Please help me find great, unknown "hidden gem" soul and R&B artists.
February 23, 2008 4:54 PM   Subscribe

I've recently started devouring 60's and 70's era soul and R&B music. My favorites are Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Jackie Wilson, Otis Redding, etc. I feel I've mastered the well-knowns, and am now looking for lesser known artists in the vein of Howard Tate: fantastic, but virtually ignored by the masses. Can you help me find other cult favorites / hidden gems?
posted by amanlikeme to Media & Arts (55 answers total) 88 users marked this as a favorite
Chuck Jackson, my hero.

Little Anthony and the Imperials

Irma Thomas

Aaron Neville

The O'Jays

The Staples Singers

Man, this is a lifetime journey...
posted by unSane at 5:01 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

some more

Garnet Mimms
The Impressions
The Isley Brothers
Betty Lavette
Lee Dorsey
The Meters
Maxine Brown
Ruth Brown
Ann Peebles
The Tams
Toussaint McCall
Tyrone Davis
posted by unSane at 5:08 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

BTW, Stateside Records in the UK became the dominant re-release vector for fantastic old soul recordings from EMI and Capitol in the 1980s. Pretty much everthing they released was worth buying. Also Kent records, dunno if they're still going. I spent money on stuff from these labels that could have been spent on beer. That's how good they were!
posted by unSane at 5:11 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Solomon Burke. From the wiki bio:
In the 1960s, he signed with Atlantic Records and began moving towards more secular music. His first hit was "Just Out Of Reach Of My Open Arms", a cover of a country song. Though well-received by both peers and critics, and attaining a few moderate pop and several major R&B hits, Burke never could quite break through into the mainstream as did Sam Cooke or Otis Redding.
Sounds like exactly what you're looking for. My introduction to his music was actually one of his more recent albums, Don't Give Up On Me. It's great.
posted by jewishbuddha at 5:17 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Betty Lavette is smokin

Though he is not soul or R&B, check out Tim Buckley. He has some very reminiscent of R&B vocals.
posted by munchingzombie at 5:17 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

I forgot Curtis Mayfield
posted by unSane at 5:17 PM on February 23, 2008

Here are some links to help you out:

Numero Group

I've enjoyed every release from this label. Check out their Eccentric Soul series.

Soul Strut
Nice soul blog.

Soul Sides
Another great blog.

All Music Guide
Great site for researching music. The similar groups feature is nice.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 5:19 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Meters aren't "unknown" - more like criminally under-appreciated.

And also, if you haven't already, take some time to look through y2karl's fantastic music posts on the blue. Lots of great R&B and soul goodness in there - be sure to check for his in-thread comments as well.
posted by googly at 5:19 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

don't forget Wilson Pickett - and one of my faves, the vastly underrated Bill Withers
posted by gnutron at 5:20 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Phoebe Snow
posted by cashman at 5:26 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

another Betty, Betty Davis (funk, soul, crazy sexy vocals)
posted by pedmands at 5:28 PM on February 23, 2008

I too was going to say Bill Withers, who I agree is amazingly underrated. Check out his live album, if you can. It breathes new life into songs you've heard too many times like "Ain't No Sunshine."
posted by ibmcginty at 5:28 PM on February 23, 2008

Funky 16 Corners will introduce you to a lot of wonderful and (often) obscure artists, including a lot of Philly Soul. But their blog and their podcasts, stuffed with mp3s of stuff usually hard to find elsewhere, will be life-changing. (OK, slight exaggeration, but it is an absolutely brilliant site).
posted by maudlin at 5:33 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

There's always tracking down the Rhino Records comp Beg, Scream and Shout: The Big Ol' Box of 60's Soul. Or the Atlantic Records soul comp. Or the Stax Records comp. There's a Philly Sound comp I also dig. They all made me want to search out more recordings by some of the artists on them.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:34 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

James Carr.
"You Got My Mind Messed Up"
"The Dark End Of The Street"

And if you want an almost daily dose of rarely-heard, out-of-print, ripped-from-vinyl funk and soul, I'd recommend the Lost-In-Tyme music blog. But I'd check it out quickly, as many such "sharity"-based music blogs are facing DMCA complaints and may not be long for this world.
posted by grabbingsand at 5:36 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Joe Simon, Eugene McDaniels, Allen Toussaint, Little Milton, Terry Callier, Willie Hightower, James Carr, Eddie Floyd, Eddie Jefferson, James Carr, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, The Delfonics, Little Willie John, James Booker, William Bell, Johnny Taylor, Don Covay, Bobby Womack, Shuggie Otis, Fontella Bass, and on and on

You also might check out the Numero Group's Eccentric Soul Series (Capsoul Label, Twilight, & Big Mac label are really good) . Really outstanding. Also various soul comps in the Soul Jazz records catalog. (Miami Sound, both New Orleans comps, Chicago Soul and the Soul Gospel comps are my favorites. If you can find it, a comp called "California Soul' has a lot of really great rare tracks.

