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

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

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

1976 – UK Soul & Dance Number One Albums

When Black Echoes was first published on January 30th 1976, it didn’t have an albums sales chart for reggae and soul. The first reggae album chart was published within a couple of weeks of the newspaper’s launch – but the first soul album chart didn’t appear until some three months later. In all, 13 albums topped the album charts – mainly consisting of male artists and groups. No female topped the chart in ’76 and only one compilation made it to the top. Here is a rundown of all of the Number One soul albums of 1976. An asterisk indicates non-consecutive weeks at the top. I WANT YOU | Marvin Gaye | Tamla Motown 1 wk Prior to this long-player, Marvin had not released a solo studio album since 1973’s Let’s Get It On. In the interim, Marvin Gaye Live! had been issued in 1974 but nothing had been heard of him since. Released in the States on Tamla in March 1976, this album was a very welcome return of the great one for MPG fans like myself. The title-track was released as a single and was an instant smash. The only other 45 taken from the album was After The Dance. The LP is basically a collection of Leon Ware songs, mostly written with Diana Ross’ brother T-Boy Ross. Leon also produced and arranged the album. Although not as successful as his previous couple of studio albums, it was still a phenomenal seller. Consisting of mainly mid-tempo grooves, Marvin Continue reading

1990 – UK Soul & Dance Number One Albums

A total of 27 albums topped the album charts in 1990. It was a year that saw traditional soul artists such as Anita Baker, Freddie Jackson and Johnny Gill rub shoulders with rap acts like LL Cool J, Boogie Down Productions, Master Ace and Public Enemy. UK soul also predominated with Soul II Soul, Loose Ends, Caron Wheeler and Omar all achieving No.1 status on the chart. In chronological order, here is a rundown of the Number One Soul & Dance Albums of 1990. An asterisk indicates non-consecutive weeks at the pinnacle whilst a cross refers to the album being an imported issue. BEYOND A DREAM | By All Means | Island 1 wk This was the second of three albums by this Californian soul trio. Their update of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On was the single taken from the LP. I’d Rather Be Lonely has since become something of a connoisseurs cut. THAT’S HOW I’M LIVING | Tony Scott | Next Plateau+ 2 wks* The title track was a massive hip-house hit in 1989, released by Champion in the UK. Its success was also attributable to the flipside The Chief. His real name was Peter van der Bosch and he was one of the few successful Dutch rap artists. His Love Let Love from later in the year is considered to be a New Jack Swing classic. DONE BY THE FORCES OF NATURE | Jungle Brothers | Warner Bros. 1 wk The group’s previous set Straight Out The Jungle 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