his tale of meeting and accompanying Nina to her UK television debut on Ready, Steady Go! Kevin chimes in on when she appeared on a now-legendary American public TV program for kids (clue, the show featured a very large feathered friend!) All this and great classic Nina tunes as well!

MARVIN GAYE:  Celebrating A Pioneer - YOU'RE THE MAN 1972 Album Release

MARVIN GAYE: Celebrating A Pioneer – YOU’RE THE MAN 1972 Album Release

In celebration of Marvin Gaye’s 80th birthday on April 2, Motown/UMe has released his never-issued 1972 Tamla/Motown album, You’re The Man, in 2-LP gatefold vinyl and digital editions.  You’re The Man features all of Gaye’s solo and non-soundtrack recordings from 1972, with most of the album’s tracks making their vinyl release debuts.

In 1972, Marvin Gaye was on top: or so it seemed. “What’s Going On,” “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology),” and “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler”),” the three singles from his universally acclaimed album What’s Going On, had each hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Soul Singles chart (since renamed Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs) and Top 10 Pop the year before. His new single, “You’re The Man” – a percolating, sarcastic riff on political non-action issued as the U.S. presidential campaign was kicking off – reached No. 7 on Billboard’s Hot Soul Singles chart. He saw Motown schedule a You’re The Man album (catalog number Tamla 316). But when the lead single didn’t cross over Pop, stalling at No. 50, Marvin retreated. Ambivalent about recording, stubborn about moving to Los Angeles with Berry Gordy and Motown, Marvin by his actions proclaimed no more new Marvin Gaye music.

Or so it seemed.

In this singular and transitional year for the late music legend, Gaye recorded more than an album’s worth of music in Detroit and L.A. He produced himself, creating a suite of aching ballads; he worked with songwriters-becoming-producers Willie Hutch, then known mainly for the Jackson 5 smash “I’ll Be There,” but soon to be lauded for his film scores to The Mack and Foxy Brown; and with Pam Sawyer and Gloria Jones, whose “Piece of Clay” for Marvin decades later became a smash in the 1995 film Phenomenon. He cut two sought-after tracks with Freddie Perren and Fonce Mizell, half of the hit-making machine behind the Jackson 5; he got together with Hal Davis, who was preparing a Marvin Gaye-Diana Ross album, to cut another topical gem, “The World Is Rated X.” And Marvin funnelled his anger over the Vietnam War, and his brother’s experiences there, into a sequel of sorts to “What’s Going On,” the poetic holiday ballad, “I Want To Come Home For Christmas.” He even re-cut “You’re The Man” as an eerie funk jam, perhaps for the LP as a bookend to the single.

None of these tracks or any other on the LP, except the single, were issued at the time.

Three tracks from the album are newly mixed by SaLaAM ReMi, the songwriter and producer long associated with Nas, the Fugees, and Amy Winehouse: “My Last Chance,” “Symphony,” and “I’d Give My Life For You.” Also included is the rare, long LP version of Gaye’s cancelled 1972 Christmas single, plus an unreleased vault mix of its instrumental B-side. Over the years, songs from You’re The Man have been included on several CD releases but 15 of the album’s 17 tracks have not been released on vinyl until now.

You’re The Man’s 2LP vinyl edition includes new liner notes by Marvin Gaye biographer David Ritz. In his essay, Ritz delves into Gaye’s deeply personal internal conflict as a source of creative vigor and emotional burden as he experienced What’s Going On’s massive success and all that came with it. “Now I could do what I wanted,” Gaye told Ritz in an interview that first appeared in Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye. “For most people that would be a blessing. But for me the thought was heavy. They said I’d reached the top, and that scared me because Mother used to say, ‘First ripe, first rotten.’ When you’re at the top there’s nowhere to go but down. No, I needed to keep going up – raising my consciousness – or I’d fall back on my behind. When would the war stop? That’s what I wanted to know – the war inside my soul.”

Despite his inner turmoil, that same year Gaye recorded a duets album with Diana Ross, and he accepted an offer to write what became his landmark Trouble Man film score. A year later, he released Let’s Get It On, the biggest hit of his career.

In addition to You’re The Man, Motown/UMe will release a new expanded edition of Marvin Gaye’s 1965 album, A Tribute To The Great Nat King Cole, digitally on March 15. Honoring what would have been Cole’s 100th birthday, the album’s original mono mix makes its digital debut with the new edition, which also adds more than a dozen bonus tracks, including six alternate takes from the studio sessions.

Marvin Gaye: You’re The Man [2LP vinyl]
Tracklisting:

Side 1
Produced by Marvin Gaye (1), Hal Davis (2), Gloria Jones and Pamela Sawyer (3), Freddie Perren and Fonce Mizell (4)
1. You’re The Man 5:45
2. The World Is Rated X 3:50
3. Piece of Clay 5:10
4. Where Are We Going? 3:53

Side 2
Produced by Willie Hutch
1. I’m Gonna Give You Respect 2:55
2. Try It, You’ll Like It 3:55
3. You Are That Special One 3:35
4. We Can Make It Baby 3:20

Side 3
Produced by Marvin Gaye except *Freddie Perren and Fonce Mizell.
Mixes for tracks 1-3, by SaLaAM ReMi, and track 5, by Art Stewart, are previously unreleased.
1. My Last Chance 3:40
2. Symphony 2:52
3. I’d Give My Life For You 3:31
4. Woman of the World* 3:30
5. Christmas In the City (instrumental) 3:48

Side 4
Produced by Marvin Gaye
1. You’re The Man Version 2 4:40
2. I Want to Come Home For Christmas 4:48
3. I’m Going Home (Move) 4:38
4. Checking Out (Double Clutch) 4:50

SOULMUSIC GLOBAL (SoulMusic.com’s Official YouTube Channel)

DAVID NATHAN’S SPOTIFY PLAYLIST – CELEBRATING MARVIN GAYE

SOUL TALKIN'  with David Nathan & Kevin Goins: A TRIBUTE TO THE STAX/VOLT REVUE IN EUROPE, 1967

SOUL TALKIN’ with David Nathan & Kevin Goins: A TRIBUTE TO THE STAX/VOLT REVUE IN EUROPE, 1967

Celebrating the amazing Stax/Volt Revue’s groundbreaking 1967 tour of Europe with Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Eddie Floyd and Arthur Conley (with Carla Thomas on certain shows) with Booker T. & The M.G.s and The Markeys. SoulMusic.com founder David Nathan shares with Kevin Goins his reminiscences and memories of seeing the show at Fairfield Halls, Croydon on March 27th…