Post by Peter Viney - Around and Around
Soul didn’t really live on albums until Marvin Gaye produced What’s Going On in 1971. Motown’s best albums are compilations like Motown Chartbusters or Greatest Hits / Best Of compilations of singers or groups. Albums tended to 2 A sides with B-sides and filler. Some of the filler was backing tracks done for other artists with a new vocal. Some was inappropriate covers.
If you really want to explore 60s Motown in detail, the best way is the Complete Motown Singles series of box sets on CD … and in original mono wherever appropriate. Equally the best Stax compilations are the box sets … The Complete Stax / Volt Soul Singles Volumes 1-3. They also go for mono on the earlier singles. The same is true of Curtis Mayfield productions from Chicago, and the soul side of Chess. I’d love to suggest an original Impressions album, but you’re better off with a compilation … Amen from 1970.
Inevitably Stax and Atlantic do better on albums because albums mattered to them more.
This series assumes you want the original releases rather than Greatest Hits compilations, though I make an exception for The Temptations which was a major seller at the time.
Live albums are the ways to get the well-known songs if you want them on authentic 1960s vinyl. SEE LIVE SOUL ALBUMS
1 Booker T and the MGs: Green Onions, 1962 (UK, 1964, London-Atlantic)
It has to be here to stress how important Booker T & The MGs were as the house band at Stax. It has a lot of covers … from You Can’t Sit Down to Twist & Shout to Stranger On The Shore. I find myself veering to a hits collection instead … you do need to find Hip Hug-her, Outrage, Soul Limbo and they’re not on here, but all the albums have cover filler. The sleeve wins it for me.
AVAILABLE LP: London-Atlantic, then ‘plum’ Atlantic (1966) then striped Atlantic (1968), as time went on it was continually reissued.
SAMPLE TRACKS: Green Onions, Rinky Dink
2 Sam Cooke: Ain’t That Good News , 1964, RCA
This has his best ever song, A Change Is Gonna Come. Sam Cooke had shifted to notably “poppier” material … Only Sixteen, Cupid, Wonderful World, Twitin’ The Night Away. This was Sam Cooke’s final album after a six month pause followed the death of his baby son. The first side is more rocking songs, the second the “deep soul.” The album generated five singles, and has unexpected material like a new look at Tennessee Waltz and the Appalachian standard The Riddle Song.
AVILABLE: CD, original LP, new 2020 vinyl LP
SAMPLE TRACKS: A Change Is Gonna Come, Another Saturday Night
3 Otis Redding: Otis Blue – Otis Redding Sings Soul, Stax, 1965
Simply the best album listed here without competition. Three Sam Cooke classics are rethought from scratch … Shake, Wonderful World and Change Is Gonna Come. Otis treatments of The Temptations My Girl, and the Stones Satisfaction. Then originals Respect, I’ve Been Loving You Too Long, Ole Man Trouble. The main point is that it works as an album, not a collection of tracks.
AVAILABLE: LP, CD, De Luxe Collectors Edition 2 CD set with stereo and mono with bonus tracks and live material, reissue vinyl. Watch the value difference between Decca pressed and Polydor pressed original LPs.
Sample tracks: Respect, I’ve Been Loving You Too Long
4 Lee Dorsey: The New Lee Dorsey 1966, Stateside
The previous album, Ride Your Pony- Get Out My Life Woman made it clear it was two hit singles with B-sides and filler … BUT the filler is Allen Toussaint as is the production. Lee Dorsey was more lauded in the UK than USA (until Obama took We Can Do It as a campaign song). Later the same year, Toussaint produced The New Lee Dorsey which included the title tracks of the earlier one, plus The Greatest Love and the later singles Holy Cow, Mexico and Working In The Coalmine.
SAMPLE TRACKS: Holy Cow, Get Out My Life Woman
AVAILABILITY: original LP, or 2003 reissue, or CD (now out of print)
5 The Temptations: The Temptations Greatest Hits, 1966, Tamla-Motown
The Temptations have to be in here, and this album was released in 1966. Every single track is a winner. It starts out with Ain’t Too Proud To Beg, thewn My Girl, Beauty’s Only Skin Deep, It’s Growing … and the rest.
