Category Archives: Soul

The Five Stairsteps – O-o-h Child (1970)

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At about the same time that The Jackson 5 were making waves, the first family of soul, The Five Stairsteps, released the song ‘O-o-h Child’.  The family were Betty and Clarence Burke Sr.’s five children: Alohe Jean, Clarence Jr., James, Dennis and Keni. Maybe it’s just me, but that earworm chorus, the drum rhythm and the singing siren (at roughly a minute in) make me wonder why this disc only sold a million copies. Have a great weekend.

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The Impressions – Stay Close To Me (1968)

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Close to you, close to me… get it? The pressing of the LP This Is My Country looks and reads as if it should be a protest album by Chicago-based The Impressions. However, aside of the title track, the album was anything but. For example, the Curtis Mayfield-penned track ‘Stay Close To Me’ sounds more like upbeat Motown than gritty Chicago soul. In fact, The Five Stairsteps & Cubie version would become a Northern Soul dance floor staple. Both records were released in 1968 on Mayfield’s Curtom Records label. Have a great weekend.

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John Mayer – Moving On And Getting Over (2017)

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Singer John Mayer’s eleventh album The Search for Everything was released in January. It’s a break-up album and the funky opener ‘Moving on and Getting Over’ puts it simply. It’s a return to his a more blue-eyed soulful side after his dalliance with sounds of Laurel Canyon.

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Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (1967)

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On this day (20 April) 50 years ago, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell released ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’. The song had been held back by writers Ashford & Simpson from the likes of Dusty Springfield as the their strongest case for entry to Motown. They knew they had a gold-plated disc on their hands. And they were right; they secured a contract with the Detroit-baed label and the song’s success led to a string of more Ashford & Simpson-penned duets (including ‘Two Can Have A Party‘, ‘You’re All I Need to Get By’, ‘Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing’, and ‘Your Precious Love’). Bliss.

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Velvet Hammer – Happy (1977)

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In 1977, Andre Williams recorded a number of tracks in Chicago with a band Williamsput. The collaboration was called the Velvet Hammer and represented Williams’ foray into the world of disco. In truth, the music became more prevalent on the Northern Soul scene. ‘Happy’ was the B-side to ‘Party Hardy’. Pharrell Williams certainly flipped the disc over.

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Cass McCombs – Opposite House (2016)

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I’ve noticed my start to the year is a little solemn. There’s no changing the low key today. Cass McCombs released ‘Opposite House’ as the the first single from last year’s long player Mangy Love. Angel Olsen provides backing vocals on the chorus. “Oh why/Why does it rain inside?” they sing. Have a great weekend.

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Sampha – Blood On Me (2016)

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Known for being the principal vocalist for Aaron Jerome’s SBTRKT, Sampha Sisay is flying high and solo. ‘Blood On Me’ is a contemporary slice of electro-infused soul released on West London’s Young Turks label. His voice is breathless, urgent and engaging.

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9 of the best – sounds of 2016

My favourite sounds of 2016 in no particular order…

The Avalanches – Because I’m Me

Whitney – No Woman

Glass Animals – Life Itself

Car Seat Headrest – Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales

Bon Iver – 33 “GOD”

The Strokes – Threat of Joy

Okkervil River – Okkervil River R.I.P.

The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk – I Feel It Coming

Traumprinz – 2Bad

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Honourable mentions also go to: De La Soul for ‘Trainwreck‘; The Last Shadow Puppets for ‘Everything You’ve Come To Expect‘; Let’s Eat Grandma for ‘Deep Six Textbook‘; Anderson .Paak for ‘Come Down‘; Solange for ‘Cranes In The Sky‘; DJ Snake for ‘Let Me Love You’; Honne for ‘Someone That Loves You‘; and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds for ‘Rings Of Saturn‘.

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Solange – Cranes In The Sky (2016)

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‘Cranes in the Sky’ features on Solange’s album A Seat at the Table. The track features Raphael Saadiq on bass, a downtempo R&B take on Massive Attack’s ‘Unfinished Symphony’ and a video directed by the singer and her husband Alan Ferguson. Solange Knowles is working out some issues and blossoming with it.

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Elle Varner feat. J. Cole – Only Wanna Give It To You (2011)

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Okay, I like the Elle Varner vibe, but the opening salvo of the ESG and Biz Markie samples is probably the reason this song makes the list. It more than makes up for a slowish jam about shoes. ‘Only Wanna Give It to You’ was Elle Varner’s lead single release off her debut album, Perfectly Imperfect, and features rapper J. Cole. Have a great weekend.

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HONNE feat. Izzy Bizu – Someone That Loves You (2016)

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HONNE are a British electronic soul duo from the East End of London. This year, James Hatcher (producer) and Andy Clutterbuck (singer/producer) teamed up with Izzy Bizu for the track ‘Someone That Loves You’ that features on their debut album Warm on a Cold Night. Clutterbuck sounds like James Arthur, but hey, that can be a positive right? “Don’t tell me that you could, don’t tell me that you could.” Have a great weekend.

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Jorja Smith – Where Did I Go? (2016)

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19-year old Jorja Smith is hot property and armed with a voice to match. Earlier this year, she released the buttery ‘Where Did I Go?’ She’s come a long way from native Walsall. You can tell she listened to Amy Winehouse and Lauryn Hill when growing up, if that’s something she’s finished doing.

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Janet Jackson – Doesn’t Really Matter (2001)

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This one is verging on a guilty pleasure, but probably has enough credibility to duck that ignominy. Janet Jackson may have written ‘Doesn’t Really Matter’ for the soundtrack to the movie Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, but the Jam and Lewis production lifts it above all of that tosh. The experimentation with fluid (almost acid-like) sounds combined with her classic vocal bridges and breakdowns make this timeless contemporary R&B.

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Bobby Hebb – Sunny (1966)

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It’s the weekend! ‘Sunny’ by Bobby Hebb. Enjoy.

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Connie Constance – Lose My Mind (2016)

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Soul is alive in the UK. Surely Connie Constance has a successful future in the genre. 20 years old and armed with a voice of a poet. Please give us more. ‘Lose My Mind’ was released as a single last month.

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