Monthly Archives: December 2009

Song of the Year #20: I’m Hip

So this song sticks to me as the most ironic song for me this year. This is the year I discovered my inner cool (apparently it’s been there all along).

But the risk of looking at yourself as cool, hip, and not *common* is that you seriously run the risk of being the biggest monumental douchebag that the world has ever seen…

So… one should maintain a sense of humor about being someone that chases the latest fads and trends, or somehow maintains their inner self identity, knowing all along that they are cool.

So, from Blossom Time at Ronnie Scotts(1966)

We have “I’m Hip”

The girlie giggle and sweet innocence that Blossom Dearie sings with always gives her more comical song interpretations an extra sting, She’s always in on the joke that she sounds rather innocent, but she’s too intelligent to take anything too serious. If she isn’t a soul singer I don’t know what she is…

…because as I define it, Soul Music is always about finding every emotion in each word, phrase or sentence you sing, bringing to life multiple emotions to plain words on a lyric sheet so there’s more than the surface meaning of the text.

And with a wry smile in her voice, Blossom Dearie outsouls a lot of people…

We lost her this past February, and we lost another woman who breathed a warm breath into our living rooms, our cars, our night clubs and our afterhours wanderings through our own brains. Rest in peace pretty voiced lady.

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Song of the Year #19: You’re Walking Out With My Heart

So, for song #19 we have to dip into the “many unreleased gems of Brenda Holloway” bag of goodies, from Cellarful of Motown Volume #3

After getting our hair dusty with dust hunting though acetates.. to find the mile a minute rollercoaster northern goodie…

“You’re Walking Out With My Heart” (1966)

This song is one in a serious of sparkling examples of wonder concerning Motown. Like Kim Weston, Brenda Holloway recorded a shocking number of potentially classic Motown grooves that for whatever reason(s) (discussed ad naseum) that collected dust and eventually led to the frustration of the two women leaving the label within a year of each other.

The dryness of Brenda Delivery heightens the intensity and desperation, and the tempo heightens the panic sensation of feeling epically out of control of what Might happen next.

And, well… it’s a killer dance groove too.

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Song of the Year #18: Save it For Me

This year I also rediscovered how much I live Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, remembering their trio of #1 breakthroughs as 1962 became 1963, and the genre blurring soulfulness of their brand of East Coast Italian pop/soul.

Their earliest work mirrors a lot of post doo-wop Soul (especially oddly mirroring sonically a lot of Mary Wells first hits, like “You Beat Me to The Punch”) and a lot of their mid to late 60s output was influenced by Holland Dozier Holland classic Motown… in between 1963 and early 1965 They created a sound of their own…

My favorite from their heyday has to be “Save it For Me” which rarely gets attention these days, despite being a #10 pop hit in 1964.

From the “Telestar” rip off beginning to the kettle drums, it’s a good send off to early 1960s pop idioms quickly becoming obsolete as 1964 became 1965 (notably this was the same era in which hefty Phil Spector Girl Group confections started having trouble charting).

It sounds perfectly dated to 1964, and that’s why I love it so.

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Song of the Year #17: You Don’t Have to Be A Tower of Strength

Now I wrote about Gloria Lynne’s response to Gene mcDaniels massive hit “Tower of Strength” earlier this year, and well, out of a rush I can’t find the actual initial post I did about that song… so oh wells…

Here I go having to start fresh.

Gloria Lynne \"You Don\'t Have To Be A Tower of Strength\" (1961)

So why do I love this song, it’s a great song about pre-feminist devotion to a man, that well, isn’t the standard, he man bearer that is idealized (even to this day). If just being loved simply for who you are (from both sides of the relationship) is most key.

Also, I love it’s early 1960s perky uptown soul feel (the birth of Popcorn soul perhaps) that seems upbeat, almost defiant in Gloria’s scatting ability to the decided depressed trombone figure of the song it answers. For, a few more reasons I like the answer record far more than the original hit, despite (or perhaps because of) it’s blantant dated sexist tone…

Enjoy, and I think I’ll only get to 20 posts for the new years.

