I’m not sure whether it is due to popular demand after last week’s compilation, but here is a second ’80s soul mix, with a third and final installment in the works. The first mix was an attempt to create a fairly representative cross-section of the genre. This mix is less self-conscious about that. What we have here, then, are some of my favourite soul tracks from that comparatively barren decade. As in any compilation of favourites, the measure of quality may be secondary to the compiler’s emotional connection to a song. Is Smokey’s Just To See Her any good? I don’t rightly know. It may not be a better song than Being With You. But much as I like Being With You, it does not transport me back to a particular time. Play Just To See Her, however, and I smell the girl’s hair, taste the vegetarian gunk I used to eat, feel the anticipation of going to the club and the anxiety of missing my friends in London. And so it is with many songs in this mix (especially Pendergrass’ wonderfully Marvin-esque Joy).
This mix includes two Gospel songs. Invoking God in soul music was nothing new. Curtis Mayfield did it habitually before Al Green swapped his silky sheets for a silky collar. By Gospel was still indentifiable by its distinctive features. The Winans family, who breed like the Wayans but have more talent in their chosen field, led a revolution which appropriated the contemporary soul sound into their songs of praise. The lyrics were usually not as direct as those of traditional Gospel – less of the hollering hallelujahs and summonsing of witnesses, lawrd. Indeed, hear the Winans or Steve Arrington songs without being aware of the lyrics, and you’d have no idea which genre you’re tuning into.
I’m saving the best for last though. The very last. When the bizarrely named Oran ‘Juice’ Jones berates his cheating girlfriend, he cracks wiser than any heartbroken man ever did. He gets vicious (“I gave you things you couldn’t even pronounce”) and funny (“You without me is like…” oh, let’s not give away the punchline). Doesn’t sound as good in print as it does when “Juice” says it. Amusingly, Jones seems to be quite at a loss as to why the girl would cheat on his charming, non-condescending and gender-role sensitive self. The cover of The Rain pretty much sums up our boy Oran’s demeanour vis-a-vis the laydees. Still, cracking song. And, don’t touch that coat!
1. Isley Jasper Isley – Caravan Of Love (1985)
2. Smokey Robinson – Just To See Her (1987)
3. Randy Crawford – Rainy Night In Georgia (1981)
4. Larry Graham – One In A Million You (1980)
5. The Winans feat. Anita Baker – Ain’t No Need To Worry (1987)
6. Maze featuring Frankie Beverly – Before I Let Go (live) (1986)
7. Teddy Pendergrass – Joy (1988)
8. Timmy Thomas & Nicole – New York Eyes (1985)
9. Cameo - A Goodbye (1985)
10. Force M.D.’s – Tender Love (1986)
11. Cheryl Lynn & Luther Vandross – If This World Were Mine (1982)
12. The Temptations - I Wonder Who She’s Seeing Now (1987)
13. Steve Arrington – Feel So Real (12″ version) (1985)
14. Gwen Guthrie – It Should Have Been You (1982)
15. Cherelle & Alexander O’Neal – Saturday Love (1985)
16. Oran ‘Juice’ Jones - The Rain (1986)