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Tom Tobben

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Starting in the early 1960s, popular music experienced a blending of traditional R&B with gospel, jazz, and pop/rock music into what became known as “soul music”. Partly as a result, soul music became a widely popular genre which reached a broader multi-racial, multi-cultural audience and began to have a major impact on popular radio, on the Billboard charts, and on overall record sales. Labels like Atlantic/ATCO, Motown, STAX/Volt, Chess, Brunswick, and others experienced major increases in sales of their “soul” artists’ music and its popularity on the pop and R&B charts. This rise in popularity paralleled the Civil Rights movement in the U.S., laws eliminating segregation, and the rise of greater inclusiveness in our society, so it also aligned with America’s changing culture and the rise of the baby boom generation’s new attitudes and values. It became an important part of the musical soundtrack of a new generation.

By the mid-60s, “soul” music had become a major mainstream music genre and the Civil Rights movement had become a major cultural movement in American society. As a result, the term “soul” became quite widespread and took on a variety of meanings, to the point that its use also often became cliched. In music, especially from the mid-60s through the mid-70s, all sorts of music and songs claimed to have some connection to “soul” – many of which legitimately sprung from the cultural or musical roots that gave rise to “soul music”.   Other artists, however, capitalized on the popularity of soul music or the cultural phenomenon of having “soul”, and some used the term for all sorts of songs that had limited connection to “soul” music. Soul music eventually became further categorized into more regional or stylistic variations, such as Memphis soul, Motown/Detroit soul, Chicago soul, New Orleans soul, Philly soul, blue-eyed soul, British soul, Northern soul, psychedelic soul, etc. Likewise, in the 70s, the TV music show Soul Train became a long-standing hit series in the US, featuring a wide range of popular and emerging soul artists and songs.

By the mid-to-late 70s, the notion and popularity of “soul” music had begun to diminish and was eventually superseded by other popular R&B-related sub-genres such as funk, disco, and early hip-hop, though some artists and songs continued to link themselves to the notion of “soul” music or having “soul”, and eventually what was later called “neo-soul”, right on up to our present 21st century.

This week’s battle will focus on songs that lay claim to being about “soul”, and it will be up to us to decide which songs in this week’s battle are most appealing from the perspective of “soul music” or popular music more generally. There are so many songs I could have selected for this week’s battle, so I narrowed the competition down to four songs that ostensibly fall within the broad spectrum of “soul” by incorporating the term “soul” into the song’s title but that also reflect a good deal of stylistic variation. 

Likewise, as you all consider this week’s battle theme, I’m sure you can come up with plenty other songs that epitomize excellent varieties of “soul” music or that capitalize on the notion of “soul” to try to make their song seem more appealing or socially relevant.

Thus, for your consideration, votes, and comments, here are this week’s four battle songs:

1.       “Sweet Soul Music” by Arthur Conley was a major 1967 U.S. hit, reaching #2 on the pop charts, and one that capitalized on the sounds and wide popularity of soul music, and it celebrated several of the most popular soul artists of the period. The song was jointly written by Otis Redding and Arthur Conley:

2.       “Soul Sacrifice” by Santana, from 1969, blended elements of R&B, rock, Latin, and African music in a distinctive manner, and was perhaps an early example of what later became known as “world music”. This powerful song and impassioned live performance as a featured extended instrumental at the Woodstock festival and on the band’s debut album, Santana, helped launch Santana’s long and successful career. Here’s a live version from the Woodstock festival:

3.       “Soul Searchin’” was first released in 2002 by the late Solomon Burke on his album Don’t Give Up on Me, which won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B album. As many here know, this song was originally written by Brian Wilson and Andy Paley as part of their extended songwriting sessions in the 1990s. Brian recorded a compelling version of his song, featuring brother Carl Wilson on some of the lead vocals, but the song wasn’t finalized and publicly released until 2004, when it appeared on Brian’s album Getting in Over My Head, and then again with some reworking in 2013 on the Beach Boys’ Made in California album. Since this week’s battle is focused on “soul” music, I’ve decided to go with the originally published recording of the song by legendary soul artist Solomon Burke, who was sometimes known by his fans as King Solomon and The Prince of Soul.

