In truth, there are only a few records associated with the northern scene which enjoy the respect of broader soul fans. These tend to be by well-known artists on major labels. The most respected northern side issued on a local label must be “Open the door to your heart” by Darrell Banks.
Originally the writing was credited only to Banks, but Donnie Elbert has since been co-credited as he had introduced his draft to Banks after registering it as “Baby walk right in”. It’s a superb mid-tempo number, issued in 1966 on Detroit label Revilot. The flip is the better of two versions of the up-tempo “Our love (is in the pocket)”, the more popular version is by J.J. Barnes. It was written by George Clinton with Sidney Barnes (uncredited) whose “I hurt on the other side” is in my Top 100. ‘Open the door’/’Our love’ got issued twice in ’66 in the UK. The first was on London – until recently it was thought that the only ones in existence were a handful of yellow demos, but a black & silver stock copy turned up and, once verified, sold for £14,000. It was issued also on Stateside. These sides became big sounds at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester and have remained as top oldies ever since.
The follow-up “Somebody (somewhere) needs you” is another solid northern favourite, written by L.A. veterans Frank Wilson & Marc Gordon, and issued in ’66 on Revilot – it’s far superior to the original version issued in ’65 as “Somebody needs you” by Ike & Tina Turner on Loma. The Revilot sides were Solid Hitbound productions (run by LeBaron Taylor and Don Davis) and recorded at United Sound in Detroit.
The Taylor/Davis partnership split up and Banks followed the former to Atco in New York where his vocals were recorded on two good mid-tempo sides issued as singles in ’67 “I’ve got that feelin’” and “Look into the eyes of a fool”, the latter was issued also on UK Atlantic. They were produced and co-written by Gene Redd, with the rhythm tracks laid down in the Motor City. These sides were included with ‘Somebody’ and LP versions of ‘Open the door’ and ‘Our love’ on the album “Darrell Banks is Here” issued in ’67 on Atco.
In ‘68 Banks teamed up again with ‘The Don’ (Don Davis) and his Groovesville set-up in Detroit, these sessions produced some excellent recordings including two releases on Volt treasured by northern and crossover fans: “I’m the one who loves you“ is another superb mid-tempo number, written by Melvin Davis, issued as a 45 in ’69 on Volt and UK Stax. Melvin Davis’ own version was included on his Rock Mill comp CD. The flip “Just because your love is gone” was included on UK Stax LP “Stax Soul Explosion”. The same year saw the release of his brilliant LP “Here to Stay”, recorded at United Sound (with input from the Memphis Horns). Among its highlights are a very good version of Jerry Butler’s “Only the strong survive” and several tracks written by Groovesville’s Don Davis, Steve Mancha, and Melvin Davis. The LP was issued also on UK Stax.
Don Davis produced/co-produced: “Call on me baby” by J.J. Barnes, which is in my Top 50; “I must love you” by Melvin Davis, which is in my Top 100; “That’s why I love you” by The Professionals and “He stole the love that was mine” by Steve Mancha, which are in my 50 Bubling Under.
There are many cover versions of ‘Open the door’, the best of which are by The Capitols, Little Milton and Freddie Scott. Its arrangement was used also on “The tears won’t stop falling” by Vikki Styles and “Break these chains” by Major Burkes. The number of different recordings of interest to the northern/rare soul scene exceeds 100,000 and Darrell Banks’ immortal classic is my number one – it’s also the only entry in my chart that hit the Billboard Top 30 Pop, but given its status on the northern scene I had to include it.
My favourite crossover tune is a delightful piece of southern mid-tempo magic which was issued three times, on the same label, with a confusing sequence. Willie Tee is renowned as one of the Crescent City’s foremost soul artists. As a composer he used his full name, Wilson Turbinton.
He is best known for his excellent northern hit “Walking up a one way street”, issued in 1964 on local label Nola. Atlantic issued it in ’65 in the US and ’67 in the UK. The flip on Nola “Teasin’ you” is a laid back, uncluttered mid-pacer. Both sides were written by Earl King.
The utterly simple and soulful “Thank you John” was self-penned, issued on US Atlantic in ’65 (and UK Atlantic in ’66 c/w ‘one way street’). Alex Chilton (formerly of The Box Tops) covered it on a Big Time EP in ’85. The next single on Atlantic “You better say yes” is another cool jazzy mid-tempo number, it was written by Earl King and issued in ’65. “You gonna pay some dues” was his most upbeat side up to that point – it was written by Tee and issued in ’66 on Nola subsidiary Bonatemp. One of his most popular numbers on the northern scene is the catchy “Please don’t go”, issued in ’67 on Nola c/w a tender ballad “My heart remembers”. Both sides were self-penned. All the aforementioned tracks were arranged by New Orleans stalwart Wardell Quezergue who owned Nola – he arranged also “I caught you in a lie” by Robert Parker which is in my Top 100.
Tee teamed up with Los Angeles veterans David Axelrod and H.B. Barnum which resulted in releases on Capitol. The crossover ballad “I’m only a man” was issued as a 45 at the tail end of ’68 – it became the title track of his LP, produced/arranged by Axelrod/Barnum and issued in ‘70. Two great tracks on the LP, written by Willie Tee, are the popular ballad “Bring on the heartaches” and the pacier “Take your time”. The LP includes also a soulful rendition of Jimmy Webb’s “By the time I get to Phoenix”.
Back in New Orleans Tee cut several xover and funky sides on the label Gatur which he co-owned. The brilliant “First taste of hurt” was self-penned and issued three times. Cat nọ 557 (issued c. ’70) preceded 509. To add to the confusion nọ 509 was issued twice with different takes. The blue label has piano and backing vocals, the better-known green version has Hammond organ (which I believe is the same take as 557). The brass arrangement is the same on both takes. The ‘green’ version is the one I fell in love with in the early 90’s and, for me, it’s the only number that rivals Darrell Banks. It was picked up at several venues including the Norfolk Village in Shoreditch and the 100 Club in Oxford Street. More recently, a cover by retro soulstress Joss Stone was included in her set “The Soul Sessions Vol. 2”. The flip to 557 is the catchy up-tempo number “I’m having so much fun”, written also by Tee. “Teasing you again” is a cool xover update of “Teasing you” which was issued c. ’71. I’m indebted to contributors on Soul Source for essential info concerning the Gatur sequence.
Another excellent sound is the mellow-groover “Nobody can be you” by The Gaturs (featuring Willie Tee) recorded in the early 70’s, and issued belatedly on Funky Delicacies LP/CD “Wasted”. The Gaturs backed Tee’s solo sides on Gatur and included his saxophonist brother Earl.
Willie Tee wrote another xover favourite of mine “One more chance” by Margie Joseph issued in ’69 on Volt.
I’ve scant info about Benny Johnson and the CD notes for his solo album don’t help. In his superb book “Spinning Around: A History of the Soul LP Vol. 1” John Lias says Johnson maybe the Benny Johnson (& the Soul Serenaders) on Tarx but not the man who wrote the soulful ballad “Sad man’s land” by The Spoilers issued on Tobin (he wrote none of the tracks on his LP).
The LP was recorded at International Telecomm studio near Baltimore, produced by Maurice Irby Jr. and issued in 1973 on NY label Today. It was arranged by labelmate Julius Brockington, with instrumental backing by his band The United Chair. My favourite is the title track “Visions of Paradise”, a sublime mid-tempo crossover sound, in a similar vein to Al Green. It was issued first as a single c/w with the more up-tempo “Stop me” – both sides were written by Edna Toles.
Another track “Baby I love you” is a mid to up-tempo shuffler written by Toles and issued later as a single. Another sophisticated mid-tempo xover track “Second to none” was written by Irby, but didn’t get issued on a 45. Irby worked with other artists on the label including Debbie Taylor and Odds & Ends.
My favourite sound from the Windy City comes, naturally, from just about everybody’s top Chicago singer/composer Curtis Mayfield. It’s another mid-tempo crossover gem.
On this side of the pond the most popular track by The Impressions is the Motownesque “You’ve been cheatin’”. It’s a cracking northern dancer but totally atypical of the more soulful uptown harmony sound that Mayfield crafted, with simple arrangements by Johnny Pate, for The Impressions and other Chicago artists including Major Lance, Billy Butler and Gene Chandler. Without question The Impressions were the most influential soul group of the 1960’s and, consequently, this is one of my longest write-ups. All the chosen songs were written by Mayfield.
I’ll start with a couple of sides recorded in New York, supervised by Maxine Brown’s husband Mal Williams, arranged by Leroy Glover, issued on ABC-Paramount singles and included on the LP “The Impressions”. At that time the group included the Brooks Brothers. “Grow closer together”, recorded in November ’61, signalled what was to come – tight harmonies, cool uptown sound with catchy title line. “I’m the one who loves you”, recorded in March ’62, was more influential – as well as several cover versions the tune to this mid-tempo gem was used for “Are you gonna leave me” by Jessie James and “There’s got to be a loser” by The Arcades, it was also referenced at the end of the send-up song “High note” by The Fantastics. “I’m the one who loves you” was issued as a single in the UK on HMV.
During ’62 the group moved to the Windy City and parted with the Brooks Brothers (who remained in the Big Apple). For the next seven years the group consisted of the familiar trio: Curtis Mayfield (falsetto) Fred Cash (tenor) and Sam Gooden (base). The following tracks were recorded at Universal in Chicago, produced by Mayfield, arranged by Pate and issued on ABC-Paramount/ABC in the US. UK releases were on HMV.
Their first big national hit was “It’s all right” and many devotees consider it to be their best number. It was recorded in August ’63, issued as a 45 in the US and UK, established the Mayfield-Pate sound and it’s probably my top soul sound of the early 60’s. Two catchy singles were recorded in November. “Talking about my baby” opens with an instantly recognisable Curtis guitar riff and picks up a steady beat. It was put out on US/UK 45s and included on the US LP “Keep on Pushing”. “Girl don’t you know me” is another influential mid-tempo number, with this title it came out first on an EP. It was issued as “Girl you don’t know me” on a very rare single and the US/UK LP “The Never Ending Impressions”. It was covered by Major Lance as “Girls” and a variation of the song was issued as “The Jerk” by The Larks.
Three fine tunes were recorded in ’64 and included on the US LP “People Get Ready”. Perhaps my second favourite side of theirs from the first half of the ‘60’s is the superb shuffler “You must believe me”, recorded in June and issued on US/UK singles. The other two were recorded in October. “Woman’s got soul” is another mid-pacer with a cool jazz-like feel, issued on US/UK 45s. “Just another dance” also has a light pace despite its title, it was an LP only track – a livelier version was recorded by The Wailers. The Larks covered “You must believe me” on their LP “The Jerk”.
On to ’65 and a very popular number among northern fans was recorded twice. “I need you” has an instantly recognisable brass intro, another mid-tempo dancer with all three members pushing the title line. It was recorded in January and issued as a single in the US/UK. Curiously, it was re-cut in October as “I need a love” and this version was included on the US/UK LP “Ridin’ High”. It was covered by Gene Barbour & the Cavaliers. My next three were recorded also at the October session: The US/UK single “Since I lost the one I love”; LP track “Gotta get away” included on “Ridin’ High” (good versions had already been cut by Billy Butler & the Enchanters and Major Lance); and “You ought to be in Heaven”, one of their more up-tempo numbers which had to wait for nearly two years to be released, it was included in ’67 on the US/UK LP “The Fabulous Impressions” and issued subsequently as a US 45.
Another outstanding up-tempo track on the ‘Fabulous’ LP is “You always hurt me” recorded in January ’67 which was issued on US/UK 45s. Their next session was in April at Universal in Nashville, with the same personnel, which produced “I’m still waitin’”. This is my favourite ballad by them and was included on the ‘Fabulous’ LP – it was covered by Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles.
The next session in November, back in Chicago, produced a shockwave. “We’re a winner” wasn’t the first message song by Curtis but its funkier sound, with politically conscious lyrics, signposted the beginning of a new era. It came out first as a US 45 then included on the “We’re a Winner” LP. The single and LP were issued in the UK on Stateside. The sublime ballad “I loved and lost” was included first on the LP, then a US single as “I loved and I lost“. Their last session for ABC in June ‘68 produced a hotchpotch of throw-away covers, probably to satisfy contractual obligations. Among them was a hidden nugget, with a throw-away title, written by Mayfield. “Puppy love” is a lovely slow to mid-paced number, rescued for posterity by Kent and included on the CD “ABC Rarities ’99”.
