THE SOUL MAP, PART II
By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor – in – Chief
Editor’s Note: In 1968, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada sought to eliminate the sound of Soul Music from its airwaves. Silenced forever by a cabal of consciously bereft cocksuckers whose actions meant to stifle a burgeoning, unique, and original cultural contribution to the world, which, at its best, was a feat of incompetence, at worst, racially motivated because the desire to push so – called “Black Music” was pushed back by ‘gatekeepers’ that never wanted it (even if they were home-grown), and, in overall assessment of said actions, simply asinine…
Nothing is more insulting than having a group (Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers) so named out of love for the city they were based out of) not played or properly promoted by the local stations. It is the most fetid and repugnant form of BULLSHIT and hypocrisy…and simply not done by anyone seeking to elevate our collective culture…
During this time frame, the world still spun; and, with that said, here is our take on what went on while Vancouver burned in the fires of “classic Rock” HELL…
PHILADELPHIA (www.basnnewsroom.com) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania would seem to be the epitome of “local.”
From their sports teams to the food which has become synonymous with experiencing life here (if even on a superficial level), Philly has always embraced what it believes is “theirs”
In this time, a hit by a local group would propel The City of Brotherly Love to a place of prominence – and create its own signature sound; but first, we must take a side trip to northern New Jersey – and peek into the world of Sexy Soul…
Englewood, New Jersey sits along the Palisade opposite the George Washington Bridge. Before the conversion of Palisades Amusement Park into condominiums, the second most prominent building was Stang Records. Stang, part of All Platinum Records, was a mom-and-pop groove collective owned by Joe and Sylvia Robinson, a former artist who hit the charts with the sensuous duet “Love Is Strange” in the 1950s…
Just as Vee – Jay Records had cornered the market on blues and soul earlier in the decade, All Platinum (whose labels included Vibration, Turbo and Stang) focused on soul – with a unique twist; the meeting of words and music would crystallize into a genre that would speak to its listeners like none before it.
While Motown sought across-the-board acceptance with its “Sound of Young America” premise, love songs produced in the Sexy Soul era humanized feelings by Black and brown people; especially those of love…
Lyrics and arrangement were the keys to what ignited Sexy Soul; and one of the first groups to light the fuse were The Moments, a four – man group out of Washington, D.C. signed to Stang in 1967. In 1968, their first single, “Not On The Outside” set the bar with its first words sung from the lips of then lead singer Mark Greene:
“so you think my heart’s made of stone…and when you’re near me, there’s no reaction? well – you’re wrong…
from the tip of my toes, my love (for you) steadily grows…on and on…
and each day you’re not here, (i’m soakin’;) wet with my tears…
not on the outside, but – inside strong…”
The song brought The Moments the attention needed, and, in 1970, the song “Love On A Two – Way Street“ became an international best seller, earning Stang and the groups’ first gold record.
Now singing groups did not have to feel artistically pigeonholed to what they desired to present; and the unspoken mission to BEG WHERE NO MAN HAS BEGGED BEFORE...was on!
A group out of Dallas, The Masqueraders, whose roots were vested in doo – wop, cut a monster ballad, “I’m Just An Average Guy,” which did not spare any emotion whatsoever:
“if I were a rich man (if I were a rich man), yeah…i’d spend every dime…just to prove to you
that i want you to be mine
if i were a poet (if i were a poet) i’d write lots of beautiful poems…the words would come from the depths of my heart
to express my love for you, darling…”
The group had traveled to Detroit to audition for Motown, but were likely too raw for them (and no doubt Berry Gordy felt he already had that covered with the Temptations and Four Tops) but, artistically, The Masqueraders had raised the bar.
THREE, FOUR AND FIVE
Sexy Soul adopted the core principles of doo-wop: beautiful harmonies fueled by falsetto, tenor and baritone/bass. The configurations were in combinations of three to five singers. Now this isn’t to say that Sam and Dave or The Righteous Brothers couldn’t beg – it is to say that this is a legitimate genre which was overlooked by most in popular music.
Out of the three man groups, The Moments were exceptional due to their style: three falsetto tenors who constantly sang in unison while vocally ‘staying in their lanes.’
