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Roberta Flack Tag

Soul Serenade - Billy PaulIt’s time to head down the Turnpike to Philadelphia again. These trips to the City of Brotherly Love are pretty much my favorite part of writing this column. As I’ve said many times, here and elsewhere, it was the kids of Philadelphia, with their profound love of soul music, that had an everlasting effect on a kid growing up an hour away in Atlantic City. It’s a debt I can never repay, for a gift I will never forget.

You know the names. They echo down the halls of the virtual museum of American soul music, in the wing that they call Philly Soul. Gamble & Huff, Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes, the Stylistics, Barbara Mason, the Intruders, Teddy Pendergrass, the Delfonics, MFSB, Patti LaBelle, Blue Magic, Hall & Oates, the Soul Survivors. And they’re not all Philadelphians either. Out-of-towners like Jerry Butler, the O’Jays, and the Spinners found their greatest success when they recorded in Philadelphia.

We lost Phil Everly late last week. Working with this brother Don, the Everly Brothers brought the sound of country music to rock and roll when it was still in its infancy. The vocal harmonies that the brothers became famous for influenced countless musicians who followed them, including John Lennon and Paul McCartney and Simon & Garfunkle, all of whom were quick to credit the influence of the Everly Brothers on their music.

I always welcome the opportunity to say thank you to the readers of Soul Serenade for continuing to read my weekly column, now in its fourth year. This week the good folks at Rhino Records have given me the opportunity to say thank you in a big way. Five lucky readers will win a copy of Rhino’s latest release, the magnificent four-disc Donny Hathaway compilation Never My Love: The Anthology. Read through to the end of the column to find out how to enter.

On January 13, 1979, Donny Hathaway fell to his death from a 15th floor hotel room window in New York City. At the time he was recording what would become his final collaborations with Roberta Flack. The commonly held opinion is that Hathaway jumped from that window, but as always, there were people who thought that foul play might have been involved. As the years went by however it became clear that Hathaway had waged a brutal war with mental illness in the mid-late 1970’s.

Soul Serenade

Al WilsonLaura NyroThe DelfonicsThe Four Tops

When I began writing the weekly Soul Serenade column for Popdose six months ago, my aim was to share some of my favorite soul records with you. Writing this column about the music I love has brought me more joy than any other writing that I do. The other benefit for me is that I’ve learned an awful lot about the music while researching each record. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this as much as I have, and I look forward to continuing to provide the best in soul music to you each week. There are a lot more records to go.

To celebrate the half-year anniversary of Soul Serenade, I have created an Anniversary MegaMix for you. It’s a 155 mb zip file that contains all 31 songs that have been featured during the first six months of the column. There are 31 songs because several columns featured more than one song. Here’s a complete list:

Jimmy Webb - Just Across the RiverI have a lot to say about this album, so strap yourselves in. First off, I should tell you that Jimmy Webb has no bigger fan than me. He is far and away my favorite songwriter, and has been since I first heard “MacArthur Park” in 1968. He is undoubtedly one of the most important songwriters of the last 50 years. I own pretty much everything he’s ever put his name on be it vinyl, cassettes, CDs, or his 1998 book Tunesmith. Everyone has their personal Jimmy Webb. He’s mine.

Based on all of the above, I must admit to a little bit of disappointment when I received my copy of Webb’s new album Just Across the River (E1 Music). Don’t get me wrong, anything new from Webb is welcome in my home, it’s just that there’s not all that much that is new on this album, at least in terms of the songs. Do we really need new versions of “By the Time I Get To Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” or “Galveston,” which, while great songs, are among the most covered songs in musical history? Then there’s “P.F. Sloan,” another great song, but one that has been recorded by Webb himself a number of times already. After all, it’s been five years since Webb’s last album of new material, Twilight of the Renegades, and I’ve been waiting patiently for something new.

I woke up this morning to hear that today would have been Elvis Presley’s 75th birthday. It wasn’t news to me, but I still liked hearing it on the radio. So to celebrate, I played a handful of my favorite Elvis songs, and then my favorite song about Elvis. No, it’s not “Black Velvet.”

I first heard of Richard Thompson in 1991. I was reading a lot of guitar mags at the time and every few months or so, one of them would have an article about “the best guitar player you’ve never heard.” When Rumor And Sigh came out, that became the easiest angle to take for them to spotlight the record. But the reason why Thompson’s music stayed with me longer than Roy Buchanan or Danny Gatton was because his solos, however flashy they may be, exist to serve the song, and Thompson can write a song like nobody else.