A new era, new location, new label and the final chapter in my review of their ‘60’s output. The following tracks were recorded at RCA in Chicago, produced by Mayfield, arranged by Pate or Donny Hathaway, issued on Curtom in the US and Buddah in the UK. This period started in November ’68 with another profound message “This is my country” issued on US/UK 45s, which was banned by several US radio stations, and became the title track of their first Curtom/Buddah LP. The follow up LP “The Young Mod’s Forgotten Story”, recorded in ’68 and issued in ’69 US/’70 UK, provides another three excellent tracks: “Seven years” exudes the new sound with confidence and was the first ‘Young Mods’ track to be issued as a US single. “Choice of colors”, perhaps their most politically potent track, has that distinctive brass and string combination that became prominent on Mayfield’s solo albums. It was issued subsequently on US/UK 45s. Almost last, but certainly not least “Wherever you leadeth me” has a catchy mid-tempo pace and laid-back brass arrangement, making it perfect for today’s more eclectic scene. The US only single has the slightly different title of “Wherever she leadeth me”. The flip is an updated version of the hymn “Amen” (trad.).
Finally “You’ll always be mine”, with its cool arrangement similar to ‘colors’, was recorded and issued as a US 45 in ’69. Shortly after this Curtis left the group and went on to make several exceptional solo albums which helped define a new wave of Chicago soul. Mayfield wrote and produced “My heart is hurtin’” by Billy Butler & the Chanters, which is in my Top 50, and “Who will do your running now” by Marvin Smith, which is in my 50 Bubbling Under.
Emanuel Laskey made many records in the 1960’s/70’s, the majority of which were made in Detroit. All the studios named in this piece were situated in the Motor City, as were the labels except NPC.
“I need somebody” is a mid-paced piece of uptown soul, co-written by Don Davis, backed by The Fabulous Peps, and issued in ’64 on Thelma which was co-owned by Davis. It was issued later in ’64 on Pittsburgh label NPC, with production credit going to its owner Nick Cenci, but I believe The Don had more to do with it. Next up is the mid-tempo “What did I do wrong”, produced & co-written by Joey Kingfish, recorded at United Sound and issued in ‘65 on Thelma (found on the flip to the northern dancer “Don’t lead me on baby”). But it’s his next release on the label, in ’66, that stands out for me.
“I’m a peace loving man” is the first of two songs Laskey made with a Vietnam theme. With a steady pace lying between mid and up-tempo it’s been a popular number in the UK since being spun at the Golden Torch in Tunstall. It was written by veteran Detroiter Don Mancha. The flip is the subtle and slower paced “Sweet lies” written by Mancha with the prolific Clay McMurray. Both sides were produced by Mancha at Tera Shirma studio and had Diane & Pat Lewis on backing vocals. Mancha wrote “She said goodbye” c/w “I found true love” by Billy Hambric which is in my Top 100.
The second peace offering was the crossover ballad “A letter from Vietnam” issued in ’68 on Westbound which has a rather peculiar unaccompanied vocal ending. The flip is another slow to mid-paced number “More love (where this came from)”. Both sides were written and produced by another Detroit stalwart Mike Hanks. The follow up is a good xover version of “Never my love” written by Dick & Don Addrisi, issued in ’69 c/w “A letter from Vietnam”. I believe these sides were recorded in ’68 at Tera Shirma. “Never my love” was, of course, a Summer of Love hit for pop-psych group The Association.
My top xover side by Laskey is “Just the way (I want her to be)”, a lovely mid-paced number very similar to Don Davis’ Groovesville recordings of the same period. It was written by Emanuel Taylor, arranged by Taylor with William Kyle, who owned the Detroit Sound studio, and issued c. ‘70 on Kyle’s label Music Now. “Pick up the pieces” by June Taylor, written by Emanuel Taylor, arranged by Kyle and issued on Music Now is in my 50 Bubbling Under.
I’ll conclude with two numbers recorded in the 70’s in Toledo: “Remember me always” came out as Parts I & II in ’73 on both Stag and DT, with identical cat nọs. Much more popular is Laskey’s version of Clyde Milton’s “I’d rather leave on my feet”, a slightly more up-tempo groove which was issued twice in ’77 on DT with the same cat nọ, but different backing tracks – the green issue shares the same backing track as “You turn me on“ by Fourth Day. Milton did his own, probably best, version of “I’d rather leave on my feet” issued on Disco Tac. I must acknowledge a piece entitled “The Emanuel Lasky Story” on Soulful Detroit website.
My favourite sound from the Motown group of labels comes from one of their best LPs. All Gordy/V.I.P. tracks referred to were recorded at Motown’s Hitsville studio, with possible input from Golden World.
Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers, a multi-racial group, came to Motown in 1967 and assigned to the Gordy label. Thanks to Bobby Taylor’s soulful countertenor voice, and the funky backing group they made the best versions of several numbers. “Fading away” was written by Miracles Smokey Robinson, Warren Moore & Bobby Rogers, produced by the immortalised Frank Wilson, and issued in ’68 as a 45. This single was issued also on UK Tamla-Motown. The next 45 “I Am Your Man” was written by Ashford & Simpson and produced by Wilson. These tracks were included in ’68 on their superb eponymous LP along with “You gave me something (and everything’s alright)”, written by GW/Ric-Tic team of Al Kent, Ronnie Savoy, Norma Toney & William Garrett. “Fading away” was originally by The Temptations, “I Am Your Man” was by Edwin Starr and ‘You gave me something’ was The Fantastic Four.
The LP was recorded between June ’67 and June ’68 and issued in the US & UK. The production of most tracks is credited to Berry Gordy, even though the group were a bit left field for Motown. It includes also two of my Motown favourites; the sweet and wonderful “Malinda”, written/produced by Smokey with Al Cleveland & Terry Johnson, and “One girl”. This much overlooked gem was written by one-time member Tom Baird and recorded in December ’67. It has a sophisticated mid-pace, with cool brass arrangement, and leads into a long psych-soul fade out. Its production is credited to Gordy, but I suspect that Taylor or Baird played a part.
After the group split up Taylor made several solo records. His one solo LP “Taylor Made Soul” was recorded between July ’68 and April ’69 and issued on Gordy. It included several fine cuts. Probably the best track “How long has that evening train been gone” was written by Wilson with Pam Sawyer and produced by Wilson. Another fine version is the original by Diana Ross & the Supremes. His most popular record on the northern scene “Oh, I’ve been bless’d” was written by Wilson with Lena Manns, produced by Wilson and issued also as a 45 on V.I.P. Another popular sweet soul number is “Don’t be afraid” written/produced by Richard Morris. Bobby Taylor made one of my all-time top crossover numbers, the slightly funky rare groover “It was a good time (Rosy’s theme)” issued in ’72 on Sunflower, as the flip to the soulful stomper “There are roses somewhere in this world”. Both sides were produced by Taylor, as was the superb “I want you back” by The Jackson Five (uncredited) whom he spotted and brought to Motown (not Diana Ross).
Matt Brown recorded several singles (see profile for ‘Matt & Robert’ in John Ridley’s peerless site Sir Shambling’s Deep Soul Heaven).
Beat ballad fans will enjoy “Love me just a little bit” recorded in Jacksonville and issued as Mathew Brown in ’68 on New Jersey label Sew City.
As Matt Brown he recorded two singles in the early 70’s issued on Hamp Swain’s Macon label Jar-Val. The first single “Everyday (I love you just a little bit more)” is a delightful raunchy number written/produced by Tee Fletcher & Tommy Goodwin, and recorded in Atlanta with horn section added in Macon.
“Thank you baby” is another great piece of low-key mid-tempo crossover, with cool brass arrangement. The flip is the funkier up-tempo “Sweet thing”, both were written by Fletcher, recorded in Atlanta and produced by Fletcher & Goodwin. Tee Fletcher recorded his own version of “Thank you baby” produced by Wendell Parker, and issued in ’67 on New York label Josie, but it’s no match for Matt Brown.
The Jar-Val label provides another of my xover favourites “I’ve been blind too long” by Nancy Butts, recorded in Atlanta, mixed by Clarence Carter and issued c.’73.
Skip Jackson has a curiously varied discography with some soulful delights, and others to forget (see his portrait in Sir Shambling’s Deep Soul Heaven). I’ll focus on the former.
The first 45 of interest is a ‘double-sider’ for northern and crossover fans. “I’m on to you girl” is a superb piece of uptown northern with a steady mid to up-tempo beat. The flip “Promise that you’ll wait,” is a sublime crossover ballad, each side is enhanced by Jackson’s deep lead vocal. They were written/arranged by Jackson, produced by John Martucci and issued in ’69 as Skip Jackson & the Shantons on Martucci’s New Jersey label Dot-Mar (named after his wife). Another great version of “Promise that you’ll wait” is by Michael Lizzmore, arranged by Horace Ott and issued on Capitol.
We stick with Capitol for Jackson’s next xover ballad which is a cover of The Magnificent Men’s “Peace of mind”, co-produced by Jackson and recorded in ’72 at Fame in Muscle Shoals. My other favourite sees him returning to New Jersey in the early 70’s with a mysterious name change and another xover ballad – “I know my baby cares for me” as Calvin & the Catamounts on Catamount, written/arranged and co-produced by Jackson.
The Whispers are known mostly for their late 1970’s/80’s disco funk stuff like “The beat goes on” but their best soul recordings were made a decade earlier. All the tracks referred to here were made in the City of Angels.
In 1964 the group signed up to L.A. label Doré and their first releases, including “The Dip” and “As I sit here”, were in a style obviously inspired by The Impressions. Gradually Walter Scott’s lead vocal blossomed with a tone similar to Eddie Levert of The O’Jays. My favourites on the label were written by group members Nicholas Caldwell & Gordon Harmon, arranged by Gene Page and issued in ’67; the mid paced “You can’t fight what’s right” and the follow up “Needle in a haystack”.
That first version of ‘haystack’ gave a hint of the superb output to follow on Soul Clock, all of which was produced by label owner Ron Carson.
The first Soul Clock 45 is a pacy version of “I can’t see myself leaving you”, written by Ronnie Shannon and issued in ’68. Aretha Franklin’s sublime version is in my Top 100. The mid-paced “Flying high” was co-written by Caldwell and issued in ’69. Their most popular northern number is probably the pulsating “Remember me” (printed also as “Remember”) written by Caldwell and issued later in ’69. It has the same backing track as “Time’s a wasting” by The Fuller Brothers and “Sugar pie honey” by both The Promatics and Love and Brotherhood, of these the Fuller Brothers is the best known and has been a big sound since the early 70’s. Caldwell wrote the northern biggie “Dr. Love” by Bobby Sheen, which was done originally by The Whispers on Doré.
The next 45 “I can remember” is their best northern number and has the same backing track as “Be happy” by Sugar Pie DeSanto. It was written by Robert Stewart, issued in ’69 and included on their first LP which was recorded at I.D. Sound and arranged by Art Freeman. The LP was issued in ’70 initially with no album title, and re-issued with the same cat nọ and the title “Planets of Life” printed on the label. Stewart wrote also “Making new friends” by Jeanie Tracy which is in my Top 100. The second version of “Needle in a haystack” is better produced than the original. It’s a superb piece of mid-tempo crossover with a faster bridge – it was included on the LP and issued on a subsequent single, as was the flip. “Seems like I gotta do wrong” is a socially conscious ballad written by Dee Irwin and Lynn Farr (covered also by Gloria Lynne). Another fine ballad “I’m the one”, written by Irwin with Alex Brown, was similarly included on the LP and a subsequent 45. The LP was issued in the UK on Mojo and re-issued in the US on Janus. “I’m not responsible” by Alex Brown is in my Top 20.
Another up-tempo number “Where have you been”, written by Irwin & Farr and produced by Irwin, was issued in ’71 on another L.A. label Roker.
I’ll round off with three xover numbers produced by Carson, arranged by Freeman and issued on Janus. The mid-tempo “A hopeless situation” was written by Carson, issued in ’72 as a single and included on the LP “Love Story”. The next LP “Life and Breath” included two great tracks: “Can we love forever” which was issued later as a 45, and a cover version of Sugar Pie DeSanto’s “My illusions”. These LPs were recorded at Columbia & I.D. Sound studios in Hollywood.
The Topics are well known to soul fans in the UK, but had little commercial success. This may account for the conflicting info available re. their chronology so I’ll piece together what I can, focussing on my favourites.
They went through a couple of name changes before becoming The Topics and signing with Joe Evans’ Carnival label in New Jersey. The first single “I don’t have to cry” is a nice slow to mid-tempo ballad written by group member Ronald McCoy, produced by Evans and issued in 1966 c/w the more pacy “She’s so fine”.
The follow up “Hey girl (where are you going?)” is much better. A great mid to up-tempo sound with tight harmonies, so much so that they toured the UK as ‘The Fabulous Impressions’. The flip “If love comes knockin’” is another good mid-tempo ballad. Both sides were written by McCoy with fellow member Vaughn Curtis, produced by Evans and issued in ’67 on associated label Chadwick. From here the various discographies and veracity of releases become less than ideal.
Next up is a delightful ballad “All good things must end” which was issued c. ‘69 on another NJ label Brothers III and in ’72 on NY label Heavy Duty. It was written by McCoy with another group member Wesley Adams. Several sources refer to an accompanying LP on Brothers III, but I’ve yet to see a scan of front cover or label. Never mind, the next appearance of this track is on the Japanese P-Vine LP “Giving Up” as “All good things can’t last”. The flip to the Brothers III single is a nice ballad “Please, take this heart of mine” written by McCoy. The flip to the Heavy Duty 45 is a superb crossover mover “Try a little love” but it’s not by The Topics. It’s actually by The Enchanted Five and was issued in ’69 on CVS which was the parent label to Brothers III.
