14 Jun 2015

Top 5 deep cuts of soul

Vapour Trail is now awash with some new writers, and the next of these is Jonah Hartley, who already has a large measure of experience writing for his own blog, and runs the record label Street Hassle Records (who are putting out some of our favourite new bands, FRANK and Beds in Parks). This is his first post, enjoy.

Imagine someone has asked you to cross from one bank of a river to the other. “Can I use the bridge?” you ask. “Yes,” your imaginary taskmaster replies, sighing, as creases of irritation ripple across her brow. Instead, you think, it’d be a terrific challenge to shoot yourself in the foot and try to swim through the currents instead. Minutes later you find yourself mid-stream, dizzy from the loss of blood, fingers slipping from the branch you were desperately clinging to. You ponder, “why didn’t I just take the easy route?” before being swept away. Why didn’t I just write about The Smiths? This is an analogy for trying to do a ‘top five’ for my favourite soul deep-cuts; a top five for a kind of music lacerated, saturated - positively mutilated - with deep-cuts.

Anyway, first up is an often-overlooked musical prophet, Baby Huey, with his backing band, The Baby Sitters. His precocious version of A Change Is Going to Come doesn’t just change the game; it ignores the game completely and does whatever it feels like doing. Consider that this was recorded in 1971, and then appreciate the echoing vocals and banshee shrieking, along with the spoken-word mid-section. Hear it

After the psychotic journey you undoubtedly just made listening to Baby Huey, have a bit of a breather with The Rising Sun and Do What You’re Doin’. It’s basically a mantra reminding you that whatever you’re doing is great, so keep on doing it. Not much is known about the band themselves, but the record label, Deep City, is criminally overlooked and well worth exploring. Hear it

The girl-group who eventually came to be best known as The Cookies underwent a number of different titles, one of which was The Cinderellas (not to be confused with some other group of the same name). They put out one astounding single, which has Baby Baby (I Still Love You) on one side; it’s more pop than soul, but brilliant either way. Hear it

Veering over to the funk side of things - as I feel increasingly like an earnest 50-year-old Northern-soul fan - is I’m So Happy Now, by Willie Wright. It sits in the middle ground between Baby Huey and The Rising Sun, with penetrating guitars and the heaviest of bass-lines. Willie’s voice is the archetype for singing ‘smoothly’. Hear it

Finally, is another lost-artefact of another lost record-label. I Can’t Let Go by Evie Sands features a harpsichord, which is surely enticement enough, but on top of that, the songwriting is incredible and so is Evie’s voice. The single was released on Blue Cat records, a subsidiary of Red Bird, which worked with The Shangri-Las and The Jelly Beans, amongst others. Hear it