Also… if you want to get a zip file/mix CD as a gift of the top 20 songs of the year here at Soulful Kinda Feelin’ shoot a comment.

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Motown 50th Post: The Influence of the Soundalike

So to celebrate Motown’s 50th Anniversary I started thinking of the best of songs people seem to associate with Motown, but in fact have nothing at.all. to do with the label.

1)”Rescue Me”
Fontella Bass (1965)

So, a lot of people think 1) This is Aretha Franklin and 2) That she was signed to Motown. No. and. No. In fact this song was recorded in Chicago with none other than Minnie Riperton (Then of The Gems) on background vocals, and was released on Chess Records. Billy Davis (Co-writer of the song) however was one of Berry Gordy’s early writing partners for Jackie Wilson (“Lonely Teardrops”) and Etta James (“All I Could Do Was Cry”) It’s also one of the biggest Motown Soundalikes.

2)”A Lovers Concerto”
The Toys (1965)

“Oh Shit, They stole our style” Supremes rip off from the Fall of 1965 that borrows it’s base melody from “Minuet in G” by Bach. Holland-Dozier-Holland borrowed some melody that no one recognized(s) and came up with “I Hear A Symphony” As a response. The Toys recorded more unique (well “Attack” is like the female equivalent of The Four Seasons “Working My Way Back To You”) material, to lesser degrees of success through 1969.

3)”Just Like Romeo & Juliet”
The Reflections (1964)

The Four Seasons “Walk Like A Man” meets The Temptations “The Way You Do The Things You Do” Recorded on Golden World, one of the few credible competitors to Motown in Detroit (and eventually bought out by Motown in 1967). Most likely has quite a few of Motown’s legendary funk brothers actually recording it (Golden World did employ most of them for Edwin Starr’s “Double O Soul” and “Stop Her On Sight”) and a #6 hit at the height of the british invasion.

4)”Right Now & Not Later”
The Shangri-Las (1965)

The Myirmidons of Melodrama actually attempted with this “Back In My Arms Again” rip to have a hit after the orchestral masterpiece “Out In The Streets” didn’t do all that well outside of the northeast (as if, like, people didn’t have hoodlums outside of the Bronx). Sadly this nice piece of camp didn’t make it further than #99pop, and most attention these days is given to the (admittedly great) “Train From Kansas City”

5)”The 81″
Candy & The Kisses (1964)

Picks up *exactly* where Martha & The Vandellas “In My Lonely Room” picks off (including the same opening guitar figure, but on meth). It’s about a dance from Philly that nobody seems to remember, and considering that of all things “In My Lonely Room” wasn’t all that big of a hit, of all songs, why did they want to choose this one to do a rip off of? “The 81″ peaked not at #81, but at #51 as 1964 became 1965.

6)”1-2-3”
Len Barry (1965)

Apparently this song is a note for note re-write of The Supremes “Ask Any Girl” (the flipside to “Baby Love” Motown was too shy to flip over and reduce the A sides chances of going #1). All these years later I don’t hear it.

7) “Build Me Up, Buttercup”
The Foundations (1968)

eh…this song has become such a cliche, just as much as “Stop! In The Name of Love” or “My Girl” do I really need to write anything more about it? Whenever I hear it these days I think of Cameron Diaz with Jizz in her hair.

8) “You Made Me So Very Happy”
Blood Sweat & Tears (1969)

Nobody seems to know that this is a Motown Song. But It is. Originally it was done by Brenda Holloway in 1967. it eeked into the Top 40, but while it was in the charts Brenda Holloway walked out of the Motown studios recording follow-up material and asked for a release from her contract. 2 years later Blood, Sweat & Tears did a cover version in that whiteboy lounge soul mode that was all the rage for middle class people in their late 20s and had a massive hit with it. Brenda Holloway makes close to $70,000 a year out of royalty payments on this song *alone* because she’s a co-writer. I want to write a song that makes me $70,000 a year (sad face).

