FOOT STOMPING – Soul Singles of 1961

We continue excerpts from the History section of the Celebrate Good Times book with a retrospective of the Top 100 Soul Singles of 1961. Our previous dips into the Sixties soulful goodie-bag has revealed the Top 100 Soul Singles of 1962 and 1963 respectively. This latest journey into the archives presents a selection designed to celebrate the greatest rhythm  & blues records of the year previous. Again, they feature records only released in the UK on 45. Black harmony groups had been around for a long time, initially singing gospel. Recording groups like The Mills Brothers and The Ink Spots took a more secular approach, singing ballads, pop and jump tunes. They made an incredible impact on the global music scene during the Thirties and Forties and were hugely successful and influential. Their style spawned many imitators which in the late Forties gave birth to what we now know as ‘doowop’ – a vibrant and exciting vocal form which saw harmonized back-ups help to create a thrilling rhythmic backdrop and counterpoint to lead vocals. These type of groups became especially prominent in the Fifties which is considered to be the golden era of the genre. A pivotal record in 1959 by The Drifters – There Goes My Baby – saw the addition of lavish string arrangements, which announced the arrival of a new ‘soul’ sound. This drifting soul sound is earmarked in the selection by four of their classics – Room Full Of Tears; a Brill Building masterpiece written by Continue reading

FOR THE GOOD TIMES – Reggae Albums of 1974

Whereas the Soul History section of the book recommends 100 albums from each year of the early Seventies, the Reggae History element is limited to just 50 long-playing vinyl records. The reasons for this are twofold: in some years there weren’t as many as 100 even released in the UK but moreso, the quality of a number of reggae albums was questionable. Even as it stands, some of the albums listed may only be one or two-track LPs. Reggae has always been a market dominated by the ‘single’ format – whether on 7-inch, or from 1977 on 12-inch. Reggae’s initial forays into the LP format during the Sixties had tended to be a proliferation of compilation albums and hit collections. This trend began to change in the early Seventies as reggae companies began to experiment with more carefully conceived albums by reggae bands, groups and singers. It also introduced the ‘dub’ album to the world which significantly increased the popularity of the format in reggae circles and beyond. We have already inspected the Top 100 Soul Albums of 1974 – this week we focus on the Top 50 Reggae Albums of 1974. These albums sold almost exclusively in specialist black music shops as many were released on local independent reggae labels. Trojan Records was the major company for reggae at the time (of the 50, over half are on Trojan or associated labels Horse and Attack). These tended to have better national distrubution so made these records more accessible. Though Continue reading

1987 – UK Reggae Number Ones

The advent of dancehall, digital and ragga really shook things up on the reggae scene during the Eighties. However, this didn’t halt the proliferation of home-grown talent which specialized in producing lovers rock for the masses. The year was bookended by two of what have since become masterpieces of the genre. In between, the chart was dominated by dancehall tracks, a couple of soul covers, straight-ahead Jamaican reggae and a leftfield Big People’s anthem. Only eleven records hit the top spot during 1987. As usual, an asterisk denotes non-consecutive weeks at No.1. LATELY | The Natural-Ites | Realistics 6 wks The Natural-Ites hailed from Nottingham and had first made an impression with Close To Me. Their rootsy Picture On The Wall was a massive hit in 1983. Black Roses was another popular tune in 1984. Lately was in the lovers-rock style and features a wicked rub-a-dub ridim with blazing horns and heartfelt vocals with great harmonies. For me – and no doubt many others – their greatest song. AGONY | Pinchers | Live & Love 7 wks Appearing early in 1987 from Jamaica on Jammy’s, this digital dancehall classic was swiftly released in the UK on Third World’s Live & Love subsidiary on 12-inch and shot to the top of the charts. Pinchers (Delroy Thompson) is one of the greatest and unique dancehall singers and this was his biggest smash of the 80s. As one of the biggest and brightest stars of 1987 he produced a voluminous amount of tunes Continue reading

