Shades of Soul, EP 1.7 – 1.8: The Best of 2013 by Oliver Wang on Mixcloud

My last Shades of Soul show covered my favorite recordings of 2013 and the second hour, beginning right around the 1:00 mark, focuses on the older songs I discovered this year. I won’t go into every song on there but I did want to highlight my absolute favorites.


Brenton Wood: Oogum Boogum Song
From 7″ (Double Shot, 1967). Also on Oogum Boogum

Besides “Gimme a Little Sign,” I totally slept on Brenton Wood for reasons I can’t even begin to explain, let alone defend. Let me just cop to needing a late pass. I still think the title for this song is kind of terrible but the tune itself is delightful and then some. I’m a sucker for the opening piano riff (reminds me a little of “Sauvitt“) and the “you got too much soul!” sentiment. (Thanks to Robin Li, where this was the “first song” at her wedding)

Choice of Colour: Your Love
From 7″ (APT, 1972)

Choice of Colour formed in the early 1970s, lead by Ron Henderson Sr. who would later record with them as “Ron Henderson and Choice of Colour” but this, as far as I can tell, was their first release. While the song is incredibly brief (barely 2 minutes), it delivers exactly what it needs to without making you feel like you’ve been cheated.1 I’ve had this 7″ in my crosshairs for a while but this was the year it upgraded from “I want this” to “I really really want this” and voila! right at the end of the year, I managed to snag a perfectly good VG play copy at a (relatively) bargain price. Psyched.

The Commands: Hey It’s Love
From 7″ (Back Beat, 1966). Also on Eccentric Soul: The Dynamic Label

Originally released on the Dynamic label, I came across this thanks to DJing Alex LaRotta’s wedding, when he put it on his request list. Amazing single, especially the opening, with those drums and then the harmonized vocals; it’s a perfect balance between “soft” and “hard.”

The De Vons: Someone To Treat Me
From 7″ (King, 1969. Also on Looking Good

I love this single so hard: a rare, James Brown-produced Northern single by an obscure-ish girl group with only a pair of releases to its name. Such a lovely energy here, especially on the chorus. I wouldn’t try to pick my absolute favorite discovery of the year…but this would be in contention for certain. (Picked it up at the Groove Merchant, btw).

Marva Whitney: Ball of Fire
From 7″ (King, 1969)

Speaking of female-artists-produced-by-James-Brown-in-1969, this single is a powerful reminder that you should always play the B-side. (Thanks to Hua Hsu).

Los Fabulous Festivals: Can I Change My Mind?
From 7″ (Onda Nueva, 190)

I’ve already sung this single’s praises but I’m always blown away by the sheer thickness of those horns that kick off this Panamanian cover.

Charlie Spurling: Popcorn Charlie
From 7″ (King, 1969)

Um, I’m now detecting a trend here for 1969-JB-Productions. Wasn’t deliberate but clearly I was way into this particular sound in 2013. Like the De Vons, Spurling stayed in the shadows and there were certainly far bigger “Popcorn”-themed hits but if this single didn’t blow up, it’s not for lack of funky flair.

The Manhattans: Follow Your Heart
From 7″ (Carnival, 1965). Also on Dedicated To You

In terms of sheer bang-for-buck, few things are better than this. You can get a mint stock copy for $10 and it’s a sublime example of soul-era doo-wop. The production, with those shimmering vibes, gets…me… every…time.

Smoke Sugar Company: Save a Little Love For A Rainy Day
From 7″ (Teri De, 197?)

Funny thing: I thought I learned about this because I recalled Ruben Molina dropping it during the Melting Pot show he and I were both on…but it’s not on the playlist from the show. So…I don’t recall where I heard this. All I know is that phenomenal songwriting and production + a local single out of Inglewood = gimme gimme.

And that’ll do it for 2013. Thanks to my readers, as always. Here’s to another year (our 10th! Holy crap!)

  1. See also: Bobby Reed’s “Time Is Right For Love.


I’m not remotely trying to put up an “end of year” best-of that’d be on the level of what my betters have done. I’ve certainly listened to more artists than what’s below…I just didn’t happen to feel strongly enough about them have a longer list. There are albums I liked – the James Hunter Six for example – but I’d still be hesitant to call “one of the year’s best.” What follows would make that list, no hesitation.

Laura Mvula: Sing to the Moon

Love, love, love this album. Easily my favorite LP of the year and such a brilliant, enrapturing effort.

Lady: S/T.

Not just a delightfully fun listen but you gotta love how it brings together two talents enjoying their second act.

Earl Sweatshirt: Doris

My favorite hip-hop release of the year (Yeezus, lose the wheel). I never connected with Tyler, the Creator (not his fault) but for whatever reason, Earl and his album totally got me.

The Internet: Feel Good

Speaking of Odd Future, loved the laid-back grooviness of The Internet’s sophomore album. Vicodin helps but I would have liked it even without the opiate enhancement.

Valerie Stone: Pushin’ Against a Stone

Laura Mvula and her back-up singers created the sound of the year but Valerie might have “voice of the year” on lock.


Again, this list is purely personal and it’s not based off of singles but simply the songs that I will be bumping well into 2014 and beyond.

Just a name and a number with the means to reach ya.

I don’t like Drake, generally, but this song has burrowed like an ear worm in the worst way.

Let us live, that fantasy.

I’m not sure I get the whole acid rap thing but anything that flips “Clean-Up Woman” in 2013 gets a heavy (head) nod.

Technically, more than a year old but I didn’t come across to it until 2013. Same deal with this track from Revolutionary Rhythm.

Hands down, probably the one song I listened more than anything. A little Lauryn loop goes a long way.