Next up is the mid-pacer “Booking up baby” issued at the beginning of ’74 on Mercury, which sounds similar to other groups of the time like the Intruders or the Moments. It was produced by Bruce Clarke and arranged by Dennis Williams, as was my top choice “God and you”. This sublime piece of mellow groove (known also as rare groove) was written by Ronnie Millender and included on their “Giving Up” LP issued in ’76 on New York label TSG, and as a 45 under the name of The Tropics on NYC label Noodle. The stunning lead vocal is probably by Yvonne McCoy, wife of Ronald. Other good versions are by Loreli, issued on a Japanese press of the Noodle label (c/w the Topics’ version) and The Ultimates, included on their TSG LP “You’re My Lady”.
These Topics should not be confused with those on Castle (Los Angeles) Dream (Chicago) or Womar (Philadelphia).
Ernie Johnson was half of the much-revered deep soul duo Eddie & Ernie, the other being Eddie Campbell. Together they made numerous records, appreciated by a broad range of soul fans.
Their most popular side in the UK is the pounding “I can’t do it (I just can’t leave you)” recorded in New York and issued in 1966 on Eastern. Whilst in New York they cut a nice slow to mid-tempo ballad “Indication” written by the duo with Pete James, recorded in ’66, produced by Richard Gottehrer, arranged by Robert Banks, and remained unissued until included on Kent CD “Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities 3” (a more raucous version was issued in ’72 as Ernie & Ed on the UK label Jay-Boy). Gottehrer produced also “Determination“ by Dean Parrish which props up my chart. My favourite, though, is a solo effort made in the opposite corner of the USA.
Ernie Johnson recorded the sublime mid-tempo “I can’t stop the pain” which was issued in ‘67 on Art Barrett’s Phoenix label Artco. It’s cherished by all branches of the rare soul scene. The flip “These very tender moments” is a deep soul ballad, both sides were written by Johnson and James. Eddie Campbell also made a solo cut on Artco. These records were produced by Barrett and mixed by Dave Oxman at Audio Recorders studio in Phoenix.
The northern “Beautiful world”, and superb ballad “You make my life a sunny day”, were written by the duo with James, recorded at Audio Recorders in ’71, earmarked for release on the San Francisco label Loadstone but unissued. “Beautiful world” did get issued on the flip of the Jay-Boy 45, but ‘sunny day’ remained in the can until included on the Kent CD “Lost Friends” as Phoenix Express. Jacqueline Jones cut better versions issued on Loadstone.
The mid-paced “Bullets don’t have eyes” was written by Campbell, recorded at Audio Recorders in ’72 with just Campbell on vocal. It remained unissued until included on the “Lost Friends” CD as Eddie & Ernie.
This Ernie Johnson should not be confused with those on Aries, Asnes, Fortune, Ronn or Southern Biscuit.
Bobby Williams made several fine records, mainly in Detroit, with input from Gold Star studio in Houston. He is best known for his northern sides on Don Robey’s Sure-Shot label.
Both sides of his Lu-Pine 45, issued c. 1962, were included on UK Ember LP “The Original Sound Of Detroit”. My three favourites were issued on Sure-Shot: The beautiful mid-tempo “When you play (you gotta pay)”, issued in ‘65, was co-written and co-arranged by Funk Brother Joe Hunter, who co-arranged also the pacier flip “It’s all over” written by Williams.
“Baby I need your love” is a sturdy mid-tempo number with tight brass arrangement, in a similar vein to several Bobby Bland recordings of the mid-60’s. It was written/produced by Detroit veteran Sonny Sanders with former Falcons member Willie Schofield and issued in ’66. The matrix nọ is GW 10050 but I’m unsure whether that means it was recorded at Golden World. It got issued in the UK on Action as a 45, and included on the compilation LP “Action Packed Soul”. The flip “Try it again” is a steady r&b mover. Another version of “Baby I need your love”, by Steve Mancha & J.J. Barnes, was issued more recently in the UK on Hayley.
His final single on Sure-Shot “I’ve only got myself to blame” is probably his most popular sound on the northern scene, issued in ’67 which also bears a GW matrix.
Robey had a few labels based in Houston with some of the recordings made, wholly or partly, elsewhere. Other artists who fall into this category include: Little Carl Carlton, The Commands, Shirley Lawson, The Soul Twins and, possibly, Jeanette Williams (Back Beat); Bobby Bland, Rhonda Davis, The Lamp Sisters, Buddy Lamp (Duke); Rhonda Washington and, possibly, The Bell Brothers (Sure-Shot). “Can you remember” by Rhonda Davis is in my Top 50, “One more chance” by Shirley Lawson is in my 50 Bubbling Under.
Leon Haywood made many soulful records, mostly in Los Angeles. His most popular side is the storming “Baby reconsider” issued on Fat Fish in 1967 which has a similar arrangement to “Just a little misunderstanding” by The Contours. It was one of the earliest northern imports to be played in UK clubs. My favourites though are less of an assault on the senses. All titles featured here were self-penned unless specified otherwise.
“It’s got to be mellow” is a delightful mid-tempo number from ’67, issued first on his local label Evejim, then nationally on Decca. A British version was made by Jason Simms w. Music Through Six, issued in ’68 on Domain. A reggae version, by Barrington Biggs w. the Astronauts, was issued in ’70 on Jamaican label Tiger. A funkier sound “Mercy, mercy, mercy (have mercy on me), was written by Don Covay & Ronald Miller, issued in ’68 on Decca and included on the UK Coral LP “Sounds Like Soul” (the original was by Don Covay & the Goodtimers). The soulful foot-tapper “You don’t have to see me cry” was issued later in ’68 on Decca. These were produced by Haywood.
His first 45 on Capitol “Consider the source” is another superb piece of crossover from ’69 with a similar feel to “It’s got to be mellow”. The flip is a fine ballad “Just your fool”, with a slow to mid-tempo groove. Both sides were produced/arranged by Phil Wright and L.A. stalwart James Carmichael respectively. They were remade in ’75, included on the 20th Century LP “Come and Get Yourself Home” and issued later as a single. Wright arranged “I ain’t going no where”by Jimmie Reed, Jr. which is in my Top 50. Carmichael arranged “Call me tomorrow” by Major Harris which is in my Top 100.
Finally, a funkier number “One way ticket to Love Land” was arranged/produced & co-written by Haywood and issued in ’72 on Evejim and 20th Century.
This is another sophisticated mellow groove/crossover sound which became one of my top favourites as soon as I heard it. I think this single is the group’s only release.
“There must be something” by Friday, Saturday & Sunday was recorded at T.K. studios in Hialeah, on the outskirts of Miami, and issued in 1971 on Dig (brown print having local distribution, grey and yellow issues distributed through Stax). It was written by Miami legends Betty Wright, Clarence Reid and Willie Clarke. The flip is a the much funkier “Potato salad”, both sides were produced by Reid and Clarke.
My top 100 includes: “Stop hurting me baby” by Purple Mundi with Reid & Clarke on vocals, and “Tears of the world” by Robert Moore, a great xover side, both recorded at T.K. Another highly popular xover sound co-written by Reid is “I can’t speak” by Jimmie “Bo” Horn issued in ’69 on Dade.
Johnny Summers has a very strong voice and made three good singles in the City of Angels, issued in the mid to late 1960’s. All titles referred to here were written by Harold Lee Bowen.
“Prove it to me” is a nice ballad, arranged by Miles Grayson and issued in 1967 on L.A. label Audio Forty c/w the northern “Is the feeling still there”, arranged by James Carmichael.
Summers cut two songs using the same backing track arranged by Grayson which were issued in the mid 60’s on associated label Yorktown. The first was “I’m still yours” with a steady northern beat c/w “Prove it to me”. Another version of “I’m still yours” was made by Terry Lindell, with slightly different arrangement, issued also on York Town c/w a tender ballad “Marry me”.
For some reason, even though the backing track is the same, I’ve always considered “I can’t let go” to be more soulful than Summers’ version of “I’m still yours” and it’s one of my top northern sounds. I think he gives a more earnest rendition on this one, which was a big sound at Stafford in the 80’s. The flip “Tell it like I feel” is another good slice of mid-paced northern arranged by Bowen. Audio Forty and York Town are subsidiaries of Audio Arts! which had its own studio.
Among other sides arranged by Grayson are: “I’ve been taken for a ride” by The Saints/Bobby St. James/Uptones; “The hurt is just beginning” by Mary Love; “Somebody please” by Billy Keene (which is in my 50 Bubbling Under) and “Wash and wear love“ by Lynn Varnado.
“Oh man you work so hard, eight hours a day, how you try try try to make it in the world but very little comes your way” – so begins my favourite sound from the City of Brotherly Love. For an artist who made only two contemporaneous singles Moses Smith sure had a massive impact on the northern scene. All his sides were self-penned.
“Girl across the street” has deservedly been a top tune since it took off in the early 70’s. It was issued in 1968 on Philly label Dionn c/w my preferred side the lovely mid-paced “Hey love (I wanna’ thank you)”. These sides were recorded at Jamie/Guyden studio 919 Sound in Philadelphia. Another northern number “Try my love” was also recorded there, at a follow-up session, but remained in the can until included on Jamie/Guyden CD “The Northern Side of Philly Soul”. More recently an alt. version of ‘across the street’ was included on a Dionn pressing c/w “Try my love”. Another classic recorded at 919 is “Someone tell her” by The Imperial C’s which is in my 50 Bubbling Under.
My top sound is the excellent crossover “Keep on striving”, recorded in ’69 and issued in ’70 on Cotillion. From the semi-spoken intro right through this is an infectious mid to up-tempo sound that has gradually risen up the ranks of my personal favs. The flip “Come on, let me love you” is a steadier stomper and was the more popular side back in the day. Both sides were arranged by Sam Reed and produced by Gilda Woods, who’s better known for her work with Philly group Brenda & the Tabulations.
There seems to be very little info available on this crossover gem – no matter, let’s proceed. This group started out as The Lovemen and then became The Temprees. On the northern scene they are best known for their pacy version of Gordon and Warren’s musical hit “At last” issued in 1973 on the Stax subsidiary label We Produce, initially as a track on the LP “Love Maze” and then a single.
My three favourites by the group bring the tempo down a notch. “You make me love you” was written by Leon Moore and included on the “Love Maze” LP produced by Jo Bridges and Tom Nixon. “Your love (is all I need)” was co-written by label-mate Ernie Hines and included on the next LP “Three”, which was produced by Nixon with Lester Snell between Stax in Memphis and Future Gold in Philadelphia, and issued in ’74 on We Produce. It was released in the UK on Stax.
My favourite remained in the can until it was included on the Kent CD “Let’s Crossover Again”. “That’s why I love you” is a superb mellow groover and a bit of a mystery, as the lead vocal is clearly female but the group’s line-up is all male.
The Kent CD includes another sophisticated, and previously unissued, number “Put me in the mood” by an all-male group, Art Jerry Miller, which also has a mystery female lead vocal.
Alex Brown was a member of two backing vocal groups, The Raelets and Specialities Unlimited, but has become better known for her solo efforts. She also composed and produced.
Her first record was the mid to up-tempo “What would you do without someone to love”, written by Virginia Bland, produced by Wally Roker and issued in ’69 on Ray Charles’ label Tangerine. It’s not bad, but easily surpassed by her next 45.
She made one solo LP “In Search of Love”, recorded in 1970 between United Artists and Sound Recorders studios in L.A., issued on local label Sundi and it’s a big-ticket item. Apart from its scarcity, the main reason for its demand is the sophisticated opening track “I’m not responsible”, which got issued later as a single. It’s one of my all-time crossover favourites. Interestingly, whilst most of my 60’s choices lack strings (as is my preference) quite a few from the 70’s are well orchestrated but soulful – this track is no exception. As with most of the LP it’s written by Alex Brown with Bland’s husband Monk Higgins. The flip on the 45 is a cover of George Harrison’s “Something”. Another groovy LP track is “Please don’t leave me”. Backing vocals on the LP are provided by popular northern artists Clydie King and Mamie Galore, as members of Specialities Unlimited.
The production of the LP, and another single by Higgins on Sundi, is credited to Sack Productions. Mamie Galore, Monk Higgins and Specialities Unltd all cut 45s for the Sack label which moved from Chicago to L.A. c. ‘69/70. Alex Brown, Wally Roker and Monk Higgins all feature on credits for Sack singles, and others by Higgins. So, I guess that one or more of these three were behind Sack Productions.
Among the numerous songs written/co-written by Alex Brown is the sweet ballad “I’m the one” by The Whispers. With Higgins, she produced the cool xover number “China doll” by Helena Hollins, issued in ’70 on Higgins’ label Stonegood.
