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

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

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

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