Besides being able to share music, the other great joy of working on Soul-Sides.com is the process of discovery for myself. I have this big crate of “songs I mean to post about” but inevitably, these get pushed out of the way based on “stuff I just discovered” and it’s almost always the case that my year-end review of my favorite songs are comprised by songs that I found-along-the-way; 2009 was no different.

Irma Thomas: Hurt’s All Gone
From 7″ (Imperial, 1966). Also on The Jerry Ragovoy Story — Time Is On My Side

The path to how I heard this song actually begins with a different song written/produced by Jerry Ragavoy – “Stay With Me, Baby” by Lorraine Ellison which I first heard after watching The Boat That Rocked/Pirate Radio. I think Matthew Africa then recommended the Ragavoy anthology, on which I discovered the Irma Thoamas song and promptly fell in love.

Carlos Niño & Miguel Atwood-Ferguson: Find a Way
From Suite for Ma Dukes (Mochilla, 2009)

The more I’ve sat with this, the more I admire the subtle ways in which Niño and Atwood-Ferguson capture the melancholy beauty of Jay Dee’s production. As I originally wrote, I was concerned this could come off as kind of corny but instead, what they compose here isn’t remotely cloying but moving and magical.

Otis Redding: Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag
From In Person at the Whiskey A Go-Go (ATCO, 1968)

The Emotions: As Long As I’ve Got You
From Songs of Innocence and Experience (Stax, unreleased from 1972)

Gotta show love to Funky Sole’s Clifton; I think he’s the one who played the Redding single at an early spring party and instantly turned it into a staple for me. Otis and his band just murder this cover in the best ways possible.

And I have both Hua and Mao to thank for turning me onto the Emotions song. It’s hard to outdo the Charmels’ original and I think the Emotions do an incredible job here of understanding what worked about their version and then found ways to put their own signature on it. The fact that this was never released in the 1970s is astounding.

Laura Nyro w/ Labelle: The Bells
From Gonna Take a Miracle (Warner Bros, 1971)

At least at this moment, if I had to pick my favorite song I heard in 2009, it’d be this one. Surprisingly, I never posted about it originally, opting instead for the livelier “Jimmy Mack,” but over the course of the year, “The Bells” keep (you knew this was coming, right?) ringing in my head over and over. Sublime.

Johnny and the Expressions: Now That You’re Mine
From 7″ (Josie, 1966)

Mayer Hawthorne: I Wish It Would Rain
From A Strange Arrangement (Stonesthrow, 2009)

There’s quite a few other similar singles that I considered plugging in here, including the Mandells’ awesome “Now That I Know” (and I still need to write up the Falcons’ “Standing On Guard”) but this song is such a perfect mix of deep and sweet soul, it deserves to be heard again. And again. And again.

And since we’re on the slow jam tip, I have to give a nod to Mayer Hawthorne’s excellent “I Wish It Would Rain” – easily my favorite song by him behind “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out”. I wouldn’t think too many songs would want to risk confusion with the Temptations song (since Mayer’s isn’t a cover) but he puts down a strong claim to that name with this superlative effort.

Ohio Players: Ecstasy
From Ecstasy (Westbound, 1973)

Technically, I heard this song before but I didn’t pay enough attention to it until this year. Once I did, it now makes me wanna go, “uh huh huh.”

Spinnerty feat. EP and Czar Absolute: Feels Like Rain
From 7″ (Trazmick, 2008)

I don’t have much to add to what I said before except to re-emphasize. This is really really really good. Oh wait, I did say that before. You catch my drift though.

Bitty McLean: Walk Away From Love
From On Bond Street (Peckings, 2005)

Johnny Holiday: Nobody Loves Me But My Mama
From 7″ (Bold, 196?)

I was about to sing the praises of these again (and they definitely are two of my favorite of the year) but I’d rather talk about each artist’s other songs from the same releases (see the forthcoming part 2).

The Noisettes: Never Forget You
From Wild Young Hearts (2009)

I admit, I did kind of tire of this after keeping it in heavy rotation but here’s what I know: I’ll go a year without hearing this and then hear it again…and it will still sound incredible.

Michael Jackson: We Got a Good Thing Goin’
From Stripped Mixes (Universal, 2009)

I can’t find much more to say than I already have; Michael Jackson’s untimely death is one of the defining musical moments of the decade, in my opinion, in terms of how much it compelled me to reexamine his catalog and learn to appreciate his work in a whole new light. It seems apropos to offer up this deconstructed version of one song I only really discovered this year – “We Got a Good Thing Goin'” – that appeared on the suspiciously well-timed Stripped Mixes album. I didn’t think all the stripped down versions worked but it was perfect on this one, especially in honing things down to all the best parts of the original’s melancholy mood and charm. It’s not meant to be an elegy but I can’t but help but hear it as one.

The 2010 Rewind songs.