BOOGIE AT MIDNIGHT – R&B Singles 1950-1952

The last time we opened up the History section of Celebrate Good Times, we looked at the Top 100 Soul Singles of 1963. This week’s blog ventures even further back into time and focuses upon the earliest era the book covers – the early Fifties. It is the pioneering black music champion Jerry Wexler who is credited with instigating the term ‘rhythm and blues’ when he was writing for Billboard magazine in the late Forties. Until then, black music had been known variously as race music, sepia music, Harlem music and other terms. Even though these terms originated in the black community, by the end of the Forties they were deemed to cause offence. So Wexler coined the term to rename the ‘race charts’ which for many years had identified the strongest selling black music records. In 1950, ‘rhythm and blues’ was still a relatively new term (also called R&B) but it stuck around for a couple of decades before finally being dubbed ‘soul music’ at the tail end of the Sixties. Basically used as a marketing concept by the record industry to encompass the many different kinds of black music which were popular at the time, it meant that ‘rhythm and blues’ featured different styles and strands of Afro-American music being recorded during this pivotal and important era. For a music nut like myself, investigating this particular era of the book has been particularly rewarding and satisfying. Having been particularly interested in vocal group music since my late teens, Continue reading

1977 – UK Soul Number Ones

The first issue of Black Echoes in 1977 was dated January 1st. In the Soul Singles chart, KC & The Sunshine Band were knocked off their Christmas top-spot by a group who had already had a few hits on the chart, including a No.1. The year saw a good mixture of bands, soloists, vocal groups and instrumentalists all make their way to the top of the chart. The chart-toppers were dominated by American acts – but a British band and a trio of French disco experimentalists broke through. Unusually, all the weeks at No.1 by all of the acts were consecutive. There were 22 records in all. Spin ’em: CAR WASH | Rose Royce | MCA 7 wks As a precursor to my personal insight on this particular single, please see the 2nd blog – 1976 Soul Number Ones. It gives you the initial lowdown on this essential disco cut. Suffice to say, this was the first No.1 soul single of ’77 and what a scorcher! Topping the charts for an impressive 7 weeks, it was the title-track to a comedy film starring Richard Pryor. Producer Norman Whitfield created the soundtrack which strongly featured the group. With its distinctive opening handclaps, the song (sung with soulful energy by lead vocalist Gwen Dickey) captured the imagination of everyone – topping the US pop charts along the way and reaching the Top 10 in the UK. This was the group’s second UK Soul Singles No.1 hit. DON’T LEAVE ME THIS WAY | Continue reading

1995 – UK Reggae Number Ones

As recorded in the very first blog, back in 1976 there were 19 records that topped the chart during the initial year of the UK Reggae 20. For the first few years of the reggae charts, most of the singles averaged one or two weeks at the top, with only a select few having a longer run. This meant that there were sometimes as many as 24 records hitting the top-spot (1979). By the mid-80s, the trend had reversed and fewer records were reaching No.1 but for much longer periods. In 1995 only ten records reached the top! The tunes are a mixture of lovers rock, bashment, ragga and roots. These are the hits – mostly, massive hits! As always, an asterisk signifies non-consecutive weeks at the top spot. PERFECT LADY | Peter Hunningale | Fashion 2 wks Peter Hunningale first topped the reggae charts in 1989 on his combination tune with Tippa Irie called Ragamuffin Girl. Dubbed Mr. Honey Vibes, his sweet singing style has firmly established him as one of the kingpin UK lovers rock vocalists. Perfect Lady is a slice of lovers rock perfection. I love the intro – the bleeps from Diana Ross & The Supremes’ Reflections is overlapped by Prince Jazzbo intoning “Sound to keep you movin’” before the ridim drops (Pretty Looks) and the song begins. This tune remains a true party classic. Most definitely one for the ravers. BABY PLEASE | Peter Hunningale | Saxon 1 wk From one ravers classic to another, Continue reading

1994 – UK Soul & Dance Number One Albums

The soul albums chart kicked off 1994 with Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle clinging to the No.1 slot for a further two weeks into January – making a total of six weeks at the peak for the canine rapper. The following is a reminder of what came afterwards – with the exclusion of any album re-entering the No.1 slot from the previous year. The albums were mainly R&B and hip-hop but also included the odd house/dance album, a jungle compilation and a couple of UK offerings. As always, non-consecutive weeks are listed with an asterisk. These are the number one soul albums of 1994. Roll ‘em. DIARY OF A MAD BAND | Jodeci | MCA 4 wks Jodeci first came to prominence in 1991 with their debut album Forever My Lady. Comprising two pairs of brothers (known as K-Ci and JoJo/DeVante Swing and Mr. Dalvin) they made a huge impact on the soul scene in the US and UK with New Jack Swing tracks like Gotta Love, My Phone and their take on The Association’s 1966 smash Cherish. But their forté proved to be superslow slow-jams like Stay, the title-track and I’m Still Waiting. This LP continued the format – the first side containing ballads, the other more uptempo swingtings. Five singles were released from the album – slow-jam burners like What About Us, Cry For You, My Heart Belongs To U and the exquisite Feenin’.  Their track included in the movie Who’s The Man was big in the UK NJS clubs Continue reading

