Soul/R&B Starter Set for StDionysus


23 May 2010, 20:31

StDionysus said:
I'm looking for RnB/Soul recommendations. My knowledge in this field is very limited.
Something along the lines of Marvin Gaye, Issac Hayes, O.V Wright, Bill Withers etc. (Maybe even more stuff by said artists)

I apologize if this has been covered a hundred times.

Well, I'll second the reco for Superfly.

So, cutting a pretty wide swath from the ridiculous to the sublime, here are ten in no particular order:

The Pharaohs Awakening
Bobby Womack Understanding
Percy Mayfield Poet Of The Blues
Mavis Staples We'll Never Turn Back
Baby Huey & the Babysitters
The Living Legend
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings 100 Days, 100 Nights
The Impressions The Impressions (the "birthplace" of Curtis Mayfield & Jerry Butler)
Rufus Thomas Walkin' the dog
Black Merda Black Merda
The Bar-Kays Money Talks

This is just a surface skimming of some artists that you might like. Plenty more roads to travel down if you like (any of) these. Black Merda & TThe Pharaohs are the most energetic, with the Bar-Kays close behind.

The Bar-Kays were Isaac Hayes backing band & Stax/Volt house band. They are part of the whole Memphis soul contingent: Isaac Hayes, Booker T & the MGs, Steve Cropper, Otis Redding, Rufus & Carla Thomas, Screamin' jay Hawkins.

Half of The Pharaohs became the Phenix Horns (Earth Wind & Fire) & the other half stayed with their avant-garde jazz mentor Phil Cohran, who was part of Sun Ra's band in the 50s. Black Merda & The Pharaohs were mainstays of the Chicago hard rock tinged R&B scene in the 60s, as contrasted with the more soul oriented Curtom (Curtis O. Mayfield) brand, represented here by the Imperials & Baby Huey, and above by Superfly.

Percy Mayfield (no relation) was a Texas R&B man who went west to LA during the 40s. He was a prolific songwriter, and had just started to hit it big when he had a bad car crash that left him with a scarred face, shattered confidence, and a bottle habit that would never quit. His is a much quieter R&B.

Bobby Womack started his career as a gospel singer & teamed up with Sam Cooke. He has penned hits for more other artists than for himself, but his Understanding & the next year's Across 110th St. collaboration with J.J. Johnson are classics.

Mavis Staples is arguably the most well known part of The Staples Singers (Respect Yourself; I'll Take You There). The album here was a major step back to the big leagues, produced by Ry Cooder and reaching across genres to create a new R&B classic.

Sharon Jones is one of those "overnight sensations" who only took about 30 years to get noticed. She moved to Brooklyn as a teenager and in the 70s had all the work she could handle as a back up singer, but by the 80s her style of singing--a voice similar to Betty Davis or Bettye Lavette--was not well received by the recording companies. Desco Records (check this label out for amazing retro-soul albums) signed her in the 90s and in the 00s, she teamed up with the Dap-Kings (whose sound is also fairly synonymous with the Soul Providers, Desco's house band) & has put out three pretty nice albums to date.

Depending on which way you go, I can recommend more...


  • ydebru

    'What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye "Live At The Apollo, Volume 2" by James Brown "The Best Of Otis Redding", by the man himself.

    24 May 2010, 3:10
  • eagleheartt

    They aren't starter selections, but once you take the next step i think they're essential. Darondo - Let My People Go Lee Moses - Time And Place Always loved Syl Johnson, too.

    24 May 2010, 10:11
  • StDionysus

    Thanks, i knew you guys would be up to the task.

    24 May 2010, 22:34
  • tmills

    Sure I'm biased, but I love Memphis soul. Some great ones that beelzbubba didn't mention: Eddie Floyd (Knock on Wood), William Bell (You Don't Miss Your Water), Ann Peebles (I Can't Stand the Rain) and George Jackson (Aretha, Sing One for Me).

    12 Jun 2010, 3:11
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