Friday, January 5, 2001

McQ's Best Of 1967 Vol 2 - 1967's Super Soulsters' Deep Cuts Review

1. The Tears Of A Clown - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
2. Sweet Soul Music - Arthur Conley
3. Coming Back To Me Baby - Jams Carr
4. Chain Of Fools - Aretha Franklin
5. Standing In The Shadows Of Love - The Four Tops
6. Show Me - Joe Tex
7. Cold Sweat, Pt. 1 - James Brown & His Famous Flames
8. Oogum Boogum Song - Brenton Wood
9. The Hunter - Albert King
10. Some Kind Of Wonderful - Soul Brothers Six
11. Tramp - Otis Redding & Carla Thomas
12. Broke Down Piece Of Man - Sam & Dave
13. Do Right Woman, Do Right Man - Aretha Franklin
14. Mojo Mama - Wilson Pickett
15. The Dark End Of The Street - James Carr
16. Can't Turn You Loose - Otis Redding
17. Expressway To Your Heart - Soul Survivors
18. Oh, Pretty Woman - Albert King
19. Your Precious Love - Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
20. Red House - The Jimi Hendrix Experience
21. The Love I Saw In You Was Just A Mirage - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
22. Funky Broadway - Wilson Pickett
23. There Is - The Dells & Charles Stepney
24. A Lucky Loser - James Carr
25. Skinny Legs And All - Joe Tex
26. I'd Rather Go Blind - Etta James
27. Bernadette - The Four Tops
28. Dr. Feelgood - Aretha Franklin

Track List / Mix Write-up / Spotify /
McQ's Favorite Albums Of 1967
McQ's Favorite Songs Of 1967

About The Albums/Songs On This Mix:  Before we dive into the music on this mix, I just want to emphasize that putting this specific mix together was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had in the 11 years of building these collections.

1967 was quite simply a spectacular year in soul music, some of which I'd never really heard before, and going back and discovering or rediscovering the work of these 1967 masters was positively joyful.

So, starting with the singles - Show Me and Skinny Legs And All both come to use courtesy of Southern soul man and James Brown archival Joe Tex.

Born in 1935, Tex showed musical promise at very young age, so much so that his mother had to insist he hold off on signing a recording contract offer until after he finished high school.  But even with that early start - Tex started releasing material in the mid-50s - it would take him nearly a decade to record his first hit - 1964's Hold What You Got.

But by 1967, Tex's career was in full swing. The silly, comedic, and mildly sexist Skinny Legs would become Tex's second million-selling record.  Show Me did not chart as well, but it's an even better track, and would go on to become one his most frequently covered songs, performed and rerecorded by the likes of the Doobie Brothers, The Monkees, and a broad assortment of British blues and R&B oriented bands of the 60s and 70s.

Tex would continue to be a mainstay on the R&B charts until the early 1970s, when his growing commitment to the Nation of Islam began to pull him in a different direction. By the early 1980s, he had withdrawn from the music industry altogether.  He died of a heart attack in 1982 at the still young age of 47.

As to the James Brown rivalry - it's way too juicy and there's just too much history and urban mythology to go into here - let's just say the two singers came up in the industry together, their paths crossed frequently, and there are multiple claims of proprietary theft and career tampering from both camps. 

Sweet Soul Music comes to us from Georgia-born, Otis Redding protege Arthur Conley.

Conley's second single released under Redding's tutelage, the shout-out celebration to the great names in the genre at that time went on to become one of the biggest hits of the year, finishing 17th in Billboard's 1967 Hot 100 and paved the way for several more minor hits in the years that followed.

But Conley had a secret.

A closeted homosexual, the pressures of maintaining the facade on the soul circuit eventually became too much, and by the mid-70s Conley had left America for what was, at the time, a more open-minded Europe. There he changed his name to Lee Roberts, and went on to find greater happiness and a certain level of success as a performer, producer, and talent manager.

He died in the Netherlands in 2003 at the age of 57. 

Next, let's look at three minor soul artists who, if not quite one hit wonders, all had their biggest year by far in 1967.

Louisiana-born, Compton-raised Brenton Wood's undeniable The Oogum Boogum Song, though his first single to ever chart, was not his biggest single in 1967. That honor goes to follow-up single Gimme Little Sign, which finished #26 for 1967 in Billboard's year-end Hot 100. But over the year's, though both tracks have shown legs, it's been The Oogum Boogum Song that's most endured in the minds of critics, fans and musicians alike, covered by Big Star's Alex Chilton, and recently brought back into public consciousness via its prominent usage in the soundtrack of HBO's comedy series Eastbound And Down.

Though Wood produced only three more charting singles over the next decade, he has remained active in music to some degree to this present day.

Expressway To Your Heart was the first and biggest single ever for Philadelphia's Soul Survivors, who would place a few more songs on the R&B charts over the next seven years.

It's notable in this mix for being the only inclusion by an all-white band, but it's a far more important song historically, as it was the first hit single for the songwriter/production team and future Philadelphia International Records label heads Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, who would be amongst the most important names in soul and disco throughout the 1970s.

