It’s a little hard for me to recognize and realize 2017 is really here. The majority of this decade has passed sands through the hourglass, and here I sit solidly in my middle thirties. Intertwined with that, it’s a little weird to think 1967 was 50 years ago.
Being a spoiled Californian, there’s plenty of reminders of that era around me at all times, notably the Cougars and Mustangs that still roam in packs on the streets of Oakland. We live in the legacy of activism from The Black Panther Party and the second wave sexual revolutions sparked by moments like the Compton Cafeteria Riots that happened here in the Bay Area on opposite sides of the Bay Bridge.
Mid-Century was losing the grip on reality, and The Summer Of Love (for white people) came mid-year. In a number of urban environments, inner cities neglected in the immediate post-war became powder kegs of oppressive politics, the lopsided results of “white flight” and the Suburbanization of America. Hand and Hand with love beads were Molotov Cocktails.
So what was happening in the world of R&B? We were looking at the transitions from the golden years of soul into solid funk, which left many a prominent player scrambling for an new perch or an escape hatch. We saw Florence Ballard, Gladys Horton and Doris Coley leave their founders slots in seminal girl groups The Supremes, The Marvelettes and The Shirelles.
As some names faded from grace and guaranteed income we start to see some influential voices of the next decade tip-toe into consciousness. From the last single of The Cookies we take the trade-off for the early works of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes.
We saw Holland-Dozier-Holland stage a work slowdown for better treatment at Motown as they hunted for their 5th evolution of their signature sound. We saw the rise of Porter & Hayes grabbing you by the biscuits and smothering you with a rhythm section coated in honey. Gamble & Huff got you rough and ready to make things steady. They and others continued to usher in new directions Soul Music would take as the decade would turn over.
We saw smooth strings give way to full fledged funk in some corners. And the strings get louder in others. Theatrical touches from Bond-themed undertones and overt tributes to tunes from Mame and Thoroughly Modern Millie made their ways to the airwaves, if not always to the charts.
In this expansive journey that takes us through 2 hours of soundtrack to the year of ’67, we go coast to coast from L.A to New York with stops in between in Houston, New Orleans, Memphis, Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia on a 50 song tour.
Big City Soul as the Sixties swung on doesn’t get any better than this collection. With this reflection of struggle, strife, sweetness and sexiness from 50 years ago, I wish us a prayer of keeping up, continuing and by miracle finishing the right fight started for us then this year.
18) Marvin Gaye – When I Feel The Need
35) Archie Bell & The Drells – A Soldier’s Prayer