4.       More recently, “Hey, Soul Sister” was a major hit for the San Francisco-based group Train in 2009. It was the lead single from their album Save Me, San Francisco, and it became a top 10 hit in many countries, including #1 in several countries.



 

For cut and paste purposes:

“Sweet Soul Music” by Arthur Conley

“Soul Sacrifice” by Santana

“Soul Searchin’” by Solomon Burke

Hey, Soul Sister” by Train

 

I hope you find this week’s battle songs, and the numerous other songs that many of you will provide, to be a “soulful” experience and bring back many good musical memories of some of your favorite soul music and artists.   

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t bedford

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Reply with quote  #2 
Looks like a fun week. I'll be back after a few listens to vote, meanwhile...

Ohio Players - Sweet Sticky Thing
youtube.com/watch?v=MgbDVkYOyHM

More soul from Ohio...
O'Jays - For the Love of Money
youtube.com/watch?v=zcrppevM46Q

And another Ohio group...
Isley Brothers - It's Your Thing
youtube.com/watch?v=Tqc_EhmL8-E

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Darren J. Ray

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Reply with quote  #3 
I'm looking forward to posting some of my favourite Soul classics this week, Tom. 

Here's the first, a #1 hit on both sides of the Atlantic and, indeed, here in Australia; written by the great Tony Macauley who was also responsible for 'Build Me Up Buttercup', 'Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)', '(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep At All' and 'Baby Now That I've Found You' (all massive hits)...



It’s hard not to be moved by David's performance on the clip. You can feel his heartbreak. I do hope the lucky lady he was singing this for didn’t give up on them. Great record, well sung and, again, a massive hit.

I defy anyone to post a bigger Soul hit this week. 
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Tom Tobben

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Reply with quote  #4 
Darren, you're so funny.

Of course, David Soul (born David Richard Solberg) is best known as a TV actor, and his ventures into music were pure pop, somewhat akin to light pop artists like David Gates & Bread, Air Supply, etc. 

He's a perfect example of someone who changed his name to capitalize on the popularity of "soul", and his music really seems to have little to do with the nature or spirit of soul music. Contender or pretender? I say pretender, at least with regard to having anything to do with "soul" music. And none of his songs ever came anywhere near getting onto the R&B charts. 

Here in the US, he was pretty much a nothing burger as a singer, scoring only one Top 40 hit, with his mid-70s saccharine pop tune "Don't Give Up on Us". That's also about the time I "gave up" on his music too. 
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Lee Marshall

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Reply with quote  #5 
Santana...This one opened doors which are still swinging.  The golden gates...in a sense.  Historic beginnings

Solomon...A wide range in terms of his appeal.  Great songs.  Saw him in Toronto   T'was the early-mid 90s.  Silver.

Arthur/Arthur...Author/Author.  Huge hit...the top 3 are miles ahead of the guys in last place this week.  Good tune.  Bronze.

Train...Having trouble pulling out of the station...Rather trite.  [dead last...and...faded tin.]
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kds

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Reply with quote  #6 
Gold - Santana

Silver - Conley 

Bronze - Burke

.......

......


.......

Tin - Train 
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John B

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Reply with quote  #7 
Thanks, Tom, great topic.  I suspect this will end badly for my fellow bay area fellows/Train...but I do want to be fair and listen freshly at home before I vote.

  Some hip-hop of course, fits quite closely to or even right into the soul genre.  I'm thinking specifically right now about Boot Riley & the Coup, because his screenplay is finally coming out as a motion picture in July, called "Sorry for Bothering You".  about ...a black telemarketer who discovers he can 'sell' better by using a magical white voice. 

  thankfully, because it's the same title, this will help resurrect one of his/their best albums, from near the Occupy movement, and recorded entirely with a live band rather than with samples.  Think in musical influence: Normal Whitfield/Barret Strong, Holland/Dozier/Holland/, What's goin' On/Marvin, Edwin Starr, Chambers Bros., Curtis Mayfield, and Sly Stone.  Boots' lyrics have always been/and continue to be killer and timely, such as on songs like "The Magic Clap," "Land of 7 Billion Dances" and "Your Parent's Cocaine."   He can also do very sad protest songs like a beat poet with classical music, such as "Violet".  Love 'Long Island Iced Tea. Neat'--which has an of the moment celebratory consciousness raising spirit to me. 

