STUMBLING INTO THE FUTURE

Lynn Williams: Don’t Be Surprise
From 7″ (Suncut, 197?). Also on Sweet Brown Sugar.

Brenda Russell: A Little Bit of Love
From Brenda Russell (Horizon, 1979)

That’s not a typo with the Lynn Williams’ song. For some reason, the label for the 45 says “Don’t Be Surprise” not “Don’t Be Surprised”. Go figure. Whatever the mistake, the song isn’t: it’s a fantastically moody and sulty soul cut out of Miami. Reminds me a little of Isaac Hayes’ “Walk On By” – not nearly as well-produced, but just the feel of it: dark and dramatic. (And yes, before anyone says it, Jurassic 5 sampled it. Ok?)

Brenda Russell’s “A Little Bit of Love” (Big Pun alert!) is a fantastic slice of what some call “modern soul” and what I prefer just to name as “early ’80s soul” since that’s when this aesthetic really takes off (even though, technically, the song is from ’79). It’s shinier, more studio-driven and not nearly as gritty or dirty as the soul from previous generations but I think there’s more than enough room for people to embrace a more pop/soul style even if Russell’s vocals aren’t as rich as, say, Williams’ approach. It’s still a very, very fun song, off of Russell’s excellent self-titled debut.

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