AVAILABLE: LP, CD. Quite common secondhand
SAMPLE TRACKS: Ain’t Too Proud To Beg, Don’t Look Back
6 Wilson Pickett: The Wicked Pickett, 1966 Atlantic
Otis and Wilson were a pair like Chuck and Bo. If you liked one, you liked the other. This is the best Pickett album, full of soul classics which others did too. Not being a writer he had a wide choice … three Dan Penn songs, one Bert Berns, one Bobby Womack. It does hold together as an album.
AVAILABILITY: LP, CD
SAMPLE TRACKS: Mustang Sally, You Left The Water Running.
7 The Four Tops: Reach Out, 1967, Tamla-Motown
While Tamla-Motown is under-represented, this Four Tops album gets in because instead of two hit singles, it manages six … Reach Out I’ll Be There, Walk Away Renee, 7 Rooms of Gloom, If I were A Carpenter, Standing In The Shadows of Love and Bernadette, as well as unexpected covers of I’m A Believer and Cherish. Walk Away Renee is a cover of The Left Banke original, but a case where the cover defines the song. It was also a big-seller so not hard to find.
AVAILABLE: original LP, CD.
SAMPLE TRACKS: Reach Out, I’ll Be There, Walk Away Renee … tracks 1 and 2 in fact.
8 King & Queen: Otis Redding & Carla Thomas, Atlantic, 1967
Soul duets … Judy Clay & William Bell, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, Inez and Charlie Foxx … and here Otis Redding and Carla Thomas. It’s a terrific album, and iit was a toss up between this and Hold On I’m Coming by Sam & Dave, but there is magic in a male female duo. Carla, daughter of Rufus Thomas, was indeed soul royalty.
AVAILABLE: LP, CD
SAMPLE TRACKS: Tramp, Ooh Carla Ooh Otis
9 Aretha Franklin: I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You, 1967, Atlantic
Rolling Stone reckons the best soul album of all time. No, that’s Otis Blue. But this is essential. The third album here with A Change Is Gonna Come and the challenge of which Respect you prefer, Otis or Aretha, is right here. I Never Loved A Man, Drown In My Own Tears, Do Right Woman Do Right Man, Baby Baby Baby, Dr Feelgood, Save Me … not a bad track on there.
AVAILABILITY: original LP, CD, new vinyl
SAMPLE TRACKS: Respect, I Never Loved A Man
10 Amen: The Impressions, 1970, Buddah
The Impressions American ABC-Paramount albums were not all released in the UK, so I’ll add a 1970 Greatest Hits compilation, because it came out just at the end of the decade. While it’s really good, it misses my two favourite tracks, People Get Ready and You Must Believe Me which are on People Get Ready which wasn’t released in the UK. But it was popular and you might just find one.
AVAILABILITY: 1970 LP only. It’s a case where the 3 CDS Definitive Impressions 1, 2 and Rarities are the best bet. I would buy ANY original Impressions LP that you saw.
SAMPLE TRACKS: Gypsy Woman, Choice of Colors
BUT … THIS IS SOUL (a sampler you should seek out on Atlantic) so you need to browse the 45s. In general, they’re louder and will sound better than LPs or CDs.
Ten to seek out (avoiding tracks on the above):
- My Guy – Mary Wells, Stateside
- Mockingbird – Inez and Charie Foxx, Sue
- Mercy, Mercy – Don Covay, Stax, Atlantic
- Rescue Me – Fontella Bass, Chess
- Barefootin’ / Let’s Go Baby (Where The Action Is) – Robert Parker, Island
- You Must Believe Me – The Impressions, HMV
- In The Midnight Hour – Wilson Pickett, Atlantic
- Dancing In The Street- Martha & The Vandellas, Tamla Motown
- Private Number – Judy Clay & William Bell, Stax
- The Tears of A Clown – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles