Soul Sides Vol. 4 (The Proper Version) by Soul-Sides.Com/O. Wang on Mixcloud

When I sat down to brainstorm Soul Sides Vol. 3, I actually came up with tentative tracklistings for three future volumes. I didn’t want to drop all three at once since I knew, with the benefit of time and perspective, I would likely make tweaks here and there. So I sat on Vol. 4 and it’s only been over the last month or so that I’ve revisited it and, indeed, ending up making all kinds of changes to my original playlist.

As a reminder, the goal with these new volumes was to try to replicate the flow/feel of Vol. 1. rather than just slapping together 14 good songs at random. As I’ve done with every volume thus far, I’ve always tried to include at least one “echo” back to Vol. 1, whether via a cover song or something that’s very close, thematically (see the Masqueraders, below).

As with last time, the entire “album” is up on Mixcloud. If you like it, I’d be happy to accept a donation to help support the site’s costs. You’re 100% NOT obligated however.

(There is no vinyl. There may be CDs, but I burn them at home so it comes down to just making time to do that. And I do have a lossless version with individual tracks if you’d like one. Just hit me up).

Meanwhile, here are the liners:

1. Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band: Express Yourself (alt. mix)

I mentioned last week that this would be the lead song on Vol. 4 and partially, it’s because the song itself starts off with that lovely, understated lick. I have a hard time imagining they would ever have released this; it’s so much more of a slow burner than the final release but that’s precisely why I love it so.

2. San Francisco TKOs: Herm

Sure, maybe I only just got this at the beginning of the summer but besides the selfish desire to floss a showpiece, it’s another slow-burner but augmented with a heavy funk growl.

3. The T.S.U. Tornadoes: Got To Get Through To You

Over the last year or so, I’ve been totally infatuated with the ill-defined “crossover” soul sound. Like most genres, it’s hard to corral this into a consistent definition but if you want to know what crossover sounds like, this single is about as platonic an ideal as I can imagine.

4. Shirley Nanette: Give and Take

To quote myself (because I’m lazy), choosing this came down to how: “there’s something raw and affecting about Nanette’s performance. These are not hyper-polished songs and for those who can’t take too much “saxy sax,” this may test you at times, but as befits a private issue record, its coarse-ness is also part of its charm. “Give and Take,” especially, floors me everytime; I love the vocal arrangement on here. It swings in all kinds of unexpected directions and drops in background harmonies at perfect moments.”

5. The DeVons: Someone To Treat Me (The Way You Used To)

The rare James Brown-produced Northern Soul song. I adored this enough to highlight it on Jesse Thorn’s Bullseye earlier this year (3 minute mark).

6. Edwin Starr: Running Back and Forth

My man Hua put me up on this crossover song back in 2008 and it’s in my definitive “Top 5 favorite Motown singles.” It moves with such slick grace; I love playing it out for that exact reason. (The version I included here is the 7″; the only difference is that instead of jumping into the sax, it starts with 4 bars of piano instead.)

7. Marva Whitney: Ball of Fire

Another one I need to credit to Hua, only made more embarrassing by the fact that I’ve owned this for years except I never knew it because I didn’t bother to flip to the b-side. Better late than never.

8. Jimmie Raye: Look At Me Girl

A discovery (for me) from 2011 (via Nydia Ines Davila), this is such a perfect, mid-tempo ballad on so many levels: the opening piano, Raye’s melancholy hook, the contrast with the higher-pitched back-up singing (which might just be Raye over-dubbed for all I know), the heavy snare that anchors the rhythm section.

9. Holly Maxwell: Only When You’re Lonely

It’s only when I finalized the tracklisting that I realized how many of the songs on here are in that aforementioned crossover vein. Clearly, it’s invaded my heart’s soft spot but my weakness (hopefully) is your gain, especially with this Chicago single that was the object of my obsessions from two summers ago.

10. The Isley Brothers: You Walk Your Way

Another “hey, what’s on the b-side of this 7”?’ discovery from a couple years back, this song is hardly rare – it’s from a massive best-seller by the Isley Bros. at the height of their success – but you also never see it included on any “best of” comp by the group. In my book, it should’ve been.

11. The Masqueraders: I’m Just An Average Guy

On the original Soul Sides Vol. 1, the #11 spot was filled by Joe Bataan’s “Ordinary Guy” and as I just got this Masqueraders 7″ in earlier this summer, it seemed like the natural “echo” track to sequence in. I certainly wouldn’t have done it if not also for the fact that it’s another fantastic example of a “cheap but good” single that you shouldn’t need to drop more than $10 or so to cop. I go weak in the knees for the doo-wop background singing at at :20.

12. Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell: If This World Were Mine

I forgot to write about this at the beginning of summer but if there’s one song that I played on repeat (to the point of annoyance of anyone around me), it was this. Props to DJ Phatrick for helping me to it by including it in his great mix, Float. I don’t know how, for a hit Motown single, I managed to never hear it before, but regardless, I am absolutely besotted with where the song goes around 1:30, where the arrangement shifts and Marvin and Tammi ready their “woah hoo hop hooooos.” I know it’s greedy to want them to keep going with it – the song is perfect as is – but would I have liked another 4-8 bars of them doing that? Oh my, my yes.

13. The Festivals: You’ve Got the Makings of a Lover

Somehow, I never wrote about this either despite my deep affections for it. I became acquainted with it thanks to Mayer Hawthorne’s great cover of it and that compelled me to track down the original. Mayer said he was compelled to re-record it because the original was mixed poorly (lacked oomph, basically) and while I hear where he’s coming from, I’ve never found cause to regret spinning this one out. Much like the object of the artists’ eye, I find this “fine, and so sublime.”

14. Lady: Sweet Lady

I’ll always end these volumes with a recent recording and no way would I pass up the opportunity to show love to Lady again. Alas, the group went from a duo to a solo-lead outfit but I still eagerly await their return either later this year or next.

So there you go: Vol. 4. While you all (hopefully) enjoy it, I’ll continue marinating on Vol. 5 and we’ll see what bubbles up by year’s end.