Thursday, January 23, 2014

Northern Soul - The Lost R&B Sound That was Made in the US, Appreciated in the UK

KALW San Francisco, is streaming Northern Soul radio (don't know for how long—catch it before it's gone) on their NPR channel. This was a genre of dance music that came on the tail of Motown, but never grew a sizable audience in the U.S. For some reason, Northern England took to it (because they were smarter), and DJs would play these singles in clubs all night long—from dusk to dawn. There might have been some drugs involved, I don't know. Anyway, Northern Soul was a big hit in Northern UK and rightly so.

Northern soul is generally faster tempo'd than its Motown-sound cousin. The keys tend to run minor, sentiments are darker—more emotional suffering is involved. And the bands are mostly unknown in the U.S.—that's a shame. Some people claim these all-night dance clubs were the dawn of the rave scene, but I think people have been dancing all night for longer than that even. When the rhythm is right...

Here's some hand-picked singles from my listening sessions on NPR. They're GROOVING. This is still truly an underground scene that deserves much more play, so rejoice.

The Contours - Can You Do It? I am dancing while I'm typing right now and I can't always claim that to be true.

Marlena Shaw - Let's Wade in the Water. Soul music, plain and simple.

The Profonix - Ain't No Sun. This is groovin'! Are you groovin'? Then this is your jam.

Pat Lundy - Play it Again. One of those please, Mr. DJ sentiments. Doesn't work in the YouTube age. Her urgency is sadly missing in this "click on this link" world.

Wendy Rene - Young Man. Full-on female sexuality on display here because that exists.

Dorothy Williams - The Well's Gone Dry. When the well's gone dry, the hope is gone. Hopeless dance songs—it's a genre.

Richard Temple - That Beatin' Rhythm. "Now there's that beat, and I must dance." Yes.

Patrice Holloway - Those DJ Shows. The pressure on DJs to not only play the favorites, but the favorites that will bring back lost love. Powerful stuff.

Jackie Ross - Jerk and Twine. "Pop your fingers, bend your back, you got the right idea, I like it like that." This song manages to rhyme "finger poppin'" with "hip rockin'"—greatness.

Alvin Cash and The Crawlers - Twine Time. Does this count as Northern Soul? I don't care. I heard it on the radio not too long ago and fell in love. It works for me.

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