The 2nd Weekly High Fidelity Friday: Top 5 Soul Songs

June 24, 2011

By Alex MacNeil

Hey everybody,

This article is dedicated to the little cousin of Jazz and Blues: Soul. For those of you not prone to intense listening, if Giant Steps doesn’t make you move, than maybe soul music might be the proper thing. Who couldn’t love it? Danceable beats, lyrics that everyone can relate to, horn sections, and tambourine abuse.

If you are curious, here are a few masters of soul, old and new for you to check out. Hit me!

#1 Edwin Starr – 25 Miles

I’m hoping to choose a few tunes that aren’t obvious, and this is one of the lesser known gems of soul. Love the drum breaks.  If you dig this track, check out Agent 00 Soul released on Motown.



#2 Hiram Bullock – Funky Broadway (Wilson Pickett cover)


This rendition of Wilson Pickett’s classic is so wonderfully 80s. Funky Broadway has been recorded by a legion of extremely cool musicians including Jimmy Smith and Jaco Pastorius. I chose this particular performance for several reasons, including David Sanborn’s hair and Hiram Bullock’s poor public abilities.

This clip is such a great representation of the fantastic musicians that were working in television during this period, and I love to see them let loose with their old band-mate Hiram. His guitar playing, though extremely dated, is none-the-less deadly, and despite my natural inclination to avoid David Sanborn’s music, he plays extremely well.

#3 Martha and the Vandellas – Heatwave

This is very well known song that is often wrongly attributed to The Supremes, but I can’t really imagine why. Martha and the Vandellas are like The Supremes’ cousins from the wrong side of the tracks. Their music is a bit more raucous, full of attitude, and for me, a whole lot more fun. I’ll be the first to say that I dig Diana Ross and her soft, round voice, but Martha has some commanding pipes and sports an attitude that kind of strays from Motown’s air of innocence.

#4 Etta James & Dr. John – I’d Rather Go Blind

Very cool live performance. Etta is in great shape, and joined, a bit to my surprise by New Orleans heavy weight traditional artist Dr. John (Mac Rebennack). Dr. John earned his international acclaim by fusing his early New Orleans influence with psychedelic influences, but has produced a great deal of really well made traditional tracks.

I chose this particular track because it is an exceptional example of a soul, R&B ballad. It’s dramatic, cheesy and all together infectious. It’s the kind of track that theatre students listen to when they break up with their lovers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mocking theatre students, or this track, the dramatic element of the music is what makes it fun.

#5 Cannonball Adderly Quintet – Mercy Mercy Mercy

Thought I’d tuck this one in there considering that this is a jazz blog and I am indeed, an avid jazz fan. This tune was written by Joe Zawinul, Cannonball’s keyboard player who would later go on to be one of jazz-rock fusion`s finest innovators.

Zawinul could pretty much play anything. If you listen to the early Cannonball Adderly Quintet you`ll hear him playing Nat and C-Ball compositions at blazing speeds, but this funky soul number signals his transition from hard-bop pianist to fusion composer and keyboardist.

I think about 70% of the reason I chose this particular recording of it is because of C-Ball`s speech at the beginning. Awesome.


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