Welcome to ‘day 1’ of our Song Sommelier Soul Weekender. We head for the dance floor and stay there, for these 20 classic belters. The first half has a northern soul feel, before we segue into Studio 54 disco land. Stabbing brass, virtuoso bass, disco strings. Should you feel an overwhelming desire to attempt the Brooklyn Shuffle, don’t hold back on our part.
SOUL WEEKENDER ‘DAY 1’: FUNKING GOOD FLOOR FILLERS
Curated by our funk & soul maestro Mark Webb. The dudes getting the splinters created by Mick Clarke, as ever.
Mr Webb takes us through it track-by-track. Limber up!
Venus - Tom Jones
The Voice and his version of Venus. Forget the 'Nanas, Tom and his crack session musicians own this 1970 album track - especially that walking bass.
There's a Ghost in My House - R Dean Taylor
A northern classic from Holland-Dozier-Holland. Unbeatable fuzz guitar riff and handclapping on the chorus. Introduced to many by the dodgy Fall cover in 1987. Got to UK #3 in 1974 due to popularity at the Twisted Wheel, Wigan Casino etc.
Nothing But A Heartache - Flirtations
Sounds like the Supremes, but possibly better than anything they recorded. Amazingly, written by the guys behind the Rubettes (Sugar Baby Love etc). Reached US #34 in 1969 but didn’t reach top 50 UK. Hang your heads in shame UK record buying public.
Turning My Heartbeat Up - MVPs
The Most Valuable Players 1971 non-hit is another track that packs massive excitement into its two short minutes. God only knows what the bass player was on.
Gone With the Wind is My Love - Rita & the Tiaras
Sweeping strings and an insistent beat. Heard this one for the first time on the Radcliffe & Maconie 6 Music show this year. Wow - great to still find new gems like this.
The Night - Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
Included on their 1972 Motown album, Chameleon, but failed to chart on original release in 1972. Propelled to #7 in 1975 by those northern soul punters. More hooks than a tackle box.
The Snake - Al Wilson
Solid gold classic released in 1968 when it went US top 30. Only made UK number 41 in 1975 - northern soul fans had presumably bought too many re-releases by this point and had run out of ready cash.
Gimme Shelter - Merry Clayton
Clayton was the backing vocalist on the Stone's original. This 1970 cover ups the soul and layers on some stupendous brass. Banger
There Was a Time - James Brown
The Godfather of Soul mixing it with the Louie Bellson big band from 1970's Soul on Top Album. Both on top form. Unlikely the Godfather fined anyone in this band for bum notes on this one.
California Soul - Fifth Dimension
Marlene Shaw's version is better known, but the harmonies on this 1968 version are delicious. Another classic written by Ashford & Simpson, this track alone will make you forgive them for coming up with Solid. We all make mistakes.
You Could Have Been a Lady - Hot Chocolate
Moving us seamlessly into Studio 54 territory is this 1971 funker from Errol Brown and crew. What a riff. What a bass line. What brass. Underrated.
Shake, Shake, Shake Shake Your Booty - KC and the Sunshine Band
Bob Dylan was never going to be challenged on the lyric front by these Floridian disco titans. But what they lacked in words, they made up for in syncopated beats. However, should never have suggested this for my daughter's school disco... US number 1 in 1976.
You Stepped Into My Life - Melba Moore
Bee Gees 1976 album track, produced here in 1979 by McFadden & Whitehead (Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now). The Gibb brothers really are up there with Britain's finest.
Love Hangover - Diana Ross
Ross playing catch-up with Donna Summer in 1976 ("love to love you" referenced in backing vocals). Great intro and build-up especially on the 12". More hi-hat disco cymbals than you can shake a stick at. Reverential cover of this in '82 by The Associates.
Shadow Dancing - Andy Gibb
This is like a missing piece of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Written by all four Gibb brothers while they were working on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band film. The trademark Gibb harmonising on the chorus is a delight. Reached US #1 in 1978.
Shack Up - Banbarra
Their entire catalogue is this 1975 single. However, it has been sampled extensively. Probably best known in the UK through the cover version by scratchy Manc funksters ACR.
Chained to Your Love - Moment of Truth
Downbeat title affixed to an upbeat 1977 disco stomper. Impossible to listen to sitting down. Should have been a massive smash.
Heartache #9 - Delegation
A Birmingham band that had a number of hits in the US as well as Europe. This number from 1979 could have been released by Earth Wind and Fire at their peak.
Stomp! - The Brothers Johnson
One of the finest tracks penned by the disco trojan from Cleethorpes, Rod Temperton. Starts slow and then builds towards that killer chorus. Slap bass solo at 2.20 would be catnip to Alan Partridge. Top 10 in UK and US in 1980.
The Crown - Gary Byrd and the GB Experience
Perhaps not totally in keeping with the rest of this side. But my first 12" single in 1983 (Woolworths Fort William) and a total banger.
Playback notes: mmm, whadayathink?
‘Day 2’ of our Funk & Soul Weekender is the Soul Connoisseurs Chart. Discover it soon.