I made an informal 5 CD " Rare Soul Box' for some friends a few Xmases ago. I'd be happy to send you the tracklist. MeFi Mail me if you're interested
posted by thivaia at 5:41 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don Covay
OV Wright
Betty Wright
Linda Lyndell
Ann Peebles
Johnny Copeland
I also highly recommend this compilation from Trikont. Good obscure raw southern soul.
posted by jonmc at 5:49 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Arthur Alexander.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:03 PM on February 23, 2008

The Dells
Marlena Shaw
Bobby Womack
posted by Bookhouse at 6:04 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Free Form Radio Station 91.1 WFMU-FM (New Jersey,USA) Has a program on Friday Nights from 7pm-8pm called "Downtown Soulville" with Mr. Finewine

You can listen Live over the internet or anytime from the Program Archives.

The show has very rare artists and is lots of fun.
posted by blast at 6:17 PM on February 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Another vote for Bill Withers. I knew there was someone else I wanted to recommend, but the name totally slipped my mind. And I definitely agree with ibmcginty's recommendation of the live album
posted by jewishbuddha at 6:56 PM on February 23, 2008

I second Stax Records. They have a great box set of all their's full of lesser known, but great stuff.

I third The Meters and I agree with Googly that they are criminally under-appreciated. For my money Look-Ka Py Py is the funkiest album of all time.
posted by keith0718 at 7:05 PM on February 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Also, searching for "Northern Soul .torrent" on Google will bring much joy.

(if you don't know what Northern Soul is, Google it without the .torrent bit or do a Metafilter search).
posted by unSane at 7:06 PM on February 23, 2008

Tons of great suggestions here -- I especially love Curtis Mayfield/the Impressions, Eddie Floyd, Garnett Mimms, Don Covay, Solomon Burke, and Chuck Jackson.

Nthing mandymanwasregistered's suggestion of tracking down the Beg, Scream, and Shout box set -- it is spectacular, and worth every penny. (Or heck, I'll burn you the set if you want to do an exchange of some sort).

You should also keep an eye out for the Kent compilations on Ace Records-- great, great soul rarities. This is one of my favorites, especially "Easy as Saying 1-2-3" by Timmy Willis (amazing, Redding-esque heartbreaker of a song).
posted by scody at 7:07 PM on February 23, 2008

The Complete Stax Volt record company Singles 1959-1968 box set is amazing, if you can get a copy of it. (this page also has it for sale, and has the track list.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:13 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hank Ballard

Otis Clay
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:16 PM on February 23, 2008

This thread makes me think of early Candi Staton songs:
I'm Just a Prisoner (I love love LOVE this song)
He called Me Baby
If you like those two you'll like the rest of the album.

She has an interesting history and musical progression into disco in the 70's, then gospel and christian pop which she still does now. That early album is one of my favorites of all time.
posted by dog food sugar at 7:21 PM on February 23, 2008

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings (Wikipedia), a contemporary revivalist soul band.

In addition to Atlantic Rhythm & Blues 1947-1974 and The Complete Stax-Volt Singles 1959-1968 that mandymanwasregistered mentioned, get Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971.

Northern Soul is obscure '60s soul that was popular in northern England. Gloria Jones' "Tainted Love" is a Northern Soul classic.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:23 PM on February 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Great Aretha Franklin: The First 12 Sides is a great lesser-known album from Aretha's transition from gospel to pop.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:28 PM on February 23, 2008

Check out Stones Throw's boutique label Soul Cal. Their releases are soul (with an edge of funk) records from bands that never quite made the big time. Good stuff.

My favorite recent soul finds are:

Candi Staton

Pimps of Joytime
I found these artists and many more via Captains Crate (which is Soul Side's fraternal twin/partner).
posted by cinemafiend at 7:33 PM on February 23, 2008

My favorite of all time soul collection is The Heart and Soul of Bert Berns. It's an incredible group of songs all written or produced by Bert Berns. Get it.
posted by wemayfreeze at 7:55 PM on February 23, 2008

Here you go... one stop shopping. Seriously, stax was awesome and if you actually wanted to spend money on this the box sets are really great. I got them used and they rock my world.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:59 PM on February 23, 2008

And seconding Solomon Burke.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:00 PM on February 23, 2008

Brenton Wood
posted by dirtdirt at 8:07 PM on February 23, 2008

I thought I'd add why Chuck Jackson is my hero.

This video of Any Day Now pretty much says it all. My favourite song of all time. Only Toussaint McCall's Nothing Takes the Place of You comes close.
posted by unSane at 8:19 PM on February 23, 2008

(also this rendition of I Don't Want to Cry is just sensational, especially the little striptease).
posted by unSane at 8:27 PM on February 23, 2008

Nthing James Carr and Chuck Jackson and adding Doris Duke and Spencer Wiggins.

