These are the annotated playlists for They Call Me Mr. Lonely and Love Me…or Leave Me.
1. Labi Siffre: Saved
For quite a while now, I’ve been meaning to write a mega-post about this UK artist, an artist who – and I say this with no hyperbole – I have been waiting my whole life to hear. This is from what I consider to be his best album, Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying and when I first heard it, all I knew is that it had to open some future mix. I guess the future is now.
2. The Starlights: Going Out of My Head
A little Tex-Mex soul sabor here from the Starlight’s, signed to the Tear Drop imprint (home to Sunny and the Sunliners and Little Joe and the Latinaires, among others). From their Triste-Payaso LP which I think may have been their only full-length release.
3. Maurice Davis: Mr. Lonely
I think Thes One may have turned me onto this 7″; it’s on BeePee, rumored to be a Church of Scientology funded label and also home to a few releases by Amanda Ambrose. No Thetans here though, just a lovely little ballad that gives this mix its name.
4. Frank Turner: All For the Kids
My friend Hua turned me onto this 7″ on Louisana’s Maison De Soul label. It’s apparently a cover of a Bobby Scott and Jimmy Radcliffe song and what struck me on first listen was how close that opening guitar line is to William Bell’s “I Forgot To Be Your Lover”. So haunting and the melancholy of it goes well with this downbeat track.
5. The Impressions: The Girl I Find
I had no shortage of songs by the Impressions I wanted to put on here and thematically, “The Girl I Find,” probably wasn’t as good a fit as “I’m Loving Nothing” but having finally copped the Young Mod’s Forgotten Story, this song had been in heavy, private rotation and got the nod for that reason.
6. Joe Acosta: I Need Her
Arguably the best song on Joe Acosta’s Power of Love LP, this may also be the best ballad ever recorded for Joe Bataan’s short-lived Ghetto imprint. I didn’t even realize this was on 7″ until I was at Big City Records in NYC and they had a few copies.
7. Steve Parks: Still Thinking of You
Bay Area soul at its finest; this is my vote for the best ballad recorded for the heralded Reynolds imprint. This is the same Steve Parks who would go onto record the modern soul classic, Movin’ In the Right Direction.
8. Bits N Pieces: Sparkling In the Sand
A beautiful cover of this Tower of Power classic done by Manila’s Bits ‘N’ Pieces band from their mega-rare Only the Beginning LP. I bought this off of the Groove Merchant’s Cool Chris right before leaving the Bay Area for LA and it remains one of my most treasured albums.
9. Los Sunglows: I Want To Make It With You
Coming from another Tex-Mex band, like the Starlight’s, this comes from their Des Dimas Garza LP in Siesta. I was initially skeptical of a cover of Bread’s ’70s soft rock classic but the soaring arrangement with its heavy horns really won the day here.
10. Reuben Bell and the Casanovas: It’s Not That Easy
Thanks to Chairman Mao who both put me up on this 7″ (and sold me a copy!), an early (if not the first) 7″ by this underrated Louisiana talent. This is what “deep soul” is all about.
11. Soul Majestics: I Done Told You Baby
Joshua Alston of Newsweek hepped me to this when he played it during a paper at the EMP Conference. It’s by the Soul Majestics, a Chicago group with only two or so 7″s to their name. Those opening guitars and strings cold rocked my world; the moment I heard it during his talk, I scribbled down the title quickly.
12. Johnny and the Expressions: Now That You’re Mine
I often forget that it wasn’t just The Meters who put music out on Josie. This 7″ is by Johnny
WyattMatthews, who, along with his band, the Expressions, put out a few singles on Josie but none (so far) that I’ve discovered to be as majestic as this one.
13. Stevie Wonder: Hey Love
Classic “oldie but goodie,” this is one of those Stevie Wonder songs that don’t come to your mind immediately when you think of his stone-cold classics but I challenge anyone to suggest that this song is anything less than perfect.
14. Mayer Hawthorne: I Wish That It Would Rain
This song, from Mayer Hawthorne’s new A Strange Arrangement album is possibly my favorite slow jam for 2009 (at least in terms of new songs). You’d think the Temptations would have the patent on any heartbreak ballads using this title but I think Mayer makes a very good argument for some name-sharing.
15. Michael Jackson: We’ve Got a Good Thing
16. Michael Jackson: We’re Almost There (DJ Spinna Remix)
Couldn’t make this mix without showing MJ some love. I went with one of my favorite re-discovery songs of the summer – “We’ve Got a Good Thing” from Ben and paired it with DJ Spinna’s excellent remix of another of MJ’s great, undersung tunes – “We’re Almost There”, from his last Motown solo effort, Forever Michael. RIP.
1. Asha Puthli: Let Me In Your Life
It’s been a lovely experience this year, meeting and spending time with Asha Puthli, one of the more enigmatic and talented artists of the 1970s. This melancholy cover of the Bill Withers’ song comes from her self-titled debut, showing off a soprano that is reminiscent of the sad sweetness of Minnie Riperton.
