New Music for Old People: My Musical Foundations, Part 9 - Twenty Sweet Soul Singles That Changed My Music

By , Columnist

Lorraine Ellison

This column is like the title says — its intention is to fill the gap for those of us who were satiated musically in the '60s and then searched desperately as we aged for music we could relate to and get the same buzz from nowadaze. iTunes was the answer for me in 2003 and I have been following the new releases every Tuesday ever since I realized there was an endless stream of music I could enjoy there.

I also include older items that I felt were obscure originally and might not have been heard back then. The reason I am writing this column is to make sure others don't miss this wonderful music. These are not top ten items; but they SHOULD'VE been!

Below is a jukebox containing all the songs I picked this week. After you read about them below, go back and listen to whatever you like by just clicking on that title in the jukebox, or stream the whole playlist by clicking on the "play" icon at the top. It's free and it's the entire song. We're not selling anything. We're just in the business of hopefully making your days better by listening to great music.

We apologize to our readers/listeners who are trying to enjoy the playlists via mobile devices like iPhones/iPads and are finding that they can't; these are, unfortunately, circumstances beyond our control. At present, Grooveshark is not compatible with those operating systems, and in order to stream the playlist, you will need to use a PC or Mac.

Aug012014 by Willow on Grooveshark

1. "Sweet Soul Music" — Hidden Faces (2:20)

Hidden Faces was formed as a studio group in 1989 by Frank Fitzpatrick and his songwriting partner, David Kitay. Although Kitay eventually left for a solo career, Fitzpatrick and Hidden Faces established themselves by scoring film soundtracks (Nuns on the Run, Highway to Hell, and more). Hidden Faces disbanded in the late '90s, but Fitzpatrick reunited them in 2008 (along with singers Lewis Shaw and and Michael Young) to create this, which is the title track to the movie Soul Men (2008), starring Samuel L. Jackson and the late Bernie Mac. In his earlier days, Frank was my music editor when I scored the TV series Crime Story. I had no idea this was HIS work when I downloaded it and sadly don't know how to reach him anymore.

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2. "Lookin' For a Home" — Little Buster (2:09)

I heard this on a jukebox in a bar in Jamaica, Queens when I was 18. I was instantly transfixed. I wrote the title down and walked a few blocks to one of the greatest record stores in my young life—TriBoro Records—and bought this single on Jubilee Records and wore it out. I covered it on the album I did with Shuggie Otis. A few years later, Little Buster (Edward Forehand) walked into my dad’s law office on Long Island and asked Dad to represent him because of the Shuggie Otis album. Shortly thereafter, I sat in with Buster at the Bottom Line in New York City and we sang this song together. I will NEVER forget that. And by the way, Buster was blind — but ONLY in his eyes. That's him playing guitar on this track as well. But what a soulful voice!

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3. "Tryin' to Slip Away" — Lloyd Price (2:35)

I know this sounds like a made-up story, but I spent an evening with Jagger, Richards and Woody in the early '70s on their night off in New York City. The first place we went was the Colony Record Store on Broadway, one of my childhood homes. Once inside, we got the counter guy to play our favorite obscure singles for each other and the ones who had never heard them, bought them. So Mick Jagger played this for me, and I loved it and bought it. It doesn’t sound ANYTHING like the string of hits Lloyd sang previously. It was recorded in Atlanta in the early '70s and is the only soul single I have ever heard with a banjo solo in it! Check it out.

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4. "A Song for You" — The Temptations (4:13)

I wish I could’ve seen the look on songwriter Leon Russell’s face when he he heard this version of his song for the first time. This is my favorite version and the arrangement and the singing are probably the two reasons why.

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5. "Hold On" — The Radiants (2:54)

Four years after their top ten single “Voice Your Choice,” this group released its best, but not best-selling, single. Produced by co-boss Leonard Chess on his namesake label, and arranged by upcoming producer Charles Stepney, it is a lovely combo of then-current soul music infused with intense gospel harmonies. It always sounds great and is therefore timeless.

