Is it Deep, is it Southern or is it soul? Our new collection of Atlantic ballads poses all these questions at different times throughout the seventy plus minutes of exquisite music that is CDKEND 195.
When Dave Godin coined the Deep Soul term way back in the 1960s (and put his money where his mouth was by forming the excellent record label of the same name), it was intended to describe a form of soul music where the intensity of the singer's performance was paramount. Dave championed the music and as the leading expert on the subject had few arguments from enthusiasts only too happy to be turned on to the latest gem he had uncovered.
In the ensuing years, Deep Soul fans have continued to search out examples of music that fit their own personal bill. As many of the finer examples of the genre originated in the south of the US, e g James Carr, Lorretta Williams, Eddie & Ernie, and the wailing, gospel inspired ballad style was acknowledged to be the most typical form of the music, over time this was assumed by collectors to be the holy grail to search for and the tag Deep Soul became largely, if not altogether exclusively, attached to this style.
From my detached view of a general soul fan who likes the odd smoocher (accompanied by a beautiful woman and a Party Seven), it would appear that some connoisseurs have taken the music exclusively down the Southern style road (their prerogative) and the Deep term has acquired two different sets of criteria.
If nothing else it has given collectors an excuse for controversy, debate and the occasional spleen venting, though I hope protagonists never miss out on great records because they are championed by the wrong faction.
OUR TURN TO CRY may not heal any rifts, but hopefully it gives some brilliant examples of most of the styles of soul balladry.
The opener is a fine example of the complexity of styles. Soul Brother Six hailed from Philadelphia and recorded there and in New York, yet to me they came out with one of the finest examples of church-inspired Southern Soul singing in What Can You Do When You Ain't Got Nobody.
From the same northern US city comes white guy Billy Harner, best known for blue eyed soul dancers, but he gives a virtuoso vocal performance on the beautiful ballad Message To My Baby.
The traditional southern approach is represented, among others, by the utterly obscure Elvis And The Roadrunners May God Bless Our Love, the aforementioned James Carr singing Tommy Tate's wonderful Hold On and the intriguing concept of How Can You Baby Sit A Man by Ned Towns.
One of soul music's best friends as well as best exponents, Doris Troy, is positively melancholic on He Don't Belong To Me, Is it Deep or just sad? Either way it wasn't going to languish in Atlantic's vaults if Kent had anything to do with it.
The Isley Brothers get intense and then some on their self penned beauty The Last Girl-.-like Please Stay by Lou Johnson it's a Brill Building type of song, they do theirs in Big Apple Technicolor, while Lou applies some subtle Southern shades. The results are equally pleasing in different contexts.
Bobby Harris gives us a tribute to the man who inspired him and so many 60s soul singers, Sam Cooke-.-a singer full of Big City sophistication in his voice, yet more Sleepy Time Down South in his presentation. Bobby Marchan's version of Donnie Elbert's tear-inducing ballad What Can I Do was always the one old Jamaican Ska DJs favoured and you knew those guys experienced the music like it should be felt.
Country music has had a huge influence on Southern Soul-.-here we have a Merle Haggard and Bonnie Owens' classic, Today I Started Loving You Again performed by Bettye Swann. It's a full on production, dripping with strings that chugs along at a nice mid tempo which conveys emotions of the deepest kind.
More gut-wrenchingly despairing is Betty Lavette's version of Your Turn To Cry, one that will stay in your mind forever if you ever get a chance to see her perform it live.
Since seeing a Japanese copy of Dee Dee Sharpe's great ballad mis-spelt as 'Help Me Find My Glove', I've had some personal problems with taking the song seriously. Putting it on a CD has proved to be cathartic and I can now appreciate the song in all its splendour again.
Sometimes we may get so involved in championing our own causes and defending them against others that we miss the bigger picture. My own personal Road To Damascus was finding myself dancing to The Joe 90 Theme-.-I pray to Elvis And The Roadrunners that you don't have to suffer a similar Deep Soul indignity and can enjoy all the great tracks on this CD regardless of colour, creed, location or tempo.
If anyone has suggestions for a new term to cover all these wonderful variations in style of soul ballads please present them quickly, otherwise I may start using my own "Soul Snoggers" concept!
PS The repetition of the Baby Washington track from Dave Godin's Deep Soul Treasures was due to a contractual commitment (exacerbated by some human error on my part). It was therefore put on as the last track in case there was a danger of over-familiarity for you, the listener, who could then abort the disc without missing any of the unduplicated tracks.
By Harboro Horace