Bobby Bland, Bobby Blue Bland or simply ‘The Voice’, however one knows him he has been revered by blues and soul fans for over 60 years. Bobby Bland’s discography is enormous so I’ll focus on the period I like most (mid 1960’s to early 70’s). Bland made several recordings for Don Robey’s Houston based Duke label which were made elsewhere, including Detroit and Chicago.
“Let’s get together” was recorded in Detroit in April ’65 and included on his “The Soul of the Man“ LP on Duke. It’s a nice mid-paced number with laid back brass behind his distinct vocal. “I ain’t myself anymore” is in a similar vein. It was recorded at the same session, with some input from Gold Star studio in Houston, and issued as a single in ’66. Both songs were written by Joseph Scott and Darrell Andrews. The northern “These hands (small but mighty)” was arranged (and probably written) by Scott, recorded in the Motor City in April ’65 and issued as a 45. In the UK it was issued on Vocalion and included on the Action LP “A Piece of Gold”. Scott wrote the crossover number “Never set me free” by Continental Showstoppers.
The next two were recorded in Chicago in November ’66. “Getting used to the blues” is the most up-tempo of my featured tracks and got issued as a 45 in’67. There’s no doubt that the next single issued in ’67 is the most loved of his sides. From its anticipatory intro “Shoes” has a steady mid to up-tempo beat, just perfect for the dancefloor. The writing of both these sides is credited to Deadric Malone, but this is none other than Don Robey who often took such credit by fair means or otherwise.
My top fav by ‘The Voice’ remained in the can for 27 years. “This time I’ll be true” was recorded in Houston in January ’69, produced/arranged by Henry Boozier & Oscar Perry and included on the CD “That Did It! The Duke Recordings Volume 3” issued in ’96 by MCA. It has a similar feel to “Shoes” and deserves to be better known. It was recorded at the same session as the killer ballad “Ask me ‘bout nothing (but the blues)”. I’ll round off the Duke recordings with a return to the Windy City. “Yum yum tree” was recorded in February ’69. It has a steady up-tempo pace, written by Dave Clark and issued as a 45 in’71.
Bland made several excellent recordings in L.A. for Dunhill in the early 70’s. “I wouldn’t treat a dog (the way you treated me)” is a nice piece of mid-paced xover c/w the mellow “I ain’t gonna be the first to cry” issued in ’74 as a single and included on the accompanying LP “Dreamer” produced by Steve Barri. The opening track on this LP “Ain’t no love in the heart of the city” is another superb piece of xover, issued as a single, and used in 2011 as the theme tune to the film “The Lincoln Lawyer”. These sides and the LP were issued also on UK ABC.
Bobby Womack’s fame comes partly from writing The Rolling Stones hit “It’s all over now” and partly from his own brand of soul music with occasional rock undertones. His biggest northern sound, as a solo artist, used to be his first version of “What is this?” issued in 1966 on Hollywood label Keymen. My favourites come from the ‘crossover’ period (late 60’s to early 70’s) on Minit and United Artists.
We start with some tracks produced by Memphis stalwart Chips Moman, at his American Sound studio, and issued on Minit. Womack’s own version of “I’m in love” is a smooth mid-paced ballad, it was self-penned and included in ’69 on his first LP “Fly Me to the Moon”. Other versions include those by Wilson Pickett, Maxine Brown and Aretha Franklin. “Tried and convicted” is a pacey tune popular with both traditional northern and xover fans, issued in ’69 as a single and arguably his biggest sound on today’s scene . Slightly more mellow is the lovely “More than I can stand” issued in ’70. Both tracks were self-penned and included in ’70 on the next LP “My Prescription”. Two good covers on the LP are; the mid-tempo xover version of Sam Cooke’s “I’m gonna forget about you” and the ballad “I can’t take it like a man” which was done originally by Ben E. King. The most popular and best version is the one by Gerri Granger. All the following were issued on United Artists in the US and UK.
Next up is “Come l’amore” a mid-paced xover tune written by Leon Ware and Bob Hilliard. It tails out with a re-worded reference to “What my baby needs now is a little more lovin’” by James Brown and Lyn Collins. It was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound and included on the ’71 LP “Communication” under the name of (The Preacher) Bobby Womack (& Peace) and issued later as a single. Another groovy sound recorded at MSS is the 45 edit of the self-penned “I can understand it” issued in the UK. It was taken from the longer track on his ’72 LP “Understanding”. Other versions include those by The New Birth, Valentinos and British combo Kokomo.
The funky title track to the ‘blaxploitation’ film “Across 110th Street” was written by Womack with J.J. Johnson. It was included in ’72 on the soundtrack LP and subsequent 45, as Bobby Womack & Peace. It featured also in Quentin Tarantino’s film “Jackie Brown”. J.J. Johnson composed the song “Love Doctor” sung by Millie Jackson which featured in the movie “Cleopatra Jones”.
Next up is another xover number “If you can’t give her love, give her up” written by Phillip Mitchell, produced by Womack and included on the LP “Facts of Life” issued in ’73. Mary Wells made a cover version, produced by Womack in Muscle Shoals and issued in ’74 on Reprise. Mary was once married to Cecil Womack, they wrote the northern hit “Sweeter than the day before” by the Womack brothers group The Valentinos, which was recorded after Bobby had left them. Another track on “Facts of Life” is Womack’s version of “Can’t stop a man in love”, written by Terry Woodford & George Soule, Reuben Howell’s version is in my Top 100.
My last three choices were produced by Womack with strings arranged by René Hall, and included on the LP “Lookin’ for a love again” issued in ’74. “Lookin’ for a love” was released first as a 45 in ’73 – it’s a mid to up-tempo update of a song done originally by The Valentinos (written by James Alexander & Zelder Samuels). Taking the pace down “I don’t wanna be hurt by ya love again” was issued also as a single (US & Germany). Last, but by no means least, is my top sound “You’re messing up a good thing”. It’s a superb piece of mellow xover written by Woodford with Clayton Ivey & Frank Johnson and recorded at MSS. There are several versions, but Bobby Womack’s is the best I’ve heard. Hall arranged and produced “You’re gone” by Celest Hardie which is included in my Top 50.
Womack wrote scores of songs by other artists including the xover number “Yes, my goodness, yes” recorded by; Jerry Butler, Willie Hobbs, Al Perkins (twice) and his sister Velma Perkins (a.k.a. Vee Allen).
Shelley Fisher grew up in Chicago where I believe his sides were recorded. Despite only a small handful of releases they are quite varied in style.
The first 45 of interest is the big city sounding “I know (how to love you)” written by Fisher with the veteran Chicago singer/songwriter Jo Armstead. It was issued on local label Aries c. 1965/6. The follow up is the Drifters influenced “Big city lights” written by Fisher c/w a cover of Oscar Brown Jr.’s “Elegy (plain black boy)” issued on Aries in ’66.
My favourite is Fisher’s own version of “Girl, I love you”, a great piece of jaunty crossover which he wrote and produced. It was arranged by saxophonist Chet Washington and issued in ’72 on the Hollywood label Dalya. The flip is a jazzy ballad “Outside of Memphis”, written by Bob Hilliard and Leon Ware. It was produced by Eddie Singleton who’s a legend to rare soul collectors due to his D.C. based labels Shrine and Hem.
Garland Green’s more popular version of “Girl I love you” is an excellent piece of mid-tempo northern produced by Armstead with Mike Terry issued in ’67 on Gamma. Sonny Craver also cut a deep soul version of “Outside of Memphis” issued in ’70 on Dalya, which has a similar feel to “I’m sitting in” by Shep.
This is one of my longest time favourites and, even though it didn’t make the “Definitive Northern Soul Top 500”, I’m sure it’s still a top sound for those of us who are now descending the southern slopes of life. It seems that Sam Moultrie made only three singles but all are worthy of merit.
His first 45 “The promised land” is a steady mid-tempo number with a tight southern style arrangement over a northern beat. It was written by Don Mosley, produced/arranged by Mosley with Ed Boutwell, recorded at Boutwell’s studio in Birmingham, Al and issued in ’69 on NYC label Roulette.
Moultrie’s first version of “I’ll always love you” has always been one of my top northern sounds, and was a hit at Blackpool Mecca. This jolly up-tempo number was written by Dan Brantley, produced by Carten Warren at Fame in Muscle Shoals and issued in ’71 on his D.C. label Warren. The flip is tight piece of funk, punctuated with several ughs! A cool mid-paced ballad “Darling, I love you” by Israel Tolbert, was also produced by Warren and issued on the label.
Sam’s second version of “I’ll always love you” is more mid-tempo than his first. This one has a fetching organ backed intro, it was produced by Brantley and issued c.72 on Southbound in Selma, Al. Another fine cut on this label is the xover ballad “I can’t lie to my heart” by Betty Fikes & the Passions, produced also by Brantley and issued in ’74.
Lee Williams’ group The New Cymbals cut a catchy version of “I’ll always love you”, issued in ’73 on De-Lite.
Staying in Shoals, this superb track from the Quinvy/South Camp vaults was included on a cheap UK comp and, consequently, much overlooked by DJs even though it’s perfect for the latter day’s scene. All these sounds were recorded at the Quinvy studios in 1967.
Don Varner is best known for his two storming numbers “Masquerade” and “Tear stained face” issued on South Camp and Quinvy respectively. My favourite side issued contemporaneously is “The sweetest story”, a mid-tempo piece, co-written by southern soul maestro Eddie Hinton, produced by Hinton with Paul Ballenger & Robert Gregg and issued on South Camp. The deep flip “Home for the summer” was included on French Atco LP “Terrible Rhythm & Blues Vol. 1” (Terrible means Terrific).
Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham’s “Power of love”, a mid-paced number, was produced by Hinton & Ballenger, but remained in the can until included on RPM CD “Finally Got Over!”and more recently on a UK 45 c/w “Masquerade”. My top number by Varner is “When it’s over” which is a little more pacy, with an undulating beat behind Varner’s deep vocal and a fetching piano arrangement. It was produced by Hinton, Ballenger & Gregg and unissued until included in 1989 on the Charly LP “Tear Stained Soul”.
There is a small town in Alabama called Muscle Shoals, but the music industry uses the name to refer to an area encompassing the neighbouring towns of Florence, Sheffield and Muscle Shoals. Its two studios which feature most throughout my chart are Fame (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) and Muscle Shoals Sound (MSS). Fame moved in ’63 from Florence to Muscle Shoals, MSS and Quinvy were in Sheffield.
My top sound from the Fog City is a brilliant piece of up-temp crossover spun at Blackpool Mecca. Celest Hardie made three singles, all issued on SF labels.
First up is one of my top xover favourites “You’re gone”, a steady ‘two-stepper’ with an infectious beat issued on Reynolds in 1972. It was written by Adria Calvin (uncredited) and produced/arranged by René Hall who has worked with a mixture of West Coast artists including Bob & Earl and George Freeman. The flip “That’s why I cried” couldn’t be more different, sounding to me like a ‘50’s Doris Day ballad. A more discofied version of “You’re gone” was recorded in the 80’s by future labelmate Lillian Alexander.
Her next two singles were on Loadstone, written and produced by Calvin, which bring us back to more soulful territory. “Thank you love” is a nice piece of Curtis Mayfield inspired mellow funk from ‘75. Finally “You touched the inner part of me” is another rare groover that gradually builds into a good xover sound, issued in ‘78. The flips to both sides are instrumental versions. A superb side issued on Loadstone “A frown on my face” by Jacqueline Jones is another of my Top 50 sounds.
René Hall arranged “You’re messing up a good thing” by Bobby Womack which is in my Top 20.
Another northern crossover nugget, this time from Atlanta.
George Hughley made a small handful of 45s but only a couple are of interest to soul fans. The first is a typical southern ballad “My love is true” issued in 1964 on the local Gaye label. The flip “Do the Beatle” is worth listening to, if only for the masochistic experience.
Hughley teamed up with the Shurfine outfit in Atlanta for his next single and it’s a stunner. “That’s why I cry” has a catchy late 60’s/early 70’s pace between mid and up-tempo making it popular with northern traditionalists and xover fans alike. It was issued in ’70 on Buddah. The flip “You’re my everything” is a good piece of mid-paced southern soul. Both sides were written by Hughley with Joe Carpenter, and produced by Carpenter with Wendell Parker. Parker produced also another fine piece of mid-tempo soul “Pardon me while I cry” by Tee Fletcher issued in ’66 on Shurfine.
“I ain’t going no where” is a lovely number from the Windy City which lies somewhere between mid-tempo northern and crossover issued in 1967 on Mercury. The flip “Do you remember” is similarly paced and self-penned. Both sides were produced by another Chicago bluesman Al Smith (who worked extensively with Jimmy Reed) and arranged by Phil Wright, who produced “Consider the source” by Leon Haywood which is in my Top 20.
