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

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

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

DREAD MOOD – Reggae Singles of 1975

Celebrate Good Times not only microscopically inspects the chart positions of thousands of reggae and soul albums and singles over a period of 24 years, it also retrospectively salutes the great soul and reggae music from bygone eras – from the 50s right through to the mid 70s. For me, 1975 was a very special year for a variety of reasons. 1) My baby sister was born ; 2) I left school (YAY!) ; 3) I went nuts about reggae music. These three things were pivotal events in my life. Reggae music pretty much took over my very being that year – it was like a drug and I was seriously hooked. I read everything I could about it in magazines, newspapers, fanzines. I spent all my spare time in reggae record shops. I bought as much as I could afford. I picked up mainly UK releases but also started to buy pre-release Jamaican imports. I avidly listened to Capital Radio’s TV On Reggae radio show every Saturday night. Tommy Vance even read a request out for me! Even through ’76 and ’77 I was still tracking down tunes I’d heard and wanted in ’75. I created my very first Wants List. Trust me, it was extensive! Of course, I wasn’t to realise at the time how fortunate I was to get switched on to reggae music when it was coming into its golden era. As for the kind of reggae music that appealed to me at the time – Continue reading

POWER OF SOUL – Soul Albums of 1974

After last week’s look at some soul hits from 1962, it’s time to focus on some of the key soul albums from 1974. This extract forms a part of the History section of Celebrate Good Times. Again, 100 have been selected – with a Top 25 chosen for special attention and merit. In the UK during the mid 70s, the demand for soul albums was increasing. Of course, in the US there were many independently released records which never gained a UK issue – and were not even imported at the time. However, the records listed below are selected from the few hundred soul albums that were released by the major record companies of the day. Specialist publications such as Blues And Soul and Black Music kept soul fans reliably informed of what was newly available. Because the singles market was so strong, an album containing a few singles was financially more attractive than forking out money for a clutch of 45s. At this time, the popular labels like Tamla Motown, Atlantic and Stax were still going strong. Of course, as with all such lists, the selections provide a very personal handpicked overview of the year – but they do reflect what I was listening to and buying at the time, in addition to those other albums I picked up later along the way on many, many cratedigging hunts. Without a doubt, the Top 5 are the albums I was mad about at the time and still am now. George Continue reading

PARTY LIGHTS – Soul Singles of 1962

Apart from closely analysing 24 years worth of reggae and soul charts, my book Celebrate Good Times has an extensive historical section which looks back at the 50s, 60s and early 70s. Part of the historical archive includes listings of some of the best reggae and soul albums and singles of bygone eras that have been released in the United Kingdom. The book also includes information such as the original American and Jamaican labels these records appeared on, in addition to their original UK catalogue numbers. Because of limited space, that info. is not included here. The first History extract features what I consider to be the very best 100 soul records of 1962. Of course, they were branded ‘rhythm & blues’ back then but for the sake of continuity, I’m sticking with the ‘soul’ moniker. Incidentally, all inclusions in the History sections are indicative of the original year of release in their country of origin. That is to say, the records listed below may not have been officially released in the UK during 1962 but were certainly released in the US during that year. The Top 25 speaks for itself – these are the best of the best! – the remaining 75 are listed in no particular order. The picks focus on a great cross-section of rhythm and blues hits (and some brilliant flops!) from 1962. In America, dance-craze numbers continued to excite the young and some of the old. The Twist had been around a couple of years Continue reading