=Soul.
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Al Forsyth

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Reply with quote  #8 
Tom,

Looks pretty soulful. I'll be back way later on this week(end) to vote this one.  Train could have the caboose, but I'll give it a try.  Tough week to vote - looks REALLY good and challenging.

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Larry Franz

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Reply with quote  #9 
If only it was November 6th. Meanwhile:

Gold:  “Sweet Soul Music” by Arthur Conley -- Cool & fun.

Silver:  “Soul Sacrifice” by Santana -- This overstays its welcome, and I usually don't care for Latin music, but it's quite good.

Bronze:  "Hey, Soul Sister” by Train -- I had low expectations. It kind of grew on me.

Tin:  “Soul Searchin’” by Solomon Burke -- This version doesn't do anything for me. It's the third time it's been in the battle. The Brian/Beach Boys version has never been used, although the Made In California track has been available for four years in tandem with "You're Still A Mystery". Personally, Carl's vocal would have elevated it above the competition.

The Beach Boys, "Soul Searchin'/You're Still A Mystery"
youtube.com/watch?v=In0lZ_pNPbU


I thought about posting Sam & Dave, but decided on Bill & Bobby:

The Righteous Brothers, "(You're My) Soul and Inspiration"
youtube.com/watch?v=1gZlmUtEMLs

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Darren J. Ray

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Reply with quote  #10 
Tom, I'd be careful criticising David Soul. He doesn't take it well. 

I'm afraid you've misjudged him. 




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bonnie bella

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Reply with quote  #11 
Hey Tom. 

I love soul music.  In fact, just tonight I was sampling songs for a theme I had in mind, which was "horses", and was captured listening to some lovely soul and blues music from Mick Jagger.  (I'll let you work that one out.)








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John B

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Reply with quote  #12 
1.  the reportedly '75% Andy/25% Brian' song, " Soul Searchin' by Solomon Burke. 

2. 'Sweet Soul Music' by Arthur Conley.

but erroneous to give him writing credits.  The song is lifted almost entirely--with only slight lyrical changes to name-check soul singers, from 'Yeah, Man' by Sam Cooke, off the 1965 (just after death) album, "Shake" which is one of his best (e.g. "A Change is Gonna Come," "I'm Just a Country Boy," "(Somebody) Ease My Troublin' Mind," "Win Your Love for Me," and "Meet me at Mary's Place" etc.  Who sings better?  my gosh.  Sam does, of course.
--Interesting to read up on Arthur's life.  from the south so...just imagine.  By the 70's, he was in the Netherlands for the rest of his life, with new name and "outed" as gay.  Became an interior decorator.  Died young.

3. 'Hey, Soul Sister' by Train.

One of those Vanilla Ice/what if ?  release or not release/what would have been better? in retrospect songs.  He's got the vocal range, he's a handsome guy--and he undoubtedly works out more than that fat singer for Fall Out Boy.  But, he sang a silly-azz song that people picked up on and then started making fun of for being trite.  What can you do now about that? 

4.  Santana  "Soul (or my time) Sacrifice"

I like Latin music just fine. Richie Vallens. like Tejano.  like Los Lobos.  like Los Lonely Boys "Heaven".  Like "Together" by Tierra.  Like Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, "I Wonder if you Take me Home (Will you Still be in Love?)" and "Lost in Emotion." etc.  Sheila E's Texas-based family, like Al.  Terrific! Tina Marie, "Portugese Love" and "Lover Girl."     but this boring hippy?  jamming for 20 minute song while stoners look for what they dropped on the shag carpeting?   malo. 

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Tom Tobben

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Reply with quote  #13 
Thanks to all of our early commenters and voters -- t, Darren, Lee, kds, John B., Al, Larry, and bonnie. Some interesting and quite varied perspectives, and some excellent additional songs to throw into this week's mix.

Darren, with regard to your Magnum Force wimp, I'll match your guy against this "bad mother" any day:


bonnie, good call with the Stones cover of that Don Covay hit. Here is perhaps his most famous soul song, among the many that he wrote, as performed by the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin:


I'm short on time right now, so I'll be back later with further follow-up comments and songs.