2. Laura Nyro feat. Labelle: The Bells
I don’t know how I slept on this album – Gonna Take a Miracle for so long but it’s probably my favorite re-discovery of 2009 when it comes to LPs. This is a cover of a doo-wop song originally by the, uh, Originals but I have to say; I think Nyro and Labelle have the definitive version here.
3. Gloria Scott: Love Me, Love Me, Love Me or Leave Me, Leave Me, Leave Me
Produced by Barry White, this Gloria Scott LP is one of the great, tough finds on Casablanca (big up Justin Torres who sold it to me at some forgotten KUSF swap). Scott kills it from jump: “I just can’t go on this way…”
4. Lorez Alexandria: I’m Wishin’
One of two jazz ballads to make this mix, I got turned onto this by Gilles Peterson’s excellent Digs America 2 comp and went out to track down the original LP on the Pzazz label; alas, it’s a one-tracker but it’s a damn fine one at that – so dramatic.
5. Jennifer Lara: Our Love
This is one of two reggae ballads to make the mix; a selection from Jennifer Lara’s 1974 debut on Studio One. There is something so inherently sad to Lara’s voice here, especially with that touch of patois she brings to it.
6. Aretha Franklin: One Step Ahead
Ironically, this is probably Franklin’s best-known song from her forgotten Columbia years but outside of Greatest Hits comps, it’s also the hardest to come by, having been a B-side only cut that never made a formal album. Great stuff from the “queen in waiting.”
7. Dee Dee Warwick: It’s Not Fair
Funny – I had owned the Foolish LP this song comes off of for years but totally missed hearing this track. It wasn’t until Matthew Africa posted the single up after Warwick’s death that I finally was aware of its absolute greatness. Such a powerful voice given full berth here.
8. Quinn Harris feat. Lady Bianca: Stop Telling Me Lies
Along with the Steve Parks on the Mr. Lonely mix, this is my other favorite single on the Bay Area label, Reynolds – Quinn Harris and the Masterminds feat. Lady Bianca on the vocals. It’s a striking, unique arrangement here, going off in several different directions and tempos.
9. Dusty Springfield: Piece of My Heart
Dusty in Memphis wasn’t the only album where Dusty is covering soul songs; this slammin’ cover of Erma Franklin’s original comes on the album before Memphis: Definitely…Dusty.
10. The Soul Children: The Sweeter He Is
From Stax comes the Soul Children and a memorable track off the group’s debut album. Unlike the group’s earlier singles, which featured vocals from the male members of the group, this track is given over to Anita Louis and Shelbra Bennet.
11. Ciel Miner: Stardust
Cool Chris played this one for me at the store and I copped it soon thereafter. Like the Lorez Alexandria, it’s another one tracker off a jazz album but the production here is really incredible, especially with the echo on the back-up singers. The essence of “dreamy.”
12. Nick and Valerie: I’ll Find You
Nick and Valerie were the less-than-cathchy early name for the group that would eventually be known as Ashford and Simpson. Hua turned me onto this 7″, possibly their very first, and it’s a lovely Northern track that doesn’t really have too many lyrics to memorize but the hook will stick in your mind forever.
13. Sharon Forrester: Don’t Let Me Be Lonely
Compared to Jennifer Lara, Sharon Forrester was lesser known – much of her work came in back-up rather than as a lead. This comes from her only full-length, purportedly recorded in the UK because of a musicians strike in Jamaica. I wouldn’t have thought a James Taylor cover would go over this well but I was totally captivated by Forrester’s take on it.
14. Candi Staton: You Don’t Love Me
There was no question a Candi Staton song would make this mix; it was just an issue of which one. I eventually went with this smoky slow jam, which showcases both Staton’s incredible vocal chops and the strong rhythm section at Fame Studios backing her. From her self-titled album on Fame.
15. Lezli Valentine: I Found Love On a 2-Way Street
The Moments hit bigger with this song but it was originally Lezli Valentine’s first single (and hit). Love that dramatic opening which then slides into the unexpected sweetness of Valentine’s vocals.
16. Honey and the Bees: You Better Go Now
Honey and the Bees were incredibly prolific despite not being household names. I combed through both their Arctic and Josie output to find a single to include and settled to this great ballad from their earlier, Arctic years. Philly soul at its finest.
17. Lynn Williams: Don’t Be Surprised
This Miami single may well be the most overstated heartbreak tunes I’ve ever heard thanks to the last set of verses with Williams: “don’t be surprised/if you see me/laying on a railroad track/don’t be surprised/if I let a train/run up and down my back.” Damn honey, slow down!
18. Lorraine Ellison: Stay With Me
The formal closer is Lorraine Ellison’s devastating ballad from her Heart and Soul album. I feel like this should be playing during the end of the world; it feels that intense.
Bonus: The Emotions: As Long As I’ve Got You
For a bonus cut, I included this previously unreleased demo version of the Emotions’ covering one of the best (and most rare) songs from the early Stax/Volt catalog, originally written by Isaac Hayes and recorded by the Charmels. Dare I say, I think I may prefer this version to its original; it’s executed so flawlessly.
To order, return here.