A later up-tempo version of “I ain’t going nowhere” was made by Leroy Barbour and issued on Frontiersman. There is much debate between northern fans over which is better, but for me the laid-back feel to Reed’s version wins it. I’m confused, however, about who wrote it. On the Reed single it’s credited to Terry Callier and Tommy Johnson, but on Barbour’s 45 the credits go to Barbour and Ronald Logan. “Look at me now” written and performed by Callier is in my Top 100.
I’ll admit that, before researching for this entry, I wasn’t particularly aware of Tony Troutman’s discography beyond the modern anthem “What’s the use”. So, I discovered a few nice tracks which one might file under ‘sexy soul’.
The first such release is a pleasant crossover ballad “I truly love you” issued in 1975 on Atlanta label Gram-o-Phon. It was written by a Thomas Troutman and produced by Bob Fletcher who had a hand in other releases on this label.
Next up is one of the sides that helped establish the Stafford all-niter as a progressive force for xover/modern sounds – the self-penned funky groove “What’s the use” recorded at Atlanta Sound studio and issued in ’76 on Jerri. Interestingly, the only other release on Jerri that I know of is another ‘modern’ sound “I want to be love” by Stevens & Foster, but that was recorded at T.K. in Miami.
The other tracks I heard were issued on what appears to be Troutman’s own label T.Main which is a mixture of 80’s love ballads and soulful disco.
I’m uncertain whether Tony Troutman has any connection to the 80’s funk band Zapp which was founded by a group of brothers named Troutman.
This is the epitome of mid-tempo northern and impossible to dislike. It’s one of the best, if not the best record regarded as a ‘Wigan’ sound thanks to it being one of Richard Searling’s top plays at the end of the 1970’s, when the Casino was in decline.
“What happened to yesterday” was issued twice on the Big Apple label Genuine with the same cat nọ – pale copy as Al Scott and black copy as Mr. Soul. Over the years there was some speculation as to which of the two issues was the original, but it seems settled now that the Al Scott press was the first (possibly demo) issued in ’66. It has a simple arrangement, steady rhythm and great vocal, written by Scott with Benny Hall and produced by Scott. The flip is the raucous “You’re too good”, which is not too good.
I believe this was Scott’s only record. It’s also one of the scene’s most infamous cover-ups. “What happened to yesterday” appeared on a tape I was sent around that time as “Your love is slipping away” by Maurice McAlister (c/u). On the same tape was “When he’s not around” by Rose Valentine (c/u) which turned out to be a ridiculously speeded up copy of the sublime “What shall I do” by Little Ann.
Dee Dee Warwick was brought up in New Jersey with her sister Dionne and adopted sister Judy Clay. Her catalogue is quite big so, once again, I’ll refer only to my favourites.
First up is the happy-go-lucky mid-pacer “Do it with all your heart” recorded, and issued on Blue Rock, in January 1965. It was written and produced by Ed Townsend, with DD playing the drums as well as lead vocal, and included in ’67 on her first LP “I Want to Be with You/I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” issued on Mercury. It was issued also as a 45 on UK Mercury.
“Don’t pay them no mind” is a superb ballad, recorded in February ’66, produced by Lou Courtney, arranged by Horace Ott and included on the ’69 LP “Foolish Fool” issued in ’69 on Mercury. It was covered also by Nina Simone.
My first crossover choice is “It’s not fair”, a lovely mid-paced number written/produced by Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff, recorded in January ’68 in Philadelphia, issued as a 45 in March on Mercury, included on the LP “Foolish Fool” and issued on a UK Mercury single. The LP includes also her first version of “Where is that rainbow” written by Frank Lloyd, produced by Townsend in March ’69 with typical string arrangement by René Hall.
Her second version of“Where is that rainbow” is a funkier groove altogether, easily her most soulful side on Mercury. This xover gem has one of her best vocal deliveries and the tight brass arrangement gives it an extra touch of class. It was issued as a 45 in ’69. It was a spin at the Norfolk Village. The flip is her second version of a soulful ballad “I who have nothing”, written by Brill Building’s Leiber & Stoller. Both sides were recorded in ’69, arranged by Phil Medley and produced by one Buddy Smith – possibly the same man whose superlative ballad “When you lose the one you love” is in my 50 Bubbling Under, but I’m unsure. Medley arranged “He broke your game wide open” by Frank Dell, which is in my Top 100.
Her most consistently soulful period was in the early 70’s on Atco. DD sings with a southern country tone on the ballad “She didn’t know (she kept on talking)”, issued as a single in ’70 and included on the LP “Turning around”- both the 45 & LP were issued on UK Atco. A male version was made later by Garland Green, both versions were recorded at Criteria studio, Miami. “I’m glad I’m a woman” is another great track on the LP, and probably her best number on Atco. It was issued as a single in ‘71 on US Atco/UK Atlantic. The flip is a groovy xover treatment of “Suspicious minds”, recorded in Muscle Shoals, which was included on Atlantic LPs “Heavy Soul” in the US and “It All Started Here” in the UK.
Finally “Everybody’s got to believe in somebody” is another nice chunk of xover recorded at Pac-Three in Detroit, written by Hayes & Porter and issued as a 45 in ’71. All her Atco sides were produced by Dave Crawford and Brad Shapiro.
Na Allen has made several fine records cherished by crossover fans. He’s the brother of Denise LaSalle and worked with some of soul’s finest, including Willie Mitchell and Phillip Mitchell (not related). Most of his sides were recorded at Hi’s Royal studio in Memphis with strings added at Pac-Three in Detroit.
The first single is my favourite by him. “Thanks for nothing” is a steady mid-pacer written by Allen with Mark Brown, produced by Willie Mitchell at Royal and issued in 1970 on Atco. As one would expect from Mitchell it has airtight brass arrangement. The flip is probably the best version of Goffin-King’s ballad “No easy way down”, covered also by Gloria Lynne and Walter Jackson. Mitchell produced “Little things” by Phillip Mitchell which is in my Top 100, and “You did something to me” by Otis Clay which is in my 50 Bubbling Under.
His next 45 is an excellent xover double-sider that sees him working with veteran Detroiter Rudy Robinson. “Lay it on me right now” is a subtle self-penned mid-tempo ballad (another version made by Hot Sauce, with the title “Bring it home (and give it to me)” and using the same backing track, features in my Top 100). The flip is marginally my preferred side, another mid-pacer “Everytime it rains”, written by Ruth Brown. Both sides were produced by Robinson and issued in ’70 on Shreveport label Ronn.
Allen cut three singles on Janus. “I was telling her about you“ is another slice of rare groove, written by Luther Dixon, Thom Bell and Kenny Gamble, and issued twice (’71 & ’72), the second issue has a frantic version of “Open the door to your heart” on the flip. One of his most funky cuts “I’m my own man” was issued in ’72 and included on the UK Chess LP “Janus Mobile Discotheque Vol. 1”. These sides were produced by Irene Productions (Irene and Al Perkins) who worked also on releases by Na’s wife Vee Allen (a.k.a. Velma Perkins, Al’s sister).
Two similar mellow xover sides were issued as a single in ’73 on Pedestal, which may be the only release on this Detroit label. “Love don’t come easy” starts slowly and builds into a nice mid-pacer c/w a delightful ballad “Hard to do without you”. Both sides were written by Phillip Mitchell during a period when he was working in Muscle Shoals with the likes of Willie Mitchell and Ernie Shelby.
Mark Putney only made one solo record, issued twice, and it’s a classic piece of late 1960’s northern spun at Blackpool Mecca. He was also, briefly, a member of Archie Bell & the Drells and may have sung on one or more of their sides on Ovide.
“Todays man” (sic) is a superb dancer written by Putney, recorded in March ’69 in Houston and issued first on Skipper Lee Frazier’s local label Ovide. Its slightly funky and persistent beat puts it somewhere between northern and up-tempo crossover, which is typical of several other releases on the label. The flip “Don’t come around here anymore” written by Will Thomas of the T.S.U. Toronadoes, starts with a vocal intro similar to Archie Bell’s “Tighten up” and then bursts into an even funkier groove. Both sides were issued again in ’69 on Atlantic, and produced by Frazier with Bill McKay. “Today’s man” was included c. 73 on French Atlantic LP “Rhythm & Blues Formidable Vol. 12”.
Frazier & McKay produced also “Got to get through to you” by The T.S.U. Toronadoes which is in my Top 100. As I understand it, most sides on Ovide were recorded at Jones Sound studio in Houston.
Dee Edwards is well known to northern and crossover fans, as well as keen Detroit collectors. She started out as a member of doo wop group The Paragons, who made one single, and then went solo. All the labels referred to here are from the Motor City. My favourite is a crossover tune that came out in three versions.
Her first 45 is a splendid slow to mid-tempo ballad “You say you love me (and need me)” written by Detroit stalwarts Cara Bell, Mike Hanks & Rudy Robinson, recorded at Hanks’ studio known as the ‘Pig Pen’ and issued in 1963 on Detroit label Tuba. It led to a curious string of four recordings produced between the late 60’s and mid 70’s:- a cover of “You say you love me” by The Delicates on Pulsar, the backing track to which was used on three versions of a different song “Nothing from nothing”, by; French Coffey feat. Rozlin on Pick-A-Hit, Little Anthony on Pure Gold and, as ”If I had a magic wand”, Renee Acker on Edgewood (Numero Group).
“Why can’t there be love” is a northern-xover sound which has an unusual grunge guitar backing. It was issued in ’71 on GM c/w a pleasant cover of Brenda Holloway’s “Hurt a little everyday”. It came out also on associated label Bump Shop c/w a superb xover ballad “Say it again with feeling” written by her husband Floyd Jones with fellow Detroiters Brenda Holt and Barbara Mercer. Floyd Jones produced these sides. Both GM sides were included on UK Ember LP “Black Explosion”.
My top sound by her “(I can) Deal with that” is a sophisticated piece of mellow groove-xover. It was written/produced by William Kyle, recorded at Kyle’s Detroit Sound studio, and arranged by hubby Floyd. It got issued twice in ’77 on Kyle’s label De•To with the same cat nọ (one less orchestrated than the other). It was re-recorded, with the unwelcome addition of a drum machine, and issued in ’79 on Morning Glory. The De•To flip is a mild sexy soul ballad. An earlier 45 on De•To by Ronnie McNeir, produced by Jones & Kyle, is in my 50 Bubbling Under.
This is, probably, the latest recording in my Top 50, issued in 1978 and, I must confess, I know little about its performer William Branch.
His first version of “Smiling eyes”, written by Ray Jones, is a jaunty piece of ‘modern’ soul with a steady mid to up-tempo beat, courtesy of B.R.S. Productions (B’ham Rhythm Section) and the Rainbow label at the address of Neal Hemphill’s Sound of Birmingham Studio in Midfield, West Birmingham. I first heard it in the early 80’s when it was included on a tape of ‘current’ plays. For some bizarre reason this very soulful number was remade in ’86 with a dreadful disco machine backing, issued on another West Birmingham label Zip and dedicated to Hemphill. I’ve yet to hear the Rainbow flip.
I’m a little confused about the probable year of the Rainbow recording. According to the studio’s website it was bought from Hemphill and, in ’76, relocated from Midfield to another site in Birmingham. The address on the Rainbow label, together with the dedication on the Zip issue, suggest it was recorded at Hemphill’s studio where the B’ham Rhythm Section was the house band, but the Rainbow 45 clearly shows © 1978.
The Sound of Birmingham Studio produced the sweet funk gem “I’ve been lonely for so long” by Frederick Knight, and crossover/modern soul numbers including “Whatever I am, I’m yours“ by Bill Brandon, “The Economy” by Lee Mitchell and “Let me in” by Eboney Essence.
Jacqueline Jones made a couple of highly soulful 45s on San Francisco label Loadstone which are much desired by crossover fans.
Her first single on Walter Stone’s label Loadstone, issued in ’72, is a superb xover double-sider. “You make my life a sunny day” is a delightful mid-paced ballad. The flip “It’s a beautiful world” picks up the pace, both sides were written by Eddie Campbell & Ernie Johnson with Pete James, and arranged by James with Stone. Eddie & Ernie cut their own versions; “You make my life a sunny day” as Phoenix Express was included on their UK Kent CD “Lost Friends”, “Beautiful world” as Ernie & Ed was issued on a Jay-Boy 45 in the UK. “I can’t stop the pain” by Ernie Johnson is in my Top 20.
My favourite is the utterly sublime “A frown on my face” issued in ’74. From the guitar and brass intro, it glides into a mid-tempo gem and Jacqueline’s vocal rendition is probably her finest. The flip “My sweet lover”, brings us into deep soul territory and is a cover of “Greatest love under the sun” by Paula Lamont – both sides were written and arranged by Stone.
Another fine xover double-sider on Loadstone is “Thank you love” c/w “You touched the inner part of me” by Celest Hardie, whose “You’re gone” is in my Top 50.
I’m fairly certain that SF artist Jeanette Jones on US labels Golden Soul and Kent is not the same person as Jacqueline Jones on Loadstone.