Happy Friday, everyone, and welcome back to CHART ATTACK! This is a pretty solid, diverse week on the charts: six out of our ten artists are black, and the other four are, like, the whitest artists in the world. They’re all a part of April 22, 1972!

10. Doctor My Eyes — Jackson Browne Amazon iTunes
9. A Cowboy’s Work is Never Done — Sonny & Cher Amazon iTunes
8. Heart of Gold — Neil Young Amazon iTunes
7. Day Dreaming — Aretha Franklin Amazon iTunes
6. Betcha By Golly, Wow — The Stylistics Amazon iTunes
5. In the Rain — The Dramatics Amazon iTunes
4. A Horse With No Name — America Amazon iTunes
3. I Gotcha — Joe Tex Amazon iTunes
2. Rockin’ Robin — Michael Jackson Amazon iTunes
1. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face — Roberta Flack Amazon iTunes

10. Doctor My Eyes — Jackson Browne

I’ve never really paid much attention to Jackson Browne, but I really, really like this song. I love the piano with the stuck key at the beginning. I love David Crosby’s backing vocals (and I didn’t know until now that Nash was on there as well). I love the percussion, and I love the guitar work. And of course I love the bass playing — it’s frickin’ Lee Sklar! Who doesn’t love Lee Sklar?

This was Browne’s debut single from his debut album, and his only entry in the Top 10 until 1982’s “Somebody’s Baby” (which was his last). The song was covered — and this totally baffles me — by the Jackson 5 almost instantly, appearing on their 1972 album Lookin’ Through the Windows. The “baby, baby” opening kind of sucks, but Michael sounds great.

The Jackson 5 — Doctor My Eyes (download)

9. A Cowboy’s Work is Never Done — Sonny & Cher

Let me just play you something. Here’s the opening of “A Cowboy’s Work is Never Done.”

Got it? Okay, now listen to this.

Am I crazy?

Peaking at #8, this incredibly stupid song was (thankfully) the last Top 10 hit for Sonny & Cher. And you know what sucks more than this song? This song’s video. Watch Sonny Bono play air guitar. It’s terrible.

8. Heart of Gold — Neil Young

Neil Young has only had one #1 single in his career. This is it. And it’s his only song to crack the Top 30 as well. I think it’s safe to say that Neil Young is a failure. I’m sure he’d agree.

New baby = less time. Imagine that. I was somehow under the impression that sleepless nights were going to give me plenty of free time to continue to write meaningless drivel in my intros, but I haven’t been able to find the motivation at 3 AM just yet. So, in an effort to continue to give you the “quality” music of Bottom Feeders without interruption, I’m going to move straight to the music for the remainder of 2008. Without further ado, we continue looking at the ass end of the Billboard Hot 100 in the ’80s, with more artists whose names begin with the letter F.

“Talk to Me” — 1985, #64 (download)
“Everything You Do (You’re Sexing Me)” — 1989, #52 (download)

Fiona Flanagan is less known for her music than for her lead role in the failed 1987 Bob Dylan movie Hearts of Fire. “Everything You Do” is a duet with Bottom Feeders favorite Kip Winger! If I could choose one artist to be the spokesperson for this series, Kip would be high on the list. Over-the-top cheesiness, pretty shitty music, and a remarkably cocky attitude is exactly what I’m looking for to represent this series, and “Everything You Do” is a pretty good example of that shit factor. I’m just wondering if the phrase “you’re sexing me” was ever uttered by even one other person. Unless this was some popular saying in the ’80s that I’m not aware of, I just can’t picture someone saying to me, “Oh yeah, baby, now you’re sexing me.” We got close a few years later with Color Me Badd wanting to “sex you up,” but that’s still nothing like a good sexing (at least, I assume).

Elisa Fiorillo
“How Can I Forget You” — 1988, #60 (download)
“Forgive Me for Dreaming” — 1988, #49 (download)

Neither of these songs are terrible. In fact “How Can I Forget You” is downright okay, but they’re not what Elisa Fiorillo is known for. Her biggest song was the top-20 hit “Who Found Who” by Jellybean, on which she was lead vocalist. Then after her debut record, which featured the two singles posted here, she started working with Prince, doing background vocals on the Batman soundtrack (1989), Graffiti Bridge (1990), and Diamonds and Pearls (1991). Her second album was recorded at Paisley Park and was heavily influenced by the Purple One. After that she took a break, did some TV work, and returned in 2002 playing jazz.