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6. "You Don't Know Nothin' About Love" — Carl Hall (3:50)

Producer/songwriter Jerry Ragovoy was pushing the limits of singles with this four-minute masterpiece. The label (Loma/WB) unfortunately didn’t push the limits of promotion and hardly anybody heard this. I spent a jaw-dropping afternoon attending this session as Jerry’s guest as I was already a giant fan of Carl Hall. Earlier in the '60s, Carl sang lead with local Chicago gospel greats The Raymond Raspberry Singers and I coveted those LPs released on Vee-Jay Records. I always thought it was a woman, as he sings pretty high up for a guy NOT singing in falsetto, but Jerry steered me straight. Jerry wrote this amazing song for him and this is in my top ten on every level. Gary Sherman and Jerry wrote the arrangement. That's Bernard Purdie on drums, Chuck Rainey on bass, Eric Gale on guitar and my hero Paul Griffin on organ, if my memory serves me well.

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7. "I Like It" — DeBarge (3:33)

I was a huge fan of this family group but was partial to the lead singing of Eldra, who sang most of the leads. This is a well-made gem and one has to wait for the final quarter of the recording to hear El DeBarge do his thing. He could’ve been related to Carl Hall as their ranges are very similar — that’s vocal ranges I’m speaking of, not kitchen appliances.

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8. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" — Lakeside (4:22)

People who dismiss this as a comparative Beatles cover need to hear this version. WOW!!! From their album Your Wish Is My Command, released in 1981, it totally floored me on first listen and sent me flying to the store for purchase. When I got the stereo version on the album, well, that was quite a bonus. It just goes to show ya how various people hear the same song. To me this is a big inspiration as an arranger. Great guitar-playing as well. Okay, I’ll shut up now. Go listen...

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9. "Fresh Street" — Zach Deputy (3:06)

Do NOT miss this guy live — this is current music. I DARE Ed Sheeran to follow this guy. They are both pedal pervs, but Zach has surely got the funk. Listen to this and try and comprehend that he is looping this all himself (no other musicians) and he does it live right in front of you and he looks the TOTAL opposite of James Brown right down to being white and wearing Bermuda shorts. But soul has no boundaries. It is the epiphany of the track before this. Here’s a long peek at the talented Zach:

10. "Lost and Lookin' for My Baby" — Sam Cooke (2:10)

This is like unrevealed Sam — just drums and bass and a slow tempo. One can truly focus on his unique singing and what a tremendous loss his premature death was.

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11. "Memphis" — Don Covay (2:32)

You have never heard Chuck Berry’s classic song sound quite like this before. Barry Beckett’s clever reggae arrangement and tasty organ playing keynotes the talent of the Muscle Shoals Swampers that vet R&B singer-songwriter Don Covay sought for an album in the '80s. I never tire of this as it is perfectly done.

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12. "You Don't Miss Your Water" — Taj Mahal (3:49)

Taj covered William Bell’s first single from 1961 and, as far as I'm concerned, out-sang the author. If you forgot what a great singer Taj is, let this be a reminder. I think the reason the Rolling Stones hired me to play keyboards on a session was because Taj’s album, The Natch’l Blues, was a big favorite of theirs at the time and that's me tinklin’ in the background here. But the vocal is certainly the scene-stealer on this recording. And William Bell is a damn good singer...

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13. "Let's Get Serious" — Jermaine Jackson (3:55)

It didn’t hurt Jermaine that Stevie Wonder wrote, produced, and sang back-up vocals on this #1 soul single of the year in 1980. This is right up there with “Superstition” in concept and delivery. I always wish Stevie would do this live sometime. Meanwhile this is a great track. Try and sit still. I love the horns, of course.

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14. "Piece of My Heart" — Erma Franklin (2:35)

So right after Michael Jackson’s brother, here is Aretha Franklin’s sister singing the original version of what became Janis Joplin’s signature tune. It was written by late greats Bert Berns and Jerry Ragovoy and I believe Bert produced this version which has always been my favorite.

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15. "If You Ever Get Your Hands on Love Again" — Gladys Knight & The Pips (2:27)

As far as I’m concerned, this is a Motown single that was never promoted correctly. Great song, great arrangement, great singing, etc. There is nothing wrong with this picture except it never was a hit. Released in 1967, it’s ALWAYS been on my Hit Parade. It should be on yours too if you enjoy Gladys and her Pips.

