Friday, April 10, 2015

Soulful Strut

Yesterday we strutted out Chet Coppock's list of favorite Soul and R&B Classics ...  

And, as expected, we got some pros and cons from the audience ... 

Along with some other great Soulful Suggestions ...  

I am reading today's piece on FH while listening to the radio, and at the moment I scrolled to Number 19, "Lonely Teardrops" came on the radio! Honest!
I wonder if Chet is familiar with James Carr's original of "Dark End Of The Street."
David Lewis  
Chet has got to be one of the blackest white dudes I know ... his love for soul music is real ... and reaches to his very soul ... and I'll betcha THAT compliment would mean more to him than ALL the accolades he's received as a sportscaster!  He LIVES for this stuff ... and has spent his whole life seeking out these sounds at some of the finest clubs in Chicago.  (Speaking of which ... how is it that "Black Pearl" didn't make your list?!?!  I would have figured that one to be right near the top!)
Fact is, there are no rights or wrongs on a list this short ... we could probably all crank out another then without a moment's thought ... and then kick ourselves later for leaving this one of that one off the list ... because the list never ends!  (kk)

Actually I don't find much fault in Chet's selections. In a couple cases, I might have picked a different song by a performer. My Marvin Gaye choice would have been Let's Get It On, certainly not I Heard It through The Grapevine. Gladys Knight never sounded better. I'm not gonna judge the difference between The Four Tops and The Left Banke ... two totally different arrangements. Even Wilson Pickett made Sugar Sugar sound soulful. My Four Tops entry would be either Reach Out, I'll Be There, or Bernadette. I wonder what they would have sounded like had they been signed to Stax. Levi Stubbs' voice seems far more suited for them. All of Jerry Butler's VJ stuff is great, but I'd go with his duet with Betty Everett, Let It Be Me. Again it's just a matter of taste.
Jack Levin
Everybody's tastes will vary on this one ... I like a lot of the earlier Marvin Gaye stuff before he got all wrapped up in the ecology!  (I'll take "Stubborn Kind Of Fellow", "How Sweet It Is", "I'll Be Doggone", "Ain't That Peculiar", "It Takes Two", "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" or nearly any of his duets with Tammi Terrell ahead of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" any day ... I burned out on that song while it was still out ... it's been painful hearing it four million times over the past 45 years since!)  "Let's Get It On" and "Sexual Healing" a pretty much "cousins" as far as I'm concerned ... not that they're not effective and achieving exactly what they were designed to achieve.
As for Gladys Knight, "If I Were Your Woman" absolutely would have made MY list of Top 30 Soul Favorites ... I have NEVER gotten tired of hearing this one ... and rank it as not only one of HER bests ... but also one of the best songs and recordings to come out in the past 40 years.  And I'd rank Jerry Butler's "Only The Strong Survive" ahead of ANY Vee Jay track ... but that's just me.  (Hey, I'd pick The Left Banke version of "Walk Away Renee", too!)
A list like this is designed to spark a debate ... and bring out other suggestions and considerations.  To that degree, I'd have to say that Chet achieved his goal.  (kk)

And, as with any list, you'll find polar opposites, too ... check out these two back-to-back emails that we received ...

In regards to Chet's top R & B songs (his opinion), I can't really argue with his #1 pick by the Flamingos.  For whatever reason even until today, I get chills and goose bumps all over my body whenever I hear that song. Great tune. Not too many songs make me feel that way like that one. Bill Pursell's 1963 OUR WINTER LOVE does the same to me as well. The Aaron Neville tune he listed as #8 reminded me of a record Aaron recorded earlier in 1960 OVER YOU.
Larry Neal

Followed by ...

I liked many of Chet's soul choices but have never been a fan of I Only Have Eyes For You by the Flamingos. Different strokes for different folks.
Mark The Shark
I came to discover "I Only Have Eyes For You" late in life ... I wasn't listening to the radio yet in 1959 when the record first came out.  I heard it for the first time in the movie "American Graffiti" ... and it completely knocked me out.
Raised on The British Invasion, my initial reaction to that vocal blend that kicks of the song was "What the heck is THAT?!?!"  It COMPLETELY blew me away ... and still does to this.  (I know Chet'll cringe when he reads this ... but I love the Art Garfunkel arrangement, too.)
Speaking of "American Graffiti", another song that absolutely would have made my list ... and might have even topped it ... has got to be "Since I Don't Have You" by The Skyliners.  I don't think I've ever heard a song before or since that hit me as hard ... and again I heard it first in 1973!  Loved it enough from that one spin to rush out and buy the 2-LP Soundtrack to the film ... where I discovered many other soon-to-be favorites from the late '50's and early '60's.
Remember our "Goosebumps" series from a few years back ... songs that absolutely sent chills up your spine the very first time you heard them?  Well BOTH of these tracks qualify in my book ... and STILL sound every bit as exciting today ... neither one has ever lost its magic with me.  (kk)