9) “The Real Thing”
The Chiffons/Tina Britt (1964/1965)

Both versions are Martha & The Vandellas soundalikes. The Chiffons version leaning more towards “Dancing In The Streets” the Tina Britt Version leans to sounding a bit like an update on “Heatwave” Both are awesome, and The Chiffons version was pulled in courtesy to allow Tina Britt to have a hit. It was also covered by Betty Everett and Cilla Black, and often sung by Dusty Springfield in her live shows and on her television shows. It’s probably been covered (to lesser success) as often as “Heatwave” itself

10) “Mine Exclusively”
The Olympics (1966)

Just awesome, and a perfect way to round up this list of the lasting influence of the little label from Detroit. I could list Maxine Nightingale’s “Right Back Where I Started From” (1975) or Luther Vandross’s “Bad Boy (Having a Party)” (1982) or Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop(That Thang)” But then this list would never end….and I need to go do something more productive….

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Song of the Year#16: One Step Ahead

It seems that for years now I’ve been the only person that ever “prefers” Aretha Franklin’s Columbia Record output to her forever-and-a-day critically lauded output from Atlantic Records….

…then again I’m much more a fan of early 1960s “Uptown Soul” (which by halfway through 1964 Aretha was firmly entrenched in as a style), and prefer her restraint (it shows she had a talent for nuance and phrasing) instead of the constant vocal gymnastics that categorize her Atlantic Years…

I’ll go on record as I might be the only person on earth that can’t sit through the 4 minute + of wailing that is “Ain’t Now Way” while everyone else thinks it’s the most authentic deep soul ballad ever…

I’d rather listen to the pensive, aware and intelligent Aretha circa 1965 muted woodwinds

“One Step Ahead” (1965)

in the “I wrote about this song earlier this year vein” I had to say this about the song a few months back:

Ok, I understand why this song wasn’t a hit, because it’s a bit too dreamy, a bit too existentialist…One Step away from disaster, but being all to aware of it and not knowing what exactly to do (because, ya know, life is life and as life goes we have a hard time figuring out where things and pieces actually fit). So being one step ahead is ok, or doesn’t really matter, because being too far ahead or too far behind can be a bit overwhelming

I love how when not trying to “prove” that her voice is A natural resource of Michigan that Aretha can caress a lyric with tenderness that was lost in the all out assault on the listener that would come later.

Plus… it’s so dreamy…
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Song of the Year #15:Warning

In the category of best Supremes song that, well, really isn’t a Supremes song is in the “You Keep Me Hanging On”/”Going Down for the Third Time” realm of Supremes Soundalikes (a rare soundalike formula for someone to ape) in the form of an effort by Pat Lewis from Golden World (Motown Records only “serious” competition on the local Detroit Market, fielding hits from The Reflections and Edwin Starr, before he was poached by Motown).

Warning (1967)

Pat is best known for her “Can’t Shake It Loose” from 1966, for 1) being a early George Clinton composition 2) Being covered by Diana Ross The Supremes in 1968 and 3) for when Golden World was bought by Motown becoming by default an “Andante” (one of two women, including Gimme a Break/Family Matters star and future Dawn Member Telma Hopkins) and by default, a Vandella, Marvelette and Supreme…

But her better single release is this bad ass piece of Girl Group advice, here warning a dude of a maneater… I wrote earlier this year:

I like that it’s a bit more complex than you expect, and that Pat Lewis rides it quite hard, the majority of time reaching into her falsetto to establish the “warning” of “Don’t be caught” (totally different than how she sounds on “Can’t Shake it Loose”). Also, another “you know Motown Session Musicians” are moonlighting on this record

Strangely for such a popular Northern Soul Record, I hadn’t heard it til this year…so, here’s hoping that it’s “brought back” in the new year.

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