And, for powerful contemporary voice, I recommend both The Detroit Cobras and The Bellrays, though their music is much harder than the stuff above.
posted by dobbs at 8:35 PM on February 23, 2008

James Carr.

Listen to "You Got My Mind Messed Up" and you'll know how under appreciated he was.
posted by doppleradar at 8:35 PM on February 23, 2008

Cool. Found a link for James Carr
posted by doppleradar at 8:38 PM on February 23, 2008

2nding O.V. Wright (amazing track: Let's Straighten It Out)

Also Benny Latimore - he wrote "Let's Straighten It Out" and is totally amazing.

Dixie Nightengales are r&b tinged gospel. I'd just get one track "All I Need Is Some Sunshine in My Life".

I don't know much about Willie Hutch but this is awesome:

also check out The International Player's Anthem for a sampled version of that with an awesome Andre 3000 rap in the begining.
posted by sully75 at 8:51 PM on February 23, 2008

Oh, and I'll 2nd Candi Staton and add Mary Wells.
posted by dobbs at 8:52 PM on February 23, 2008

CiTR, UBC's college and community radio station (where I hang out, myopicman has a show, and radiocontrolled is the station manager) has a show on Friday nights from 10-midnight (PST) that sounds like it's right up your alley.

It's also got a podcast, here:
posted by heeeraldo at 9:13 PM on February 23, 2008

People have already mentioned most of what I had to offer. But also wanted to throw in a mention for Aretha Franklin's sisters, Erma Franklin and Carolyn Franklin. Started listening to them recently and have been digging them quite a bit - both are almost up to Aretha's level. Erma's "Soul Sister" album had a small CD reissue a couple years ago.. not too sure about the other recordings, but i'm sure the internetz has them somewhere.
posted by p3t3 at 9:32 PM on February 23, 2008

I cannot recommend Twinight's Lunar Rotation enough. (And now I'm off to check out all the other recs here...)
posted by hilatron at 10:47 PM on February 23, 2008

The fact that Ann Pebbles hasn't been mentioned yet seems to qualify her as a "hidden gem".
posted by lovejones at 1:53 AM on February 24, 2008

Toots and the Maytals

He is associated closely with Reggae because he comes out of Jamaica, and the music is indeed in the Reggae style, but do not let this keep you from exploring Toots. It is not the Reggae you are accustomed to a la Marley and everything after. It is soul and R&B, and Toots is a soul singer ON PAR with the artists you mention. He should be in your list.

Go to their myspace page and sample a song or two. 54-46 and Pressure Drop are both good ones. After that grab an anthology or greatest hits thingie, or if you album collect, Funky Kingston.
posted by poppo at 3:13 AM on February 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

That's a great point about Toots. The man is a soul singer par excellence. He used to live close to me and play one of the local dives now and then. There would be maybe 100 people in the audience. It was like watching Elvis.
posted by unSane at 4:47 AM on February 24, 2008

Shuggie Otis
posted by Brian B. at 9:34 AM on February 24, 2008

Ted Taylor
posted by AJaffe at 10:06 AM on February 24, 2008

Thirding poppo -- Toots & the Maytals got soul!
posted by scody at 1:01 PM on February 24, 2008

Presenting Boscoe.

Total pressing, 500 copies.
posted by timsteil at 1:05 PM on February 24, 2008

Smokey Robinson / The Miracles
Curtis Mayfield / The Impressions
There are shed loads of brilliant obscure tracks on Tamla Motown
that are finally getting a decent reissue program.
Thom Bell produced much first class soul music
but remains AFAIK un-anthologised,
check out The Delfonics and The Stylistics.
Also Barry White with Love Unlimited etc.
The Kent label is nonpareil. The first three volumes (at least)
of Dave Godin's Deep Soul Treasures are peerless compilations
of some of the best music ever recorded.
I'll 3rd. Candi Staton and 2nd. Mary Wells and add Doris Duke.
Have fun...and remember it is possible to live on soul music alone. You don't have to waste your money on food.
posted by Dr.Pill at 2:34 PM on February 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

You should absolutely check out Darondo.

From his label's website: "A mystery to most, Darondo records are high on the wants-lists of many collectors. He is spoken about in hushed-tones by other Bay Area musicians... Take a listen to these tracks, released for the first time together on an album, and you may agree that he could have been the next Al Green or Sly Stone. But about 25 years ago Darondo disappeared."

His songs give me chills.
posted by polyester.lumberjack at 4:38 PM on February 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wow, if you already know Howard Tate, you're doing fine. I'd add Chicago 60s soulster Major Lance, who went to the same high school as Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler, and had a big hit with the Curtis Mayfield-written "The Monkey Time," a fantastic little tune. Mayfield wrote a bunch of other stuff for Lance, including some of the best unknown soul of the 60s, imho, but none of it went anywhere.
posted by mediareport at 10:13 PM on February 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Bobby "Blue" Bland. You can hear some clips here
posted by ericost at 11:16 AM on February 29, 2008

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