“Just Because He Wants To Make Love (Doesn’t Mean He Loves You)” makes you pay attention – immediately:
(1st tenor) “He’d love to hold your body close to his…and taste that candy kiss – upon his lips…ohhhhh…”
(2nd tenor) “Foolish problems can’t separate two hearts…”
(3rd tenor) “don’t give yours awayyyyyyyyyyy…before you do, let me assure you…”
Some four man groups added that in their name. The Continental Four, also out of the same New Jersey area, get down to confessing as they hit the sweet spot in three-plus minutes of falsetto candy:
“you thought the words i spoke were so true…when i said, ‘honey, i love you.’
what a fool, girl, I’ve been…I lied so much to you, it’s just a sin…
The Natural Four, out of The East Bay of Oakland, California, came hard with this raw gem as lead singer Chris James serves it up:
“it took a long time…gettin’ this strong…we shouldn’t tear it downnnnn – ohh…when we have so much love…
and we gotta be strong…just like we always have
and that’s why i say it don’t make sense…ohhhhhhh for us to end
baby baby BAYBEEEEE baby…
ohhhh we can’t let what we did go down like this – now, baybeeeee (now baby)
ohhhhhhhhh we’ve got…to find a way to solve our problems, baby (now baby)
Why should we stop now? ohhhhhhhhhhh, why should we stop now?
’cause ohhhhh, we’ve got it going…”
The Choice Four, representing the Washington, D.C. area used lead tenor Bobby Hamilton and budding producer Van McCoy to perfection in the delivery of this great ballad:
“now that I’ve found you stay (now that I’ve found you, stay)…don’t ever go away (don’t ever go awayyyyyyyyy)…don’t ever leave me…darling, believe me…and it’s from my heart I sayyyyyyyyyyy…”
When it comes to five man groups, there was no better illustration in soul than the great album cover pitting The Dramatics and the Dells:
We will speak on these two groups in earnest later as the Soul Map spreads out further; as Jersey City would once again present more music talent in the form of The Manhattans.
As with The Temptations, The Manhattans succeeded with a transition of multiple lead singers while keeping the sound which identifies their personnel.
George Smith straddles doo-wop and sexy soul with this number from 1965:
After Smith’s passing in 1970, Gerald Alston (nephew of the Shirelles’ Shirley) took over, and as what happened with the Main Ingredient and Cuba Gooding’s ascension, the Manhattans struck gold with “Kiss and Say Goodbye.”
The blend of those two approaches melded into the very underrated,“You’d Better Believe It.”
Now ya know the Ladies had to get somma’ dis!
The two most notable translations of female Sexy Soul I can recall are The Mello Moods of Philadelphia, whose local hit, “Tell Love Hello” an early Gamble and Huff piece produced by Norman Harris, which offers some aural peeks into what would be Philadelphia International’s sound (complete with gospel coloring) …
“not too long ago (not too long ago)…i met a boy i knew was just for me…we became the very best of friends
and i knew that this friendship would never end
one day he didn’t show up at our old meeting place…and it’s been a long time…since i last saw his face…”
The other was a classic out of Hempstead, NY. Pat Carty and Diane Tyler were front babes on a four – person group from Long Island called The Magic Touch. Carty would forever imprint her soul on this “blue light in the basement” classic, “Step Into My World”:
“There’ll be no sorrow (there’ll be no sorrow)
no sorrow (there’ll be no pain) no pain (there’ll be no sorrow) no sorrow in my world…
(love plays a part) it plays a part (not a game) not a game in my world
that’s why i’m telling you how it is…in my world…”
MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE BEGGING…
Sexy Soul’s effect would reverberate around the country. From East to West, there was no reticence to providing no knees necessary begging to declare feelings of love – and touching said targets of desire with the power of…panty removal.
The Montclairs and their lead Singer, Phil Perry, turned over one part of this reality in the Midwest, representing East St. Louis, Missouri:
While Manchild, based in Indianapolis, introduced a “Babyfaced” Kenneth Edmonds on bass…
As these declarations of the sweet were on display, the times of bitter were rarely considered. One of the most powerful outpourings of emotion came via the D.C. area and the amazing Skip Mahoney and The Casuals in the early 1970s:
Although Chicago’s Windy City did not produce this until 1980, this statement of pure begging fits the script – and stands the test of time.
Next Time: Philadelphia’s Secret Soul Weapon
always outnumbered…never outgunned.