Meanwhile, here's a soul classic from one of the masters:


 
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Tom Tobben

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Reply with quote  #14 
Back to follow up from my brief comments above:

t, good call with those three excellent soul groups who hailed from Ohio. Your "Sweet Sticky Thing" by Ohio Players is quite nice, and just one of their string of hits. The one I recall most was this funked up hit from the same year:

Though the O'Jays hail from Ohio, I always think of them as being a "Philly soul" group, once they connected with Gamble & Huff and recorded on the Philadelphia International label. Here's another early favorite of mine by them:

Despite their many hits over many decades, one of my Isley Brothers favorites still remains one of their earliest recordings:


Lee, you're so right about Santana's iconic performance at Woodstock and their groundbreaking first album. They certainly opened the doors to a broader, genre blending style of music, and Carlos Santana still remains a creative force in popular music. Another of my favorites from their debut album is "Jingo":


And, yes, Solomon Burke was such a longtime force in helping to shape the soul music genre. Here's one of his big R&B hits from 1965 that blue-eyed soul group Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes covered excellently in the mid-70s:



kds, thanks for your votes. Looks like Train plunged off the trestle and deep into the canyon for you, compared with the other contestants this week. When I included this contemporary song, I was curious how people this week would rank it this week and whether they thought of it as representing "soul" music or its spirit. 

Al, with your extensive and broad knowledge of music over many years, I'm looking forward to your contributions to exemplifying this week's broad range of "soul" and, of course, your votes. 

Larry, thanks for your quick decisiveness about ranking this week's battle songs, and for elaborating more on the Brian/Carl/Beach Boys recordings of "Soul Searchin'". And, of course, the Righteous Brothers' "Soul & Inspiration" had to be an addition to this week's battle theme mix, as a prime purveyor of "blue-eyed soul". Another group that I would throw into that category, though perhaps lesser known, are Alex Chilton and the Box Tops from Memphis:

As always, I look forward to what additional favorite examples of "soul" or soulful music you add to this week's playlist!

bonnie, I suspect you've been checking out the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" for your possible battle theme. You're right that the Stones were greatly influenced by blues and soul music, most notably on their early albums. Because they were big fans of the Chicago blues, they even visited and recorded at Chicago's famous Chess Records studio back in the 60s, where so many classic blues, R&B/soul, and rock & roll classics were recorded. Their classic double album, Exile on Main Street, was also heavily influenced by blues music, as well as their recent 2016 album, Blue & Lonesome, consisting of covers of some of their favorite Chess blues artists' songs. 

John B, thanks also for your votes and comments. And thanks also for providing the additional detailed background for Arthur Conley's "Sweet Soul Music". And for those who are curious, here is Sam Cooke's original song, "Yeah, Man", which became the basis for Conley's biggest hit song a couple years later, with significantly reworked lyrics and a much-expanded instrumental arrangement:

With your extensive knowledge of the soul genre, I'm hoping you'll also add a number of your favorite soul artists, songwriters, and songs to this week's mix.


How about this big late 60s hit, "A LIttle Bit of Soul" -- soul or pop capitalizing on the "soul" phenomenon? Soul contenders or merely pretenders? As t would know and could tell us more, the Music Explosion also hailed from Ohio, and they were discovered by producers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz, who were also pivotal in launching the "bubblegum music" phenomenon of the late 60s.


Looking forward to more comments, songs, and votes from everyone. 

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t bedford

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Reply with quote  #15 
I never ever considered Music Explosion (from Mansfield) to be a soul group. Ever.

Ohio Players (apparently) live on The Midnight Special: Love Roller Coaster
youtube.com/watch?v=aBkVV9xxCHE

Here's some white men that oozed "soul":

Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels - Too Many Fish in the Sea & Three Little Fishes
.youtube.com/watch?v=7tpk3_fLsK8

The Animals - Bring It on Home to Me
youtube.com/watch?v=R4x9Rb0eFdc

They used to call these guys "blue eyed soul", but with last names of Brigati, Cavaliere, Danelli, & Cornish, it seems likely they could only come up with 2 blue eyes out of 8 total.
Young Rascals - What is the Reason
youtube.com/watch?v=-iwH88JMXcE


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