True one-hit wonders, Rochester, New York's Soul Brothers Six, though active for over a decade (1965-1976) with an ever-shifting line-up, only made the charts once.

But talk about a song with legs.  Though their original version of Some Kind Of Wonderful only peaked at #91 on the weekly Billboard charts, covers of the song would chart three additional times, (most notably the Grandfunk Railroad cover in 1974, which would reach #3 on the weekly charts), and the song would also go on to inspire a John Hughes-produced movie of the same title in 1987.

Aretha Franklin appears multiple times on this mix, but Chain Of Fools, unlike all the other tracks in our '67 collection, was not part of her landmark 1967 album I Never Loved A Man The Way That I Love You. Rather, the single originally penned at the urging of Atlantic producer Jerry Wexler by veteran soul singer/songwriter Don Covay for Otis Redding.

Upon hearing a rough demo, Wexler decided the song was better suited for Aretha, and passed it along to her instead, making it the second song in this year's mix collection that Aretha in some way stole from Otis Redding (the other obviously being her cover of Respect).

Chain Of Fools was released late in 1967, reached #2 on the pop charts in early 1968, and would later be included on Franklin's fantastic 1968 full-length release Lady Soul.  Rolling Stone later ranked it as one of the all time 500 greatest songs in popular music, and it presently sits in the #342 position on

There Is was an absolute career-changer for the Harvey, Illinois-born, Hall Of Fame vocal group The Dells.

By 1966, the band had already been scoring modest hits on the R&B charts and touring for thirteen years.  After a '66 tour serving as Ray Charles' backing vocalists ended and their label at that moment, Vee-Jay, went bankrupt, they returned to Chess Records for a third time, this time under sub-label Cadet, and were introduced to producer/songwriter Bobby Miller and arranger Charles Stepney.

The pairing would prove near miraculous.

There Is, the lead single (a Miller song the group initially hated) from their late 1967 album of the same name became their first ever top-20 hit on the pop charts. There Is the album would spawn three other major charters as well, including the six-and-a-half-minute Stay In My Corner, and catapulted The Dells into the top echelon of the R&B world, where they remained, delivering hit after hit until they left Cadet and moved to Mercury in 1975 and their career began to cool.

The band did remain active though well into the 2000s, scoring another hit in 1980 and then again in 1991 with A Heart Is A House For Love from the soundtrack to director Robert Townsend's The Five Heartbeats (a film loosely based on the career of The Dells and for which they served as primary musical consultants), making the band one of only two in history to land songs on the singles charts in five different decades.

Few female R&B/Blues singers had a longer/more critically revered career, or a more turbulent life, than California's Etta James.

A performer since her teen days in the 1950s in California, she landed with Chess Records in 1960 and scored a number of hits at the start of the decade, but by 1967 a longtime heroin addiction, several failed relationships, and a habit of fighting with producers had her career in a serious tailspin and drove her into isolation. When she finally re-emerged ready to work, Chess heads felt a change of scenery would be temporarily best for all parts, and had her head out-of-house and down to Alabama to record with Muscle Shoals' producer Rick Hall instead.

The collaboration would prove quite fruitful, adding a layer of grit and muscle to James up-to-that-point smoother sound, and would lead to one of the greatest A-side/B-Side singles of all time - the 1967 pairing of the rocking Tell Mama (featured on Nancy's Favorites) with the searing blues ballad I'd Rather Go Blind, featured here. Both songs were huge successes, and I'd Rather Go Blind has gone on to become one of the most-covered R&B ballads of all-time.

Tramp, the playful, spirited 1967 Otis Redding/Carla Thomas cover of a grittier Lowell Fulsom blues hit from earlier that same year, came about primarily due to the efforts of Stax label co-founder Jim Stewart, who just had a hunch pairing the gruff voice of emerging international superstar Redding with the super smooth stylings of local soul prodigy Thomas  (who was still getting her M.A. in English at Howard at the time) would work - and work it did.  The resulting album, King and Queen, went gold, was one of the bigger soul releases of the year and a huge success overseas...spawning not just one but three hit singles on the R&B charts.

It was also, for trivia buffs, one of the first songs in recording history to pull a live sample, with guitarist Steve Cropper repeatedly lifting the opening riff from the Temptation's 1966 hit (I Know) I'm Losing You for use as a textural element in the song.

Another male/female pairing that had tremendous success in 1967 was that of established Motown superstar Marvin Gaye and young ingenue Tammi Terrell.  Their first recording, the classic single Ain't No Mountain High Enough, appears on Nancy's Favorites, and their follow-up single, Your Precious Love, an even bigger hit for the act at the time, appears here.

Sticking with Motown (as it was an unbelievably prolific year for the label), another act to release a multitude of '67 gems was Smokey Robinson and The Miracles. In addition to their biggest hit of the year, I Second That Emotion, featured on Nancy's Favorites, they also released two of my personal all-time favorite Motown songs, both featured here - the undeniable Tears Of A Clown, co-written with Stevie Wonder, and the less well-remembered but still gorgeous The Love I Saw In You Was Just A Mirage.

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