I must confess this is one that was nearly overlooked, not by the northern scene, but by me. I’d been vaguely aware of it, as just ‘another sound’, for several years before hunting around for a comp filler. Since giving it a fair hearing, it has been one of my absolute favourites. After making one unremarkable single in Chicago on Smash The Constellations went on to make some fine sides in the Big Apple.
“I didn’t know how to“ is standard northern fare, written by David Henry, produced by Pat Jacques, and issued in 1968 on Gemini Star. The next 45 on the label, issued in ’68, is much better. “I don’t know about you”, written by Henry and produced by Jacques, is a mid to up-tempo gem with tight group harmony and a steady, almost funky, pace. Since the late 90’s it’s become popular among traditional northern and crossover fans alike. The flip “Easy to be hard” is a ballad, with sudden upturns in beat, taken from the musical “Hair”. These sides were arranged by the ubiquitous Richard Tee, and mastered at Bell Sound. Jacques worked mainly at Broadway Studios and mixed both “Just another guy” by The O’Jays and “If only (we had met sooner)” by Linda Jones which are in my 50 Bubbling Under.
In ’70 the group cut the psychedelic title theme to a re-edited German film “The New Life Style” (with the added sub-title “Naked and Free”). It got issued as a demo on producer Pete Savage’s own label in the Bronx, c/w another song from the film by New Yorker Betty Barnes.
A move to another NY label saw a couple of singles issued on Sonday, the best side being “Special love”, a mellow funky groove, co-written by group member Bobby Earl Williams, and issued in ‘71 c/w a psych-soul cover of Otis Redding’s “I can’t turn you loose”. Their Sonday sides were produced by Dionne Warwick whom the group backed on live performances.
These Constellations should not be confused with those on Violet (Cleveland) or Process (Franklin, Pa).
Lee Williams & the Cymbals are a good example of a group whose commercial success didn’t match the quality of their sides. They made many fine recordings so I’ll cut to my favourites.
Their first single on Joe Evans’ Garden State label Carnival is a pleasant slow-to mid-paced ballad “I love you more”, issued in 1966, written by Rose McCoy and included on the Meka LP “Butterball of WDAS Presents 20 Oldies“. The similar “Peeping through the window“, written also by McCoy was issued in ’67. The latter was c/w “Lost love“ which picks up the pace with a catchy beat, co-written by Evans. The close harmonies on these sides signpost much of what was to follow.
This paragraph has been amended re. recording location. My top Carnival sound is a superb piece of mid-tempo group soul “It’s everything about you (that I love)” issued in ’68 and co-written by Evans, who wrote also “I need you baby”, another sweet ballad issued in ’68 on their next single (which has the same backing as “Peeping through the window“). The last two of my choices on the label were written by Evans and issued as a 45 at the end of ’68, another slow to mid-paced harmony number “Til you come back to me” c/w the up-tempo “Love is breakin’ out (all over)”. Evans produced all these Carnival sides. As I understand it, most of his Carnival sessions were recorded at Talent Masters in New York.
From here there seems to be conflicting info on chronology. So, I’ll stick with the same group name and a couple of decent singles issued c. ‘71 on Pittsburgh label Black Circle. The first is a cool crossover double-sider with sweet soul harmonies “Save it all for you” c/w “I can make mistakes too”. Their next single “Get it together” is another sweet xover sound with a trace more punch. These sides were written and co-produced/co-arranged by Larry Roberts who worked with several NJ/NY soul acts.
I think their next label was another one from NJ. Rapda is an acronym for its trio of owners, W. Ranson (sometimes spelt Ransom), Stan Price and group member Fred Daughtry. The group made a couple of singles on this label including my top sound “A girl from a country town”. This is an exquisite piece of funky xover written by Lee Williams with the trio (Ranson, Price & Daughtry) and issued in ’72 c/w another fine xover tune “I’m just a teenager“, co- written by the trio. Both sides were produced by the trio at Town Sound in Englewood, and arranged by Carl Stricklen who, to my astonishment, doesn’t appear to be associated with any other record.
The group made a couple of tasty sides under the name The New Cymbals, issued on New York label De-Lite. The ballad “Please baby please” came out in ’73 c/w their version of the more pacy “I will always love you,” produced/arranged by the trio. The latter was done twice by Sam Moultrie, his first version on Warren is in my Top 50.
Lee Williams and other group members joined The Intruders in the 1980’s.
Al Jones cut one fine single, and an unissued gem which sneaked out on a CD of unrelated tracks.
“I’m gonna love you” is a nice mid-pacer co-written by Jones and issued in ’68 on Amy c/w “Only love can save me now” which starts with a slow intro and bursts into a northern stormer. Both sides were produced/arranged by East Coast legends George Kerr/Richard Tee, and mastered at Broadway Studios in New York. One of my favourite previously unissued tracks is, however, a little more of a mystery.
The sublime “Let your heart be your guide” is a beautiful piece of mid-tempo crossover produced and arranged by Kerr & Tee. For some bizarre reason it was included on the KRL CD “Workin’ the Modern Room”, a comp of Philly Groove numbers which, as far as I can see, have nothing to do with the Al Jones track. According to the CD it was made in ’68 but it clearly sounds later.
This paragraph contains corrections to that posted originally. The song was written by Ray Dahrouge and variations have been recorded on at least three singles starting in Nashville with “Just let your heart be your guide” by 5° Farenheit (sic) issued on Abet in ’71. Another was issued in ’72 as “Let your heart be the judge” by God’s Gift to Women on New Jersey label A-I, produced by Kerr but with different writing credits. The third that I know of is a different version of “Just let your heart be your guide” by The Original Drifters, issued in ’78 on another Nashville label Sounds South.
Kerr & Tee produced/arranged both “Just another guy” by The O’Jays and “If only (we had met sooner)” by Linda Jones which are in my 50 Bubbling Under.
Robert Tanner cut two very soulful 45s at the end of the 1960’s, and re-recorded three of the songs as a member of The New Sounds.
Tanner started out as a member of The Jivers who made several records in Lynchburg, Virginia as a group, and as solo artists, which got issued on local label Megatone. The mid to up-tempo “Tell me your name” was the first of Tanner’s singles, written by group member Dawson ‘Sweetcake’ Smith c/w the self-penned deep soul ballad “How I feel” issued in ’69.
My favourite is another pacy number “Sweet memories”, written (and probably produced) by Smith which was recorded in ’69 and issued in ‘70. These three songs were re-recorded by The New Sounds. The flip to the second 45 is another ballad “Be my woman”, co-written by Tanner. These sides were backed by the Jivers and recorded in Smith’s basement, which gives them a Jamaican feel, especially the brass arrangement on “Sweet memories”.
The Jivers became the New Sounds and cut one eponymous LP issued in ’71 on New Jersey label Turbo. Despite George Kerr’s involvement the set was poorly mastered, which may account for its rarity and no singles. In addition to the three songs previously recorded by Tanner the LP includes several good tunes, the most popular of which is the mid-tempo “Don’t take your love”, in a similar groove is “Everybody wants to be free”. The tempo comes down a notch on two sweeter sounds “Having you around” and my top track on the LP “Here I am”.
The New Sounds on Turbo should not be confused with Newsounds on Mod-Art (Chicago).
This is one of the most popular up-tempo crossover sounds around and comes from the Bay Area.
Rhonda Davis began her recording career with a couple of devotional 45s issued in the mid 1960’s on Don Robey’s Houston label Peacock, billed as Rhonda Davis (15 Year Old Gospel Prodigy) and indeed her vocal talent on those sides belied her age. All the more remarkable that, as far as I’m aware, she made only one more single.
“Can you remember” is a belter! Ms Davis’ voice is so powerful, as is the backing by Eugene Blacknell & his band. It was recorded at the Fantasy studios in Berkeley and issued in ’72 on Robey’s label Duke c/w a harrowing ballad “Long walk on a short pier.” Both sides were written by Robert Spencer (who co-wrote “My boy Lollipop”) and produced by Dubose Stevens whom I can’t connect to any other recording.
Garland Green is an absolute legend among northern/rare soul fans thanks to a wealth of recordings produced by the likes of Jo Armstead, Mike Terry and Donny Hathaway. As usual I’ll focus on my favourites.
His first single is the original version of “Girl I love you”, recorded at Golden World, and issued in 1967 on Chicago label Gamma co-owned by Jo Armstead. It’s a lovely mid-paced number and introduces us to his deep vocal. It was written by Shelley Fisher whose later version is in my Top 50. The flip is one of his most up-tempo sides “It rained forty days and nights” and the first to attract interest on the northern scene in the 70’s (another version by Little Jimmy Scott was issued later on associated label Giant). Both sides were re-issued with wider distribution on Revue.
The next two came out in ’68 on Revue. The delightful “You played on a player” is another mid-tempo number which was issued also on Uni. On the next 45 is one of Green’s most popular sides “Ain’t that good enough” which is a tad more pacy (another good version by John Edwards was issued on P-Vine and Kent CDs). Reflecting a broadening of tastes post Wigan “Girl I love you” and “Ain’t that good enough” were big spins in the 80’s.
Green had his only national top 20 hit with one of his best numbers “Jealous kind of fella”, an exquisite ballad issued in ’69 on Uni. It became the title track for his first LP issued on Uni later that year, and issued as a 45 on UK MCA. Another three of my choices were included on the LP and issued later on singles: The pleading ballad “Don’t think that I’m a violent guy” c/w the similar “All she did (was wave goodbye at me)” and the mid-paced “Angel baby” (c/w “You played on a player”).
All the above sides include either Chicago stalwart Jo Armstead or Detroit legend Mike Terry on writing/production credits and were recorded in the Motor City.
Next up is a couple of superb mid-paced ballads recorded at 8 Track studio in Chicago and released on Cotillion. “Plain and simple girl“ borrows heavily from ‘Jealous’, it was written by Chess artist Joe Cato, issued as a single in ’70 and included in ’72 on Atlantic LP “Heavy Soul”. Recorded at the same session, but issued in ’71, was “Just my way of loving you” which is highly popular on the crossover/modern scene, and may well be his best produced side up to that point. It was co-written by another Chicagoan Johnny Moore (whose original version was issued in ’67 on Date). These sides were produced and arranged by Donny Hathaway (the deal with Cotillion was struck by Syl Johnson who helped himself to production credits). “Such a wonderful feeling” by Johnny Moore is in my Top 100.
The next two were recorded at Criteria studio, Miami in ’73 and produced by Brad Shapiro. “He didn’t know (he kept on talking)”, issued in ‘73 on Spring, is the male version of the ballad recorded originally by Dee Dee Warwick (whose second version of “Where is that rainbow” is in my Top 50). Almost last, but most definitely not least, is my top fav “Come through me”, another hit on the xover/modern scene since the noughties. It remained in the can for 17 years until included on Kent LP ”The Spring Sides” and came out also on a 100 Club Anniversary 45. It was written by Phillip Mitchell & Billy Clements, Mitchell’s own version is included on a Grapevine CD (see my Top 100 entry by Phillip Mitchell). The 100 Club singles are issued free at the all-niter’s anniversaries, through its founding DJ and chief Kent compiler Ady Croasdell, on Kent 6T’s label.
His most popular single on Spring is possibly the up-tempo ‘modern’ dancer “Sending my best wishes” issued in ’74. I prefer another modern number “You and I go good together”, which was issued later in ’74 as the flip to the floater “Let the good times roll”. These sides were produced by labelmate Ray Godfrey who wrote/produced many sides by Spring artists including “My man, a sweet man” by Millie Jackson and ”Step by step” by Joe Simon.
No artist is bigger on the northern/rare soul scene than the Detroit legend J.J. Barnes. His recording career spanned several decades. All my choices were made in the Motor City, including his best work which was with Don Davis and his Groovesville productions. I’m leaving out most credits, otherwise this piece would be a short book.
First up is the sublime mid-tempo “Lonely no more”, which Barnes co-wrote and co-produced, issued in 1964 on local label Mickay’s which had its own shop and studio. Another Mickay’s side is the uptown “Just one more time”, issued later on Scepter. It was included in ’68 on the Pye LP “Super Soul”, issued in several countries including UK.
No portrait of J.J. could be adequate without reference to the best of his northern sides on Ed Wingate’s Ric-Tic label, most of which was recorded at Wingate’s Golden World studios. “Please let me in” has always been one of my top northern sounds, catchy mid to up-tempo beat with little added to the basic rhythm track except vocals, arranged by Mike Terry (uncredited) and Issued in ’65. Barnes was fortuitous in getting to record perhaps his most famous side, the aptly titled “Real humdinger”, issued in ‘66. Al Kent tried it out first on Edwin Starr which didn’t result in a full take, so it was given to J.J. The flip “I ain’t gonna do it” brings the pace down a bit, these three numbers were included on the comp LP “Ric-Tic Relics” issued in the UK on Tamla-Motown. Before that, ‘let me in’ and ‘humdinger’ were among the biggest imports to take off in the UK. Two mid-paced numbers issued on separate Ric-Tic singles in ’66 are “Don’t bring me bad news” and “Deeper in love”, the latter was issued also on UK Polydor.
