Sunday, January 2, 2011

Top 10 Soulful American Love Classics

You will notice the incredible amount of difficulty I had in making this list because I excluded Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, Michael Jackson, Prince, Aaliyah and Ray Charles among others (I may come back and turn this into a top 25 list, then top 50, then top 75, then top 100. There is just wwaaayyy too much good Soul Music out there. I wish Jazz-Rap fusion, my favorite genre, had this many talented musicians working on it over the years.)

10. Bobby Womack- If You Think You're Lonely Now

Most of the time, background sounds and singing add little to a song. But the background singing and the single notes of the guitar (the guitar in this song is rarely played in chords) are PERFECT to back-up Womack's expressive voice.

Pain and resilience are evident in Womack's raspy voice. Womack's narrator holds on to notes like we know he is going to hold on to the memory of this woman.

By the end of this song, we are more convinced of the loneliness the narrator will face when he leaves his woman than the loneliness this woman will feel.

9.Quincy Jones- The Secret Garden

Okay, the title may be lame and cliched, but the song itself is not. Quincy Jones's best work features two voices (and multiple singers, featuring Al B. Sure, James Ingram, El' Debarge & Barry White) which work well in tandem, one a deep bass and the other a treble.

It seemlessly switches between the two voices, using the bass for declarative statements and demands, while the higher voice considers the feelings and point-of-view of the woman. (You can see this as the ying and yang or the masculine and feminine voices of the narrator himself.)

The piano play, for the most part, is just one chord played three times then another chord played once, but it absolutely fits the song and contrasts well with what are some pretty complicated bars of singing.

This would be a great song for any couple about to have their first time.

8. Third World- Now That We Found Love

Unfortunately, this song has a bad intro that is too reggae for this sincere love song that seems to suddenly switch direction when the intro is over. The reggae drumbeats continue even when the singing starts and are most prominent during the chorus. If it had not been for the intro, the drumbeats and the instrumentals in general, this song likely would have cracked the top 5.

You can forgive that this song uses thought-stopping techniques to a degree that would make even modern pop stars and politicians blush.

If there is so many problems with this song, you may be thinking, why is it number 9 on this list?

The chorus is so sweet and harmonious, we can forgive that the constant repetition is a thought-stopping technique.

Love is not enough is a statement we have all experienced in our lives. Once we have "found love" the road tends to get difficult not easy. This time is the time to both proceed with caution AND abandon our fears.

This song is one which implores us to throw up our hands, abandon our fears and just DANCE the night away.

It is great for those moments in our relationships which reach a turning point.

7. Barry White- Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe.

Short of Michael Jackson, Elvis and Johnny Cash, Barry White probably has the most recognizable voice in American Music History.

This spot could have easily been any number of Barry White songs, including "Just the Way You Are" and "My First, My Last, My Everything."

I decided to include this song because it gives you something you do not usually get with Barry songs, some (relatively) high notes that he hits with ease.

The song also has a great build up to its chorus, and switches from singing to Barry talking with great ease.

The tempo matches that upbeat feeling you get when your relationship reaches that "puppy" love era and has not reached that "real" love era.

This is the era "You Can't Get Enough" of that special lady you met just 7 or 8, or 5 or 6, or even 1 month ago. You can't keep your hands off this girl, you call her pet names, your friends call you whipped but you don't care, you have various inappropriate PDAs and, most of all