Dagnabbit, I meant to do one of these for January but then the month up and flew by me and now it’s the end of February. Anyways…for this month’s grab bag, I’m still drawing from some leftovers from 2013 that I’m only now catching up on plus the usual assortments of recent arrivals and the like.
Ok…so I only just got this album recently despite the fact that it has a song called “Soulsides”. I mean, I’m pretty sure I heard this at some point in the ’90s but before there was “my” Soul Sides (and in any case, as folks should know, the original inspiration for this blog title was the label Sole Sides rather than this song. But yeah, really embarrassing late pass.
I know: this is a year old now but I didn’t peep much by them until I was listening to my dude Hua’s “best of 2013″ playlist and my first thought was “wait, cats are still flipping “Montara” and “Synthetic Substitution” in 2013? Word? The Underachievers (Issa Dash and Ak) hail from Flatbush and I can only presume they grew up on Da Beatminerz and other golden era production given their own inclination towards that style (when they’re not rolling with Flying Lotus and his camp). Those collisions of style make for an interesting mixtape, half of which sounds straight throwback-to-93 but the other half being far more in the moment. (At least on this project, I prefer the former but I’m old).
Action Bronson & Party Supplies: Midget Cough
“Heavily derivative” might be an understatement but at this point, I don’t give a f—. I’m not mad at Bronsalini, especially when he’s spitting hot lava over Filipino soul-jazz tracks.
Wendy Alleyne and the Dynamics: He’s So Fine
Jamaican cover of “He’s So Fine” that really highlights how much “My Sweet Lord” borrowed from this girl group classic.
Thunder Head: And I Need You
You need more druggy psych slow jams in your life. Start here. So heavy.
I’m going to close out with a trio of singles I’ve grabbed from my dude Endo over the last couple of months. First, we have Manual B. Holcolm who does everything you’d want a good funky soul cut to: killer intro, hard, driving drums mixed in well, and set of gutbucket vocals. Flip side is an instrumental version (always fun to find).
Jimmy Nunya: My Sweet Baby
Another one I got off of Endo…Nunya is the father one of “Cool” James Todd…he of those that ladies love. Had no idea LL’s dad was a musician and apparently one who was based out in L.A. for a spell since Salsa Picante is a local label out here. “My Sweet Baby” is a solid modern soul ballad – peep all that keyboard work. Nunya does ok but the general vocal effects are more interesting than his voice specifically.
I’ve been after this one for years but it just doesn’t turn up very often so when I saw a mint copy in Endo’s crates, that sale was automatic. Mid-60s Toussaint..absolutely gorgeous and melancholy. And sure, it doesn’t hurt that Primo merked the flip but truly, the original is a thing of beauty.
Our friends at Get On Down are re-releasing a green vinyl version of “Jump Around” (feat. the Pete Rock remix on the B-side), just in time for St. Patty’s Day.
The idea behind Soul Sides Vol. 3, of course, goes back to the first two volumes but the inspiration to finally get around to putting one together is really owed to an old KALX acquaintance, Marin Moran. A few months back, she had sent me a message, apropos of nothing, about how much she still enjoyed listening to Vol. 1. To be honest, I was surprised that people still had that in rotation but it was gratifying to know and it got me thinking about how to recapture whatever mix of elements made that first volume successful.
A quick rewind: I was able to put out the first two volumes thanks to the largesse of Zealous Records who handled all the headache parts of putting out a comp (i.e. clearances, mastering, etc.) but it wasn’t like either volume was as simple as a wish list come to life. We had to start with a longer master list and then whittle it down, based both on aesthetic judgements and legal realities. Moreover, they also represented snapshots of “songs I was into at the time” but that doesn’t mean, with the passage of time, I would feel as strongly about certain songs years later. (To be very very candid, when I look at the track list for Vol. 2, I’m just not that compelled by it any more, just as an example.)
With Vol. 3, the benefit I have here is that, well, I’m obviously not clearing anything. This is a glorified playlist I suppose but I did have Vol. 1 as a guide to which songs to choose from rather than simply putting out “14 songs that I currently like.” This may seem silly but as an exercise, I went back to that first volume and created casual metadata tags for each song, i.e. “midtempo soulful and funky by an obscure-ish artist”(partially sounds like library record descriptions, ha). And then I tried to think of other songs with that same general vibe.
I didn’t want to hew too closely to a formula but there were a few things I knew going in: I needed the first song to be as strong as an “opener” as “Keep My Baby Warm.” I wanted the last song to be more recent. And from there, I began to play around with a huge master list, gradually whittling that down to what we have here:
Master William and the Saints: Don’t Forget God
One of my favorite songs from Vol. 1 was William Bell’s “Forgot To Be Your Lover” and since this is a surprising gospel cover of that song, it was a no-brainer to open Vol. 3 with this.