Hi Kent -
I agree with Chet's Soul Picks, but I would add The Animals' version of "Bring It On Home To Me" ...
If I was going to add an Animals track it would have to be "House Of The Rising Sun" ... that's another one of the most soulful readings I've ever heard ... and coming smack dab in the middle of The British Invasion, I didn't quite know what to make of it at the time.  All I know is that my virgin ears had never heard ANYTHING like THAT before!!!
Several years ago, Peter Noone told us about how Producer Mickie Most brought Herman's Hermits and The Animals into the studio to record tribute tracks to Sam Cooke shortly after he was murdered.  The Hermits, of course, recorded "Wonderful World" ... and it became a #4 smash.  The Animals cut "Bring It On Home To Me", which peaked at #23. 
I LOVE the music of Sam Cooke ... I'd be hard pressed to pick six favorites because I love them all so much ... selecting just one for a Top 30 list would be nearly impossible for me!  (kk)  
The Herman's Hermits version of WONDERFUL WORLD was recorded as a tribute, the day after Sam was murdered in the USA. At the same recording session THE ANIMALS recorded BRING IT ON HOME TO ME. A tribute !!! We were fans of his music so we did tributes.  We didn't want to make the best recording as we all knew that SAM'S recording WAS and ALWAYS will be the BEST recording.  I should state here for the record, that I do not believe the music business is a competition.  Musicians do not compete.  Please try to remember that we all loved Sam Cooke, and others and never wanted to compete.  Every one of the bands who made up the British Invasion were influenced by the same singers (mostly American). We stole, used,borrowed and adored them. As a 13 year old I took a five hour bus ride to see Sam, who wore a turquoise suit and sang almost everyone I had heard until that day to shame. Having all of his recordings (ALL means ALL) from his earlier career I was a bit disappointed that he hadn't even referred to them in his concert, only to find out later, that he had no idea that anyone in England knew anything about his gospel music or had ever heard of that period of his career.  A true gentleman was Sam, and when Rod Stewart borrowed his voice and loaned it to Steve Perry from Journey, I was happy that at last he was known by everyone.  Anyone who knows Sam's history becomes a fan. He was the MAN!
-- Peter Noone  

>>>15. "I'm So Young" - The Beach Boys - An elegant cover of a song originally done by "The Students" tells you that Brian Wilson loved R and B as much as the "Four Freshman."  (Chet Coppock)
Beach Boys fans rejoice when someone understands the multi-dimensions of our favorite group. Surf and streets songs, for sure, but their catalog spans many genres and styles. Seems most are introduced to their music with Fun, Fun, Fun or Surfin' USA. My hope is that future generations will discover their music by first hearing She Knows Me Too Well or Sail On Sailor or It's About Time. Let's do a podcast sometime!
Thanks for representing us well!

A Top 30 "Soul's Greatest Hits" list that includes The Beach Boys ... but not "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone", "Me And Mrs. Jones" or Tower of Power's "So Very Hard To Go" is most definitely cause some debate ... it already has.
I'm not sure Brian and the Boys belong on this list ... they were really in a league of their own.
Legend has it that Sam Phillips once commented that if he could ever find a white boy that could sing like a black man, he could make a million bucks ... and then Elvis walked into the Sun Records Studio one day and the rest, as they say, is history.
Remember when Elvis used to regularly cross over to the R&B Charts?  It was pretty common practice back then.  Well, believe it or not, The Beach Boys actually made Billboard's R&B Charts, too ... five times in fact ... and each one of those records made The Soul Top 40 ... "Surfin' USA" (#20, 1963); "Surfer Girl" (#18, 1963); "Little Deuce Coupe" (#28, 1963); "Be True To Your School" (#27, 1963) and their label-credited background vocal work on The Fat Boys' single "Wipeout", which reached #10 in 1987.
Now be honest ... do ANY of those tracks exude soul to you???  I don't think so.
Hey, I love these guys as much as anybody ... and more than most ... but with only 30 spots on the list, I can think of about 2000 other songs I'd go with before giving up one of those spots to The Beach Boys.  (kk)  