SHAKE A TAIL FEATHER – Soul Singles of 1963

The History section of Celebrate Good Times is a real celebration of the very best soul and reggae albums and singles released between 1950 and 1975 and offers some historical perspective on what came after. In previous blogs we have looked at the Top 100 soul singles of 1962, the Top 100 soul albums of 1974 and the Top 100 reggae singles of 1975. This week’s blog presents itself as another flashback – this time to the jukebox delights of 1963. After extensive research eliminating the not-so-good tunes, the also-rans and the duff tracks, the following list contains what I consider to be the very best r&b tunes of that year. Comprising a broad mixture of vocal groups, instrumental acts, male and female soloists, duos and jazz artists, the selection is a carefully considered pick of the cream of the crop. As before, the records listed all received a UK release. There were well over a couple of hundred 45s released in the UK that year – primarily on the Stateside and London labels which licensed the majority of American pop and soul records in the UK at the time. This has made these labels highly collectable today. Selling at approximately 6/-8d (six shillings and eightpence in old sterling, the equivalent of 33 ½  pence today) you could get three singles for a £1 note (20 shillings). Therefore, you could reasonably expect to have bought the entire Top 100 for just over £33. For a bit of interest, I researched Continue reading

1976 – UK Reggae Number One Albums

The first UK Reggae LPs chart appeared in Black Echoes on February 14th 1976. During the year, 114 albums made the charts – which, from the very beginning, included reggae albums imported from Jamaica or the United States. Of those 114 albums, 10 were by DJ artists, 20 were by bands and vocal groups, 27 were by male vocalists – with only 1 by a female vocalist. The rest were dub albums and compilations. More albums reached No.1 by DJ artists than any other – but the biggest album of the year – by a long chalk – was by a group. Big albums of the year that didn’t reach the No.1 slot include Legalize It by Peter Tosh (No.2), Life Of Contradiction by Joe Higgs (No.4), On The Rock by The Cimarons (No.2), Kick Boy Face by Prince Jazzbo (No.4), Chalis Blaze by Jah Woosh (also No.4) Man In The Hills by Burning Spear (No. 3), Columbia Colly by Jah Lion (also No.3), Trenchtown Mix-Up by The Gladiators (No.4), Satta Massagana by The Abbysinians (No.2). Night Food by The Heptones (also No.2) and 2000 Volts Of Holt by John Holt (No.3). Big-selling dub albums included Gun Court Dub, Rass Claat Dub, African Dub Chapter 2, King Tubby Surrounded By The Dreads At The National Arena and Rasta Dub ’76. Apart from the special No.1 sampler listed below, the other big compilation of the year was Strictly Rockers In A Dread Land. Just 13 albums managed to reach the highly Continue reading

1987 – UK Soul & Dance Number One Albums

This is the first look back to an era which saw the influence and development of electronic music within soul and dance. Out went the large orchestrations, the jazzier arrangements and the percussive frills – in came the drum machines, the computerized keyboards and the birth of hip-hop. Yes – it’s the Eighties. The following is a blow-by-blow account of all the Number One soul albums of 1987. Gone were all the vocal groups and bands – in were the soloists, mainly men. As usual, an asterisk indicates non-consecutive weeks at the top, a cross signifies an imported album not at the time released in the UK. It doesn’t include albums re-entering the No.1 position from 1986. UPFRONT 4 | Various artists | Serious 1 wk The ‘Upfront’ series had been launched in 1986 on Serious and showcased in-demand imports, current dance releases and popular mixes. This fourth edition combined the usual mix of house, hip-hop, club classics and UK vibes. Outstanding tracks included a remix of Loose Ends’ Nights Of Pleasure, Ray, Goodman & Brown’s Take It To The Limit,  the huge House Nation by The Housemaster Boyz and an early DJ Eddie F production – Mr. Big Stuff by Heavy D & The Boyz.  The inclusion of Projection’s UK classic Lovestruck  and the Darlene Davis biggie I Found Lovin’ only added to the appeal – a decent compilation for anyone who didn’t have the singles. ROCK THE HOUSE | DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince | Champion Continue reading