The Trinikas: Remember Me
This hits on some many different levels: girl group, kids group, heartbreak song and just one killer rhythm section.1
The Hassles: Four ‘o Clock In the Morning
On Vol. 1, Lee Moses’s “Time and Place” held this spot and I was thinking of other “funky soul songs that were sampled only once (but memorable so) in the 1990s.” The Hassles has long been a favorite…maybe the only Billy Joel song I’d ride for non-ironically. I’m surprised more folks haven’t looped this; all I know is an unreleased Beatnuts song.
Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band: A Dance, A Kiss, and a Song
The only reason I can think this wasn’t on Vol. 1 was either 1) we couldn’t clear it or 2) I was stupid. Either way, it’s my favorite Watts 103rd song, especially with James Gadson on the vocals. B-side wins again.
Inell Young: What Do You See In Her?
More so than any other song on here, this had been one of the white whales I had obsessed over the longest. If it was just an instrumental, it’d already be a NOLA gem but with the lyrics? And the rumored backstory involving Allen Toussaint as the target of the song’s theme? No way I could resist its charms.
Los Fabulosos Festivals: Can I Change My Mind?
This belongs into the category “covers that aren’t necessarily better than the original but…” The fact that it’s from Panama already makes this cool but the horn section on here is so massive and the recording so rough yet soulful, this one is likely to stay in my play crate long after I filed Tyrone Davis’s original away.
Ruby Andrews: You’ve Made a Believer Out Of Me
I don’t care how many times I hear this, it never gets old. I love it when some of the more common singles are also among some of the very best.
Charles Spurling: Popcorn Charlie
Of all the songs on here, this was the most impulsive (and the most recently acquired). It’s one of countless post-”Popcorn” singles trying to surf the wake of James Brown’s big hit (and Brown produced this so he knew full well about how to milk his own trends). There are probably better “Popcorn” songs out there but something about the jauntiness of the rhythm and the male/female harmonizing on the singing charmed me instantly.
Little Beaver: Let the Good Times Roll
Written and produced by one of the most important R&B figures out of Florida, Willie Clarke, this is a slinky, grooving’ classic that deserves to be up there with the best: Latimore’s “Let’s Straighten It Out,” William DeVaughn’s “Be Thankful,” you get the idea.
Ann Sexton: Have A Little Mercy
I swear to god it’s a coincidence that I put this on here when Vol. 1 had another Sexton song. I suspect some might think Jean Wells’s original is more deserving and no doubt, Wells brought it like a ragged razor but Sexton’s version is all about the slow burn. Even the way the song opens, so quiet and patient you might think it’s dead space…all the sudden slides into Sexton plunging in with a bad case of the blues. Mercy indeed.
The Larks: I Want (You)
Given that I think Don Julian is an absolutely undersung L.A. figure, I wanted to rep at least one song by him or the Larks and it doesn’t hurt that it’s one of their all-time best firm roll slow jams. Drop this anywhere in the vicinity of L.A. eastside and the swooning will begin before the first 4 bars end.
Manhattans: Follow Your Heart
From L.A. to the Manhattans…this is, hands-down, probably my single most favorite song of the last year (wait, do I really want to make that claim?). I love every single thing about this and there was no way I was going to put together a Vol. 3 and not have this on there.
Little Ann: Deep Shadows
There was a point where I thought, “do I have too many ballads on this?” and then I went back to Vol. 1 and realized “nope, I’m fine.” And truly, if there’s another song more haunting than this Little Ann tune, I don’t know it. Scarily sublime (or is that the other way around?)
Lee Fields: Honey Dove (2002 original)
I knew I was going to end with a more recent song and either version of “Honey Dove” would have been a no-brainer but while I think the 2004 re-recording is incredible (and I’ll even admit it’s the superior arrangement), the doo-wop touches on the 2002 hook get me every time. I can’t get enough of that even though it’s a relatively short and subtle part of the song.
And there you have it. V3. [2. The small print, for those who made it down here. 1) Downloadable version at Mixcrate. 2) I’ll happily trade lossless files of the songs above if you got some heat for me in the return. Just email.
Now…if you’ve made it this far…I do have a favor to ask. Since late 2013, I’ve actually begun accruing expenses related to Soul Sides including server fees and my monthly donation to RadioSombra.org to have my show there. I’ve never wanted to monetize Soul Sides and I don’t plan to now but I’ll gladly accept donations as a way to cover my costs. It doesn’t have to be much – even a few bucks helps. And I won’t feel bad if you opt to pass (god knows I’ve never been that great about donating to the sites I enjoy). For those who do donate, I am so appreciative of your support and I’ll find a way to thank you, I promise.
I started 10 years ago today.
Thanks for rolling with me all these years.
Here’s to another 10.
–Oliver Wang, Los Angeles, 2014
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