Category Archives: Soul

“Coming Back”

jay stay paid
J Dilla
Jay Stay Paid, 2009

Got a quick one today, but it’s one of my favorite Dilla beats ever. There’s not much left to say about the Detroit hip-hop legend that hasn’t been said better elsewhere, so I’ll skip the myth-building and get right to the music. Just like with Dylan, the best way to acquaint yourself with the work of an acclaimed artist like Dilla is to simply find a song you like and go from there. Sequenced by Pete Rock, posthumous collection Jay Stay Paid is an ideal way to do this, as it features beats from every era of his work. If you’ve any interest in hip-hop, at least a few should stick with you. “Coming Back” is a standout, a straightforward loop of an obscure soul track (Brother to Brother’s “The Affair”) that seems so mind-blowingly simple once you’ve heard the original sample, you realize only a producer of Jay’s caliber could’ve put it together. Listen on repeat!

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/26%20Coming%20Back.m4a]

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“Honey Joy”

royal2
Royal Headache
Royal Headache, 2012

Australia’s Royal Headache make scuzzy rock that’s most notable for its determination to break away from the genre. While there are no shortage of garage bands in this world willing to flaunt their love of Motown, very few sport a lead vocalist who sounds like he could’ve been a soul-music star in a parallel universe. Shogun (he goes by first name only) is that outlier, and the band’s biggest virtue: whatever soul is — and I’m not sure I’m qualified to speculate on the particulars, or that I’d even want to — it’s clear he has it in spades. Sometimes the music catches up to him and follows suit; sometimes it stands still in predictable punk fashion. Both ways, it works.

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/11%20Honey%20Joy.m4a]

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“Stoned Love”

the supremes
The Supremes
Single, 1970

It was never supposed to be “Stoned Love.” Songwriter Kenny Thomas first coined the phrase “stone love” to describe an unshakeable bond; a typo during the production phase added the weird “-d,” obscuring the song’s meaning at first pass. Rather than the drug culture celebration many feared it to be at the time, the song was intended as an open-hearted plea for forgiveness and reconciliation, specifically timed to the Vietnam War. It would still live on as one of only two top-10 Supremes singles recorded without Diana Ross (Jean Terrell had taken over lead vocals by this time). Today, more than anything else, what stands out for me is the undeniable Funk Brothers groove that kicks in after the intro, a joyous musical affirmation of the song’s inspiring message.

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/09%20Stoned%20Love.m4a]

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“Crime Scene Part One”

black love
The Afghan Whigs
Black Love, 1996

If your favorite singers are the ones who can actually sing, you may as well just check out now and come back another day. With his knack for overshooting the key and staying there, Greg Dulli will not be found to your satisfaction. If, however, you’ve come to the realization that genuine soul favors feeling over execution, sit your ass back down – The Afghan Whigs are your new favorite band. This late-era album opener doubles as a perfect introduction for the uninitiated, capturing the sweat and grit of the Whigs’ funk-soul worship without disavowing the driving rock band they always really were. And when Dulli launches into his trademark yowl at the halfway mark, the enlightened listener will know his liberation.

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/01%20Crime%20Scene%20Part%20One.mp3 ]

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“I Must Be in a Good Place Now”

bobby charles
Bobby Charles
Bobby Charles, 1972

“I saw a butterfly and I named it after you/Your name has such a pleasant sound.” That’s the sweetest line from a very, very sweet song by Bobby Charles (birth name Robert Charles Guidry), the Cajun swamp-pop pioneer mostly known for writing songs other singers made famous. “See You Later, Alligator,” “Walking to New Orleans,” and “(I Don’t Know Why) But I Do” are all his. In the early seventies, Charles spent some time with The Band (yes, that one) and ended up with a low-key record packed with charmers like this one. Dripping with quiet soul, “I Must Be in a Good Place Now” conjures up memories of Southern days gone by that feel clear and true even if they were never yours to begin with. Best heard on vinyl, on a humid day.

[audio https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/14312140/03%20I%20Must%20Be%20In%20a%20Good%20Place%20Now.m4a]

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