In ’66 Motown bought Ric-Tic and with it the contracts of some artists including Barnes. Over a period of several months he recorded tracks with Motown but, sounding too similar to Marvin Gaye, they remained in the can. Some are emerging on recent comps, including the mid-pacer “I’m here now that you need me”, recorded in December ’66 and included on “A Cellarful of Motown! Vol. 3”.
After Motown released him, Barnes teamed up again with Don Davis who was involved in the writing or production of most of J.J.’s Groovesville recordings. Few sounds emphasise more the similarity between J.J. and Marvin than “Baby please come back home”, his biggest hit and his first 45 in ’67 on Groovesville. This was the most heavily produced of his sides at that point complete with strings. The flip “Chains of love” has a steady pace and it’s simple vocal on rhythm track production makes it the more soulful side (it’s a different song from “These chains of love” issued on Mickay’s). ‘Come back home’ was issued in ’69 on UK Stax single and the LP “Stax Soul Explosion”.
The style of “Now that I got you back”, issued in ’67, lies somewhere between ‘come back home’ and ‘Chains’. These numbers were included on one side of the LP “Rare Stamps” released by Volt in ’69 together with the previously unissued “Sweet Sherry”, which is one of his most popular numbers on the northern scene. The LP had five tracks by J.J. on one side* (all recorded in ’66-67 at United Sound) and five by Steve Mancha on the flip (*the last track on Barnes’ side “Easy living” was actually by Mancha). Another delightful mid-tempo track by J.J. recorded in ’67, “The harder you love”, was unissued until included on Goldmine CD “Groovesville Review Volume 2”. In ’68 J.J. cut four sides for LeBaron Taylor’s Revilot label, the most soulful of which is “I’ll keep coming back”, written by Edwin Starr, which was re-issued on Buddah.
In ’69 and ’70 Barnes recorded several more tracks when The Don was working for Stax/Volt. Only one single resulted: “Got to get rid of you” a beautiful ballad which has a similar arrangement to “Two on a cloud” by Curt Darin. The flip is the pacier “Snow flakes”. Another three superb tracks from these sessions were included on the LP “The Groovesville Masters” issued in the UK in ’75 on Contempo; “Help me” “Welcome to the club” and “Your love is gone”. For some reason, which baffles me, my top sound by J.J. remained in the can until included by Goldmine on their own Barnes comp CD titled “The Groovesville Masters” – “Call on me baby” is a subtle mid-tempo crossover number written by Barnes & Don Davis and produced by Davis. Other unissued gems on the set include “He don’t love you like I love you” “I found a new love” (different song from “I think I found a love” on Ric-Tic) and “Still in my heart” which was recorded also by Steve Mancha, Melvin Davis and David Ruffin.
I’ll finish with two excellent xover numbers “To an early grave” issued in ’70 on Magic Touch (re-recorded in ‘74 for Contempo) and “I think I’ve got a good chance” issued in ’75 on Organic.
Barnes wrote/co-wrote several tunes by other artists including: “Good things come to those who wait” by both Chuck Jackson and Willie Hatcher; “Saving my love for my baby” and “Your love was good for me” by Marva Whitney; “I feel like I’m falling in love again” by The Fantastic Four and “Wouldn’t it be a pleasure” by Jay Rhythm (a.k.a. J.T. Rhythm).
Marvin Gaye needs no introduction. As with most major soul artists I’ll be brief on details, and stick to his solo work. Unless specified otherwise, these sounds were recorded at Motown’s Hitsville studio, with occasional use of Golden World. The contemporaneous releases were issued on Tamla.
“Wherever I lay my hat” is a nice uptown number, the mono mix appeared first on the LP “That Stubborn Kinda Fellow” issued in ’62, stereo on a single in ’69. It was covered famously in the UK by Paul Young. The LP includes his original version of the catchy “Get my hands on some lovin’” which was covered by The Artistics. All the following LPs were issued also in the UK on Tamla-Motown.
“How sweet it is (to be loved by you)” was a major hit and benefits from a relatively light arrangement by the mega hit-makers Holland-Dozier-Holland, issued as a 45 in ’64 in the US and on Stateside in the UK (it was of course a later hit for Jr. Walker & the All Stars). The accompanying LP issued in ’65 includes a couple of good mid-pacers “No good without you” and “Stepping closer to your heart”, the latter was recorded also by Gladys Knight & the Pips. Another track recorded in Jan ’65, “Lonely lover”, is the original version which remained in the can until included in ’86 on Motown LP “Motown Remembers Marvin Gaye”. Four Tops recorded their version in ’67 but the only contemporaneous release was Jimmy McFarland, issued in ’69 on RPR, which was a hit on the northern scene. From here all UK singles were issued on Tamla-Motown.
The foot-tapper “When I had your love” was recorded in July ’65 and issued in ’66 on US/UK 45s. His most popular track on the LP “Moods of Marvin Gaye”, issued in ’66, is probably the poppy “Little darling (I need you)”. I prefer “Your unchanging love”, with a typical silk voice and mid-tempo groove, it was issued in ‘67 on US/UK singles. “Sweeter as the days go by” was recorded in ’66 but kept under lock and key until included in ’79 on Natural Resources LP “From the Vaults” – it’s a lovely version of Frank Wilson’s mid-tempo flip to “Do I love you (indeed I do)”. Chris Clark’s take was included on her LP “Soul Sounds”, and the Four Tops’ version came out eventually on their ‘Lost & Found’ series CD.
For me, Marvin Gaye didn’t really have a distinctive sound of his own until the ’67 LP “In the Groove”. This was also his most soulful set up to that point. We all know “I heard it through the grapevine” – the opening guitar lick is one of the most instantly recognisable in recording history, then the smooth but sophisticated arrangement makes this one of the most revered soul sides ever. It was recorded in the spring of ’67, produced by Norman Whitfield and included on the LP in August ’68. Berry Gordy didn’t want it issued as a single but after radio play, and some in-house persistence, he relented and it came out as a 45 in October ’68 (’69 in the UK). There are several other versions but Marvin’s is the boss sound. The first taste the world at large got of what was to come was the US/UK single, with two groovy cuts “Change what you can” c/w “You”. These sides were included on “In the Groove”. Another great track from the LP “Tear it on down” is a tad more pacy, this catchy Ashford & Simpson number was covered also by The Originals and Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, but they had to wait longer for their releases.
There were some great recordings which remained in the can until included on his “Love Starved Heart” CD issued in ’94: “When I feel the need” was recorded in June ’67 at Hitsville and Mowest in Los Angeles, the cool intro leads into a sophisticated mover. From the same sessions came “This love starved heart of mine (it’s killing me)” which has become his biggest sound on the northern scene. My top choice ,“It’s a desperate situation” is in a similar vein to ‘grapevine’ and the Groovesville sound being crafted by Don Davis. This mid-paced xover gem, written by Ivy Joe Hunter & Pam Sawyer and produced by Hunter, was recorded in March ‘68. It’s similar also to “Call on me baby” by J.J. Barnes in that it missed several opportunities to get released. Jimmy Ruffin’s funkier version was included on his “Ultimate Motown Collection” CD.
An expanded version of the CD was issued as part of the ‘Lost & Found’ series and included a superb unissued Ashford & Simpson track “Dark side of the world“, recorded in March ’69. It’s possible that ‘desperate situation’ and ‘Dark side’ were considered too poignant for release, given Marvin’s marital problems, and singing partner Tammi Terrell’s struggles with cancer.
A track that picked up interest on the xover/modern scene is “Come get to this”, a cool shuffler recorded in ’70 which was included on the LP “Let’s Get it On” issued in ’73.
Finally, I must acknowledge one of the most respected Motown albums of all-time. The politically conscious “What’s Going On” is a masterpiece. Tackling issues such as drug abuse, poverty and even the environment, it was a collaboration between Marvin, Obie Benson and Al Cleveland – with profound arrangement by David Van de Pitte. It was recorded in Detroit and Los Angeles between June ’70 and May ’71, and ranks alongside the best soul albums.
Some soul fans might have overlooked this gem because of the group’s twee name – big mistake, it’s simply a great soul record!
Indeed, I believe The Kittens were sold short on earlier releases, with the ‘girl group’ fodder given to them, despite input from the king of uptown arrangements Johnny Pate. Consequently, there is little to commend from the ABC sides of 1965-66. A change of label and, at last, the powerful quality of Bernice Willis’ voice is complemented with suitable material.
“Hey operator” was easily their best cut up to that point, with sterling Chicago credentials. An up-tempo number written by Billy Butler and Carl Davis, produced by Gerald Sims and issued in ’67 on Chess c/w the northern stormer “Ain’t no more room” – but it’s the next 45 which really merits the respect of broader soul fans.
“How long (can I go on)” is superb, its subtle intro leads into a solid mid to up tempo number with stunning lead vocal. Once again it comes courtesy of some of Chicago’s finest; written by Ruth Moore, arranged by Willie Henderson, produced by Sims and issued on Chess in ‘68. The flip is a southern style belter.
Bernice Willis went on to make a soulful cover of Dusty Springfield’s “Breakfast in bed” issued on OKeh in ’69.
There were several 60’s groups called The Kittens, but I believe this group’s only output was on Vick, ABC and Chess.
Despite working with Chicago’s finest, like Curtis Mayfield and Gerald Sims, Billy Butler had difficulty shaking off the ‘brother of’ tag, due to the success of Jerry Butler. Thanks mainly to UK fans he is much better appreciated today than during his time as a recording artist. Unless specified otherwise, the featured OKeh numbers were written by Butler or Mayfield, produced by Carl Davis, arranged by Johnny Pate and recorded in Chicago. Davis often used Columbia studio for his OKeh productions and Universal for Brunswick.
“Found true love” establishes the recognisable mid to up-tempo uptown sound that we associate with Butler and labelmate Major Lance. It was recorded in May 1963 and issued as Billy Butler & the Four Enchanters in August. The flip “Lady love” is a fine number in similar vein. At the same session the group recorded a doo-wop style track “Does it matter”, which remained unissued until included on Kent CD “The Right Tracks”. Another version by The Opals was issued as a single in ’64.
The next three were recorded in October ’63 but didn’t get issued in strict order. “My sweet woman” was one of their most Impressions sounding cuts which was issued a year later as Billy Butler & the Chanters. “(You make me think) You ain’t ready” is a typical uptown mover which had to wait until August ’65 before coming out as Billy Butler, with no group name, and was included on French Epic LP “Rhythm and Blues and Jerk Party”. The best cut from the session “Fighting a losing battle” is a lovely mid-pacer which was kept in the vaults until included on the Kent CD as Billy Butler & the Four Enchanters.
The next session in February ’64 saw the releases revert to sequence and issued as Billy Butler & the Chanters (shortened group name was to avoid confusion with Garnet Mimms’ backing group the Enchanters). “Gotta get away” was one of his most up-tempo numbers, issued in March – it was recorded also by The Impressions and Major Lance. Next up is my top sound “My heart is hurtin’”, another up-tempo number, written by Mayfield, produced by Mayfield & Davis, with superb close harmony and tight brass arrangement by Pate. It’s the earliest track in my chart and was issued in July c/w the self-penned “Can’t live without her”, which brings the pace down a bit. A rather furious cover of “My heart is hurtin’” was made as “This heart of mine” by The Royal Imperials issued on Texas label Mellow Town.
Butler & co took a trip to New York in January ’65 and a change in supervision, Curtis Mayfield on production (with Carl Davis) and Teacho Wilshere arranging (both uncredited). “I can’t work no longer” starts with a chain gang style “ooh, ah” and, despite change of location and personnel, is in the same vein as his other OKeh sides. It was issued in May and was the last 45 to be billed with the Chanters – it was included in ’65 on UK Columbia LP “Chart-Busters U.S.A.”. “(I’ve got a feeling) You’re gonna be sorry” was issued in August as, simply, Billy Butler and included on the aforementioned French Epic LP. It’s another mid-paced uptown number, and his most similar sounding cut to Major Lance. It’s a different song from “You’re gonna be sorry” by The Opals, even though both were written by Mayfield.
The last OKeh single is easily his most famous. Every northern fan will recognise the opening guitar lick and drum roll of “Right track”, written by Chicagoan John Jones and arranged/co-produced by Gerald Sims. The up-tempo instrumental track was laid down in November ’65. With Butler’s vocal added, it was issued six months later. It was issued in the UK on Dave Godin’s Soul City label, being his only side to be released in the 60’s on this side of the pond.
Billy Butler followed producer Carl Davis to Brunswick records and recorded the next three sides. “Come over to my side” is a great up-tempo number with woodwind added to the mix, co-written by Butler, arranged by Sonny Sanders and issued in ’67. The flip “Love grows bitter” is a soulful ballad written by Jimmy Diggs. “Thank you baby” is another uptown mover co-written by Butler, arranged by saxophonist Willie Henderson and issued on the next 45 in ’68. Butler played guitar on most of his Brunswick sides.
