Monday, April 28, 2008

Clarence Carter - Patches

Sure, it's no Slip Away. It's gimmicky and cheesy, and maybe it's as much melodrama as soul. But this track never fails to make me sing along.

"Patches, I'm depending on you, son, to pull the family through..."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Being James Brown

I've been reading an anthology called The Best Music Writing 2007, and it's fantastic. My mind has been opened, and then wrenched even a little wider, to the possibilities of music criticism. Who knew it could be so varied and compelling?

Anyhow, the absolute gem of the collection - although there are some doozies in there - is Jonathan Lethem's epic portrait, Being James Brown. I was thrilled to find it available for free in the Rolling Stone archives. Take the time to read the whole thing; it's worth it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

In Defence of Motown: The Marvelettes

Southern Soul types (both fans and industry people) always enjoy taking the same shot at their Motown rivals, arguing that Detroit's finest acts had been polished up and watered down for the benefit of a white audience. In other words: there's no authentic soul in Hitsville, USA.

Certainly most Motown acts don't have the raw dynamism of the early Stax years, but I don't think that makes them a bunch of sell-out hacks as some people like to suggest. Case in point: the Marvelettes. With their unvarnished vocals and (slightly) edgier subject matter (compare the Supremes' "Baby Love" with the Marvelettes' "Don't Mess With Bill"), they've always managed to bring a ragged touch to that polished Motown sound. They're my favourite girl group, and I'd put them up against Carla Thomas any day. Here's "Too Many Fish in the Sea":

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Jackie Wilson - Higher and Higher

I'm feeling a little down tonight, and the only cure is this up-tempo live version of Jackie Wilson's classic, complete with vintage stage outfit and wicked-awesome dance moves.

The Dan Penn Files: Is A Bluebird Blue?

Dan Penn is one of my favourite characters in the soul story. As Fame's Rick Hall told Peter Guralnick in Sweet Soul Music: "Here was this kid, white, sixteen years old, singing like Ray Charles, just in love with black music. He was the real thing. He wasn't a rip-off or a fake. He knew more about black music than the rest of us put together." When Penn showed up in at Hall's fledgling studio in Muscle Shoals, he brought a song he'd written with him: "Is a bluebird blue?" which later became a hit for Conway Twitty.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Notes from a roadtrip through America's musical heartland

I recently completed a one-month roadtrip through the South, focused (for the most part) on learning more about (and writing about) the history of soul, blues, rock and country in the area. The theory is that fusing my travel writing - where I already have a toe-hold in the industry -with music writing will provide me with clips to help break in more fully on the music side of things. We shall see...

In any case, here are a few items published over at World Hum as I went:

Jackson On My Mind - About my preparations for the trip, and trying to figure out which "Jackson town" was the one Johnny and June sing about.

Do Right Woman: 'Worth the 160-Mile Detour From Nashville' - On seeing Dan Penn's original 'Do Right' lyrics at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
Burning, Burning, Burning and Nothing Can Cool Me? - Sadly, the "hunk a burning tenders" at the Heartbreak Hotel weren't actually that spicy.

Sweet Soul Music

Let's kick things off with Arthur Conley's Stax Records classic, Sweet Soul Music:

Welcome to the Soul Archive

I spend a lot of time digging up old 60s soul/motown/r&b clips on YouTube, and on the (increasingly rare) occasion that I find a good piece of music writing dedicated to the soul era (sadly, these days, mostly found in the obituaries) I treasure it. So I thought it would make sense to collect all these precious links in one spot, where fellow soul-lovers can make use of them, too.