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16. "Love's Train" — Con Funk Shun (4:10)

I can’t explain it other than the melody in the chorus reminds me of “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top,” Rodgers and Hammerstein’s tune from Oklahoma, the stage play originated in the ‘50s. I also enjoy the lead vocal by Michael Cooper even if he spells his name wrong. This is just one of those group records that inexplicably rings my bell. I heard that lyrically it was a true story about a girl Cooper and another band member were sharing and didn’t know it at the time. I wrote a few of those scenarios myself back in the day. Hmmm ... maybe that’s why I like it. Those darn '80s, hahaha.

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17. "I Keep Forgettin'" — Chuck Jackson (2:41)

This is one of the most original-sounding tracks I’ve ever heard. Mike Stoller of Leiber and Stoller wrote the arrangement and the song with Leiber. They both produced it and it is a one-of-a-kind EXCEPT for that other song with the same title and melody that Michael McDonald put out. Jerry and Mike sued and won. This is, for sure, the real deal. Donald Fagen once hired Jimmy Vivino and me to play in the backup band for club shows he used to curate in New York City called New York Nights. He’d play some of his favorites and we’d back him up and then he’d have special guests and we’d back them up as well. So when we heard that Donald hired Chuck Jackson we wrote an arrangement of this song and talked Chuck into trying it out at rehearsal. He did and we ended up playing it in the show that night. Backstage afterwards, I asked him when was the last time he sang that song. He said, “At the recording session!” and we both laughed. I was thrilled to be the one to talk him into trying it out live. As you can hear, it’s NOT so easy to play.

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18. "A Man Needs a Woman" — James Carr (2:39)

James Carr was kind of the “other” Otis Redding. He made a few albums that were treasured by R&B fans, but then went into the mental hospital for decades. Thankfully, when he finally was released he played live shows for a couple of years and then sadly passed away. I was lucky enough to see him play in New Orleans in that late period and he was great. Most of his recorded legacy is worth checking out. He had the best version of “Dark End of the Street” ever being gave.

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19. "Love Somebody Like You" — Andrae Crouch (3:20)

Forgive me. This is actually a gospel track, but Andrae kind of interpolated what Prince was doing at the time musically into his equation and it’s an amazing track. Andrae was the man who liberated gospel music from years of being doo wop music and in the early '70s began making gospel records that sounded like Earth Wind and Fire. At first he was chastised by the gospel community, but then folks jumped on his bandwagon and gospel became musically liberated forever — all because of him. He is a major musical hero in my life and here is just one teeny-weeny reason why.

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20. "Stay With Me, Baby" — Lorraine Ellison (3:27)

I saved this for last because this is the greatest one I know. Now there are some contenders on this list, but this is the R&B ballad performance of all time for me. Jerry Ragovoy, mentioned elsewhere in this column, got to use a 70-piece orchestra because Sinatra cancelled his session two days before and they had to pay the band anyway. So the record company asked their producers if there was anyone who could ‘use’ the session. Jerry grabbed it but he and arranger Gary Sherman had to stay up for two days straight and write the arrangements in time for the session. They were fried that night, but rehearsed the orchestra and got all the flubs out and then began recording. Lorraine sang LIVE with the orchestra and they all nailed it on take one. Lorraine flubbed the lyric in the second line, so they went back and just punched in that line and corrected it. Phil Ramone was engineering and running a rough stereo mix in the control room. After they fixed the vocal and played it back, Ragovoy said to Ramone, “THAT is the mix! Just make a two-track copy and give it to me NOW!”

So after just one take of one song, he dismissed the orchestra, took the mix to the record company, and they put it out in a matter of days. Bette Midler covered it quite admirably in the film The Rose, but even Bette will say this is the version for all time. Jerry and I used to admire Lorraine when she was in a gospel group with her sisters called The Golden Chords. That's where I got "Wake Me, Shake Me" from which I sang when I was in The Blues Project. Luckily, Lorraine recorded three of my songs in her short lifetime. She died of ovarian cancer at age 51 in 1983. "Stay With Me Baby" is her musical legacy and it will remain so for all time.

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