Butler co-wrote numbers for other Brunswick artists including: “I’m the one to do it” by both Jackie Wilson and LaVern Baker; “You left me” by The Artistics, which is in my 50 Bubbling Under and “Baby (why can’t you hear me)” c/w “Can’t stop loving you” by Otis Leavill.
Butler formed a new group Infinity with a much-updated sound. My favourites from this period are xover ballads: “Keep it to yourself” as Infinity, written by Butler with group member Larry Wade and issued on Fountain in ’69; and “I don’t want to lose you” as Billy Butler & Infinity, written by Butler & Wade with Terry Callier and issued on Memphis in ’71. “Look at me now” by Terry Callier is in my Top 100.
Jerri Jackson sang as a group member, duettist and solo artist (see the very helpful discography for Gigi & the Charmaines in Dave Rimmer’s site Soulful Kinda Music). Regrettably, most of her work is rather lame compared to this crossover gem.
The Charmaines were from Cincinnati where they made numerous singles issued on Fraternity. Jerri Jackson joined her sister Gigi’s group when it switched to the Date label in 1966. The most popular tracks from their Date sessions are the northern numbers; “Eternally” issued in ’66, and “I don’t wanna lose him” which remained under wraps for almost 40 years until included on the Ace CD “Gigi & the Charmaines”, and subsequent 100 Club Anniversary single. They cut two singles in ’66/67 for Date’s parent label Columbia as Gigi & the Charmaines, the best side being “Girl crazy”, but I prefer the version by Sharon Soul which was unissued until included on Goldmine CD “Groovesville Review Vol. 2”. The Date/Columbia recordings were made in Detroit.
In the meantime, Jerri Jackson cut a version of “Right direction” in the Motor City with future husband in-law Herman Griffin (as Gerri Jackson & Herman Lewis) issued in ‘66 on the Detroit label Stone Blue. Another version of this northern hit was recorded by Clara Ward and issued on Verve. After one more single by The Charmaines, produced by Griffin and issued on Minit, she went solo.
Jerri Jackson recorded two psych-soul 45s in Cincinnati, produced by Don Litwin for his New York label Parallax. “Love me” is a ripping number, with a late 60’s psych arrangement by Randy Edelman, and issued in ’68. My favourite is the utterly sublime “I can almost believe”, issued c. ’69. This mid-paced xover number was arranged and backed by labelmates The Sacred Mushroom, with Randy California style lead guitar courtesy of Larry Goshorn. I’ve yet to hear the flip. These songs were written by the mysterious Tao (possibly a pseudonym for Goshorn who wrote most of Mushroom’s tracks). Litwin produced The Sacred Mushroom’s only LP at Jewel studio in Cincinnati, which is where I presume Jerri’s sides were recorded.
Another dancer on Parallax is the self-penned pop-soul “Vicky – Vicky” by Daryl Hall. Litwin co-wrote “Good things come to those who wait” by both Chuck Jackson and Willie Hatcher.
Sometime later Jerri & Gigi joined The Platters.
Tony Joe White is familiar to both rock and soul fans thanks primarily to his three legendary LPs issued on Monument in the Us and UK, with his own brand of swamp rock and southern ballads, which influenced Elvis Presley’s late 1960’s soul period.
The side which has attracted most interest on the northern scene is his semi-spoken original version of “Polk Salad Annie”, issued as a single in ’68 on Monument (’69 in the UK) and included on his first LP “Black and White”, which was recorded at RCA, Nashville. It’s probably the best-known version despite being covered by Elvis.
His next LP “…Continued” was recorded between Monument’s studio in Nashville and Lyn-Lou in Memphis and issued in ’69. It includes his own version of the beautiful ballad “Rainy night in Georgia”, which was an international hit for Brook Benton. The tune or arrangement has been used on many other songs including “Train start movin’”/“Train keep moving” by Don Thomas. Both ‘Polk Salad’ and ‘Rainy night’ were self-penned and produced by Billy Swann.
My favourite ‘soul’ track by him is his version of “What does it take (to win your love)” which features White’s stylish combination of guitar, harmonica and southern drawl. It was written by Johnny Bristol, Vernon Bullock and Harvey Fuqua, recorded at RCA in Nashville, produced by White with Swann, arranged by Bergen White (no relation) and included in ’70 on his third LP “Tony Joe”. The song was, of course, a major hit for Jr. Walker & the All Stars, whose original version was included on their ’69 LP “Gotta Hold on to This Feeling” and subsequent single. Another groovy Nashville version is by The Electrifying Cashmeres, issued in ’71 on Sound Stage 7. Bergen White arranged the second version of “Lover come back” by Jackey Beavers which is in my Top 100.
Gospel trained Claude Huey cut five singles on the West Coast which have generated much interest from northern and deep soul fans.
My favourite “Feel good all over” was the first single issued in ’66 on Bay Area label Early Bird, distributed by Fantasy. This mid to up-tempo number has a tight drum and brass intro and proceeds with a simple on the four arrangement, it has been one of my top northern sounds for several decades. The flip “The worst thing a man can do” is a jazzy ballad in a similar vein to Bobby Bland. Both sides were written by SF stalwart Jesse Osborne and arranged by labelmate Ray Shanklin. The notes to the Kent CD “Hitsville West: San Francisco’s Uptown Soul” suggest that backing vocals were probably provided by labelmates, The Sisters Three (a.k.a. The Stovall Sisters).
The most popular northern side on Early Bird is “We got to keep on” by The Casanova Two, which was recorded at Coast Recorders in San Francisco where Osborne had been based. He was a staffer for parent company Fantasy when it moved, c. 68, from the Missions district in SF across the Bay to Oakland. The remainder of Huey’s output was on two more labels distributed by Fantasy, which used various West Coast studios until it set up its own facility in ’71 at Berkeley.
“Drifting” is an infectious up-tempo number, instantly recognisable from the opening guitar twirls. It was written/produced by Osborne and issued in ‘68, as Claude “Baby” Huey, on Osborne’s label M.I.O.B. (Music is Our Business) c/w a deep soul ballad “Just won’t believe” – both sides were arranged by Frank Jones.
“Why would you blow it” is a highly soulful number with a similar feel to “Drifting”. It was written by Osborne and issued in ’69 on Galaxy. The flip “Why did our love go” is a bluesy ballad written by Marilynn Stewart of The Tandels (who recorded the original). Both sides were produced by Osborne.
Claude “Baby” Huey should not be confused with Baby Huey & the Babysitters (James Ramey) who had releases on various Chicago labels.
As far as I know Sam Williams had just four releases, all in the Big Apple, one of which has been a top northern sound for over 40 years.
“Miracle worker” is a deep southern style soul ballad issued in 1967 on Uptown. It was written by Jimmy Norman who’s well known to beat ballad fans with sounds like “This I beg of you,” issued in ’66 on Rochester label Samar. Both these sides were produced by NYC veteran Johnny Brantley.
His last 45 is the most well-known, regarded as one of the better sounds to go big at Wigan and another of my northern favourites. “Love slipped through my fingers” was cut at Bell Sound studio in February ’67 and issued on Tower. The scan shown here is the demo, I believe stock copies do exist but I’ve never seen one. It starts with an instantly recognisable piano intro and leads into a steady up-tempo groove. It was written by Edward Lewis, James Lewis & Marion Farmer who wrote other northern and crossover numbers for Herman Hitson and Lee Moses. The flip is Williams’ second version of his self-penned ballad “Let’s talk it over”. Both sides were produced by Brantley.
I know of two other versions of “Love slipped through my fingers”: Ohio Players with Gloria Barnes (a.k.a. Towanda Barnes) on lead, included in ’76 on Trip LP “16 Greatest Hits” and booted later as Towanda Barnes ; and Hermon Hitson which was unissued until included on Soul-Tay-Shus CD “You Are Too Much for The Human Heart”.
Sam Williams should not be confused with Sammy Williams on Red Fire, who may be a West Coast artist. I’ve no info on the gospel group The Sam Williams Singers on Wand and I don’t know whether it’s the same man.
Delilah Moore has made a significant impact on the crossover/modern scene but, as far as I can make out, she made just four singles, all in the City of Angels.
Her recording career began in 1966 with one 45 on Loma which featured the northern hit “Bright lights” as Delilah Kennebruew, but she is better known for her early ‘70s recordings as Delilah Moore, which she arranged herself (uncredited).
“I’ll just walk away” is a brilliant piece of sophisticated xover – it’s laid back brass intro leads into a funky number with soulful vocal delivery and a jazzy arrangement in parts. It was written by Delilah with an S. Scott, produced by Ruth Dolphin and issued in ’72 on Dolphin’s L.A. label Money which was founded by her late husband. The flip “I wish” is southern flavoured mover which also has a jazzy feel.
“Wrapped up tight” is a delightful xover/mellow groove number issued on two labels with conflicting writing credits. It was issued in ’73 on Money which shows the composers as Delilah with Charles Jones (of Dobyne & Jones). The much rarer release was on Middle Earth which gives the credits to Delilah with Daniel Brown (who is credited as the co-writer of “I wish” on the flip to ‘walk away’).
The flip on Middle Earth “It takes love” is probably her most popular number. This jaunty modern sound was written by Delilah with Daniel Brown and recorded during her Money sessions. It was one of four tracks by Delilah included in the soundtrack to the ‘blaxploitation’ movie “Hit ‘em Hard” (1972). Both sides of the Middle Earth 45 were produced by Ruth Wiggins. I’m uncertain whether Ruth Dolphin and Ruth Wiggins are one and the same.
The word ‘legend’ is bandied about often, but in Bettye Swann’s case it’s thoroughly appropriate, being admired highly by all branches of the soul community. She was no stranger either to hyperbole from rock and soul journalists. As with other major artists I’ll focus on my personal choices. The Money and Capitol recordings were made in Los Angeles.
Bettye cut several sides on the L.A. label Money from 1964 including her northern hit “The man who said no” in ’65, but she is best known for “Make me yours”. This mid to up-tempo number was self-penned, recorded in February ’67 at Audio Arts with the Incredibles on backing vocals, produced/arranged by Arthur Wright, issued in March and became the title track of her first LP. It hit the pop charts and was Blues & Soul/Black Music columnist Dave Godin’s favourite record. It was issued in the UK on CBS and included on the Direction LP “Groov’y Baby”. Other good versions are by Bobby Montgomery, Z.Z. Hill and a Jamaican one by Phyllis Dillon. The LP was re-issued in ’72 on Nashville label Abet.
My top sound “You gave me love” is similarly paced and is one of those sides that bridge mid 60’s northern with late 60’s crossover. It was written by Bettye with Arthur Wright, produced by Wright and included in ’67 on the LP “Make me yours”. Another take was issued later as a single, which was re-issued by Hi bearing the Money setting with “Hi-Oldies Records” added to the text. An alt. take was included on Kent CD “The Money Recordings”, and a remix of the 45 take can be found on another Kent CD “The Very Best of Bettye Swann”. The 45 flip is a neat cover of the Temptations number “Don’t look back”. Arthur Wright worked on dozens of soul tracks in L.A. including “My heart’s beating stronger“ by Andy Fisher & the Encores “Look at me, look at me“ by Vernon Greene & the Medallions “One more chance” by Four Tees and “Come back baby (to my empty arms)” by The Justice Dept.
The next three numbers were self-penned and issued on Capitol. “(My heart is) Closed for the season” is a sophisticated piece of mid-paced xover which was issued twice as a single in the US, and once in the UK. The flip to the first US 45 “I’m lonely for you” is a slightly slower number and was included in ’69 on her Capitol LP “The Soul View Now!”. Another mid-tempo track from the LP “No faith no love”, has a lighter feel – it was arranged by Hank Jernigan and issued subsequently as a single.
There are several versions of the ballad “Tell it like it is” (written by George Davis & Lee Diamond) but none more sublime than Bettye’s from the ‘Soul View‘ LP. Her subtle rendition prompted the New Musical Express to proclaim “You’d have to be virtually dead not to love this record”. All of these Capitol tracks were produced by Wayne Shuler. My second favourite version of “Tell it like it is” is a cool jazzy one by Nina Simone, recorded at RCA, New York in 1971. Lee Diamond wrote also “I caught you in a lie” by Robert Parker which is in my Top 100.
Our next port of call is the Fame studios in Muscle Shoals. “Today I started loving you again” is a mid-paced xover cover of a Merle Haggard song issued in ’72 on Atlantic (’73 in the UK). This was her second version, the first was included on her Capitol LP “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me?”. In a similar vein her next 45 on Atlantic “Till I get it right” issued in ’73, is a cover of a major hit by Tammy Wynette. Both these sides were produced by Mickey Buckins and arranged by Jimmie Haskell.
“Kiss my love goodbye” is an up-tempo number popular on the northern and modern scenes, written by Phil Hurtt and Tony Bell (Thom Bell’s younger brother) recorded at Sigma Sound in Philadelphia, produced by The Young Professionals (Hurtt, Bell, Bunny Sigler & former Solid Hitbound maestro LeBaron Taylor) and issued on Atlantic in ’74.