Not sure how I managed to have not seen this clip on YouTube until yesterday, but soon as I did I knew it was a no-brainer for today. Sublime performance of a sublime song.
This clip makes me so very happy and glad to be alive. There are times when I think 70s soul is the pinnacle of all music.
I must admit I haven’t listened to a Maxwell album since his terrific debut Urban Hang Suite way, way back in 1996. He just fell off my radar after that, probably because he only released four more albums in the 20 years (gulp) since. But I might have to go back and listen to the ones I missed because his newest effort black SUMMERS’ night is absolutely gorgeous — sophisticated and sexy soul music that’s classic but very modern.
The new Frank Ocean record might be sucking up all the hype and attention at the moment but this album deserves plenty of love too.
Bit short on inspiration at the moment so I’ll just be throwing up random tunes until the muse strikes again. Here’s some fab Latin Soul from 1969.
Download: Under The Street Lamp – Joe Bataan (mp3)
Photo: Elephant and Castle, London, 1949 by Bert Hardy.
Though this made the Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic in 1970 I still think it’s something of an unknown gem. Written and produced by Smokey Robinson and Frank Wilson, it’s more laid back than The Tops’ usual shouty passion and is utterly gorgeous.
Download: Still Water (Love) – The Four Tops (mp3)
The Drifters 1963 version of “On Broadway” is a classic as any fule kno, but I also love George Benson’s live version from 1978, probably more so.
The Drifters’ rendition has a melancholy feel as if they didn’t really believe they could make it there, which was probably the case for a black man in early 1960s. Benson, on the other hand, sounds completely convinced that he will be successful, especially the way he shouts “Cause I can play THIS HERE GUITAR!” — which, given that he made his name as a Jazz guitarist, wasn’t just bragging.
While I tend to side more with the world-view of The Drifters version, it’s hard not to get caught up in George Benson’s peppy positivity. Plus, it’s funky as hell.
Download: On Broadway – George Benson (mp3)
Photo: The Lights of Times Square by Andreas Feininger, 1957
I don’t know why Van Morrison is such an old misery guts who never smiles. If I made records as great as this I’d be grinning like an idiot all the time.
It took a while for us Brits to make soul and dance music as good as the Americans. Our efforts were decent but, from Dusty Springfield’s Motown-esque pop to early Britfunk like Hi-Tension and Linx, often suffered from thin production and lacked the warmth and oomph of our Yankee cousins.
As a consequence British soul music didn’t cut the mustard across the Atlantic and the acts which did make it were white and made their records over there. It wasn’t until 1982 that Londoner Junior Giscombe’s debut single “Mama Used To Say” became the first record by a black British soul artist to be a major success on the American R&B charts. In addition to that barrier-breaking he was also the first black Brit to appear on “Soul Train” which is a real badge of honor.
We hadn’t completely cracked the code though. To become an R&B smash in the States the single still needed the help of a punchier American remix which beefed up the original. But we must have learned something because after that America opened its hearts and charts to other Brit soul acts Loose Ends, Sade, and Soul II Soul.
My copy of the single is a 12″ white label promo, bought in a record store I used to frequent which had a lot of review and promo copies of records probably offloaded by music journalists for booze and drug money. It has a sticker on it that says “Special New Mix” which is different to the others I’ve heard so I’ve no idea if it was ever a commercial release.
Download: Mama Used To Say (Special New Mix) – Junior (mp3)