A friend who recently read the book commented (in a good way!) on the amount of soul music that cropped up - a particular shout for Jeb Loy Nichols’ brilliant list, Country goes Large: Ten songs that crossed the Border - and asked for some more good recommendations. The following list is pretty varied, from the classic Southern Soul of Muscle Shoals and FAME to some of the great Stax and Atlantic tunes, but all of it perfect Sunday music...
10. ‘Ordinary Joe’ – Terry Callier
One of my favourite songs of all time - great rhythm and an amazing vocal - impossible not to sing along to.
9. ‘Make Me Yours’ – Bettye Swann
Brass, backing vocals and Bettye Swann’s voice.
8. ‘If You’re Ready (come go with me)’ – The Staples Singers
Pure genius, and a bass line to die for.
7. ‘What Condition my Condition Is In’ – Bettye LaVette
The better known (and slightly differently titled) version of this is the weirdly psychedelic country version by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition (memorably featured in The Big Lebowski bowling/dream sequence) but this very different take from Betty LaVette is equally great. Far funkier, as you’d expect, it also has at the end (too briefly if you ask me) some of the best backing vocals I’ve ever heard. You can find this on the excellent Dirty Laundry compilation - well worth a buy.
6. ‘The Weight’ – Aretha Franklin
As with the above, one of the great things about soul music is the way people re-interpret songs and, from Aretha’s This Girl’s in Love With You album, this is a superb arrangement of The Band’s classic tune, led by Duane Allman’s peerless slide guitar.
5. ‘Fast Train’ – Solomon Burke
Written by Van Morrison, this is perhaps the standout track on Don’t Give up on Me, Solomon Burke’s comeback record, which came out on the Fat Possum label in 2002. Hammond organ, great acoustic guitar, drums high in the mix and the King’s voice up front (with great female backing) this is a real hairs on the back of the neck song.
4. ‘Come Home Baby’ – Rod Stewart and PP Arnold
Rod at his soulful best in a great duet with the under rated PP Arnold.
3. ‘To Love Somebody’ - Nina Simone
Again this is just class, the power of her voice matched by the complex arrangement and playing of the band. This song just gets better and more intriguing the more you listen to it.
2. ‘Too Hurt to Cry’ - Candi Staton
Another broken hearted classic from Candi Staton’s early FAME recordings, I highly recommend the 2003 Capitol compilation of these.
1. ‘Use Me’ – Bill Withers
This is ballsy Bill as opposed to ballad Bill, and all the better for it in my book. The version on Still Bill is great, but even better is the barnstorming, near 9 minute, version that opens his1972 Live at Carnegie Hall album, ‘One more time? One more time!’