Hi Kent!
After reading Chester Coppock’s views on “sweet soul music”, I decided to give my take on the subject. I know Chet opened a major kettle of fish with his views of R&B / Soul classics and everybody and his mother is going to have an opinion on the subject. I’m going to be listing by artist and my takes on what songs could be considered classic soul and for that matter blue-eyed soul classics.
So here goes:
The Flamingos:  I agree with Chet on their version of “I Only Have Eyes for You”, but I think “Lovers Never Say Goodbye” comes off as another piece of sublime doo-wop from this legendary group.
Otis Redding: Chet overlooked Otis’ version of “Try a Little Tenderness” in which he took an old standard that had been recorded by such people as Bing Crosby and Ruth Etting and turned into a classic piece of raw Memphis soul. Redding gave one of his most searing vocal performances ever and Isaac Hayes gave Booker T and the MGs  and the Memphis Horns a powerful arrangement to work with. His earlier “Pain in My Heart” deserves honorable mention.
Dusty Springfield: Her classic LP Dusty in Memphis (which featured “Son of a Preacher Man”) showed that she was more than able to handle raw soul music, but her early Philips singles such as “Stay Awhile”, “I Only Want to Be with You” and the sublime “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” not only showed that a white Irish Catholic girl could not only convincingly sing R&B/Soul music, but her recording could easily stack up to what was coming out of Berry Gordy’s Motown group of labels in Detroit but also – thanks to the producer & arranger team of Johnny Franz and Ivor Raymonde – compete with what Phil Spector and Jack Nitzsche were doing in Los Angeles during the same period.
The Stylistics: I defiantly agree with “You are Everything”, but “Stop, Look, Listen to Your Heart” and “Betcha-By-Golly-Wow” also deserve mention.
The Righteous Brothers: I disagree about “Ebb Tide” because it was mainly a Bobby Hatfield solo performance. I personally feel that their most underrated single “Just Once in My Life” deserves a listen big time to hear how good they really were.
Teddy Pendergrass: “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”, a single he cut with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes is a far superior track because it caught Pendergrass at his rawest and most emotional. And their version blows Simply Red’s revival out of the water.
Aaron Neville: Definitely agree with the sublime “Tell It Like It Is”.
The Jive Five: “My True Story” is a classic piece of sublime doo-wop.
Stevie Wonder: A very tough one to call because he cut so many classic sides for Tamla/Motown , but “If You Really Love Me” is one of his most underrated tracks.
Wilson Pickett: “Hard to top “Funky Broadway”, but “Mustang Sally” deserves mention.
Marvin Gaye: Even though “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Sexual Healing” were Chet’s songs of choice, I personally thing the entire contents of What’s Going On – including the title track and “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) – featured far better performances from both Gaye and legendary Funk Brothers.
Sam & Dave: Their cover of Sam Cooke’s “Soothe Me” is very underrated.
Sam Cooke: Definitely agree on “Bring It On Home to Me” (which features vocals by Lou Rawls), but I think “A Change Is Gonna Come” and “Chain Gang” deserve mention.
The Four Tops: “Walk Away Renee” was good but ‘Ask the Lonely” was far superior helped by Levi Stubbs’ pleading delivery and great production from Messrs. Holland-Dozier-Holland and backing by the Funk Brothers.
James Brown: “It’s a Man’s Man’s World” features probably his most pleading vocal to date while “Sex Machine” features probably his funkiest grooves. Honorable mention goes to “Prisoner of Love” because his raw, emotional take on this standard predated Redding’s take on “Try a Little Tenderness”.
David Ruffin: His earlier work with the Temptations shows how great of a vocalist he was. But when he did his first solo single “My Whole World Ended”, he created a masterpiece of deep soul music that he could never really top.
The Chi-Lites: It’s hard to top “Have You Seen Her” and “Oh Girl”, but “A Lonely Man” and ‘A Letter to Myself” deserve listening as classic of unrequited love.
Timi Yuro: With “Hurt”, she showed that a white, Italian-American woman can convincingly sing gospel-charged soul music. But two of her follow-up tracks “Count Everything” and the explosive “What’s A Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You)” (all produced by Clyde Otis) made sure the whole world knew it and made here the greatest white soul singer to come out of the early 1960’s.
The Five Satins: Definitely agree on the sublime “In the Still of the Night”.
Jerry Butler: I agree on “For Your Precious Love”, but two of his later Vee-Jay singles “Make it Easy on Yourself” and “I Stand Accused” had the better performances. And such later Mercury sides as “Lost” and “Only the Strong Survive” deserve mention.
The Walker Brothers: Their second US hit “My Ship is Coming In” showed that these three expatriate Americans could create a blue-eyed soul classic that rivals what the Righteous Brothers were doing. And like Dusty Springfield, they had the help of the producer/arranger team of Johnny Franz and Ivor Raymonde.
Curtis Mayfield: During his day with the Impressions, he showed that he was emerging as the social conscience of 1960’s black music. His classic single “Freddie’s Dead (Theme from Super-Fly)” crystalized everything about Mayfield’s music. Socially conscience lyrics dealing with drug addiction and public apathy towards what was going on in the streets mated to a funky rhythm. A track that made a very strong impression on me as a seven year old boy (it’s one of the first records I can recall buying). I might also add the Impressions “Choice of Colors”, “We’re a Winner”, and “People Get Ready” as well.
Well there’s my two cents. I’ll just let the chips fall where they may.
Mr. Kelly Izaj from Pittsburgh, PA
Plenty more great suggestions here ... I'll comment on a few of them (since some have already been addressed above)
First off, I have to say again that I was NEVER really a fan of Otis Redding.  (Save your hate mail ... I was bred on The British Invasion ... and Otis never really did it for me.)  That being said, I'd have to agree that "Try A Little Tenderness" just may be his most soulful performance ... it's a classic ... and I believe that one (a several other lesser known hits and album tracks) ALL outshine his #1 Hit "Dock Of The Bay", which topped Billboard's Hot 100 Pop Singles Chart for four weeks back in 1968 ... yet didn't make it to #1 on either the Cash Box OR the Record World Charts ... a topic we'll be taking on shortly in Forgotten Hits.  I believe a great deal of "Dock"'s success can be attributed to its posthumous release ... Otis had just died in a plane crash a few weeks before it debuted on the charts ... and I believe that this event great accelerated its movement up the charts.
Dusty Springfield would have made MY list, too ... I fell in love with her "Dusty In Memphis" LP while doing research for my Dusty series a few years back ... and would rank "Son Of A Preacher Man" and the LP cut "I Don't Want To Hear It Anymore" as amongst her finest.  But I have to agree with you that her earliest work was quite deserving as well.  (Several artists went to Memphis to record around this time ... so I have to give a nod to Lulu's "Oh Me Oh My" as well ... a GREAT cut that still sends chills up my spine every time I hear it.)
I think both of The Righteous Brothers' #1 Hits ("You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' and "Soul And Inspiration") have earned a spot on the list if only for their sheer staying power.  As for Bobby Hatfield solo, I've gotta go with "Unchained Melody".  Even though radio absolutely ruined this song for me with its non-stop saturation of airplay, there is no denying the fact that this is one of the most powerful performances ever waxed.  A very emotional recording ... a very emotional reaction TO this recording.
I'm with you on Teddy Pendergrass ... the work he did with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes was outstanding ... and I'd have to rank "The Love I Lost" right up there with "If You Don't Know Me By Now" ... two of my absolute favorites.
Stevie Wonder is one of those artists that I would have a tough time narrowing down to my Top 100 favorites ... he did SO much great work over the years.  That being said, "Black Man" is one of my LEAST favorites by him ... I could EASILY place ten of Stevie's hits on this list.
Same goes for James Brown ... how do you leave off "I Got You" and "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" ... not to mention the absolutely gut-wrenching "It's A Man's Man's Man's World"?  While I never considered myself a James Brown fan, these tracks stand in a class of their own.  Heck, we could probably do Top 30 Favorite lists for both Stevie and James!
I thought Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" deserved a spot on the list, too ... it was a revolutionary recording (inspired, believe it or not, by Bob Dylan's "Blowin' In The Wind" ... Cooke always felt that that song should have been written by a black man ... so he did his best to make things right when he wrote "A Change Is Gonna Come".)  Good as it was ... and as important as it was ... I've got to agree with Chet's choice on this one ... the vocal combination of Sam Cooke and Lou Rawls makes "Bring It On Home To Me" one of his finest recordings.  Their gospel roots really shine through on this one.
As for The Walker Brothers, I've got to go with "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" ... I still crank this one up every time I hear it, 50 years later.  Throw The Vogues in there, too, for good measure ... "Magic Town" and "Turn Around, Look At Me" are very soulful tracks for a bunch of white choir boys!
And we haven't even touched on many of the blue-eyed soul brothers like Hall And Oates (tough to beat "She's Gone"), Benny Mardones ("Into The Night") and even a recent track like Mayer Hawthorne's "The Walk all rank right up there near the top for me.
In fact, this could EASILY turn into our next Forgotten Hits Poll ... Your Top 100 All-Time Favorite Soul Hits, as voted on by The Forgotten Hits Readers.  (We're already off to a great start here!)
What do you say?  Should we keep it going?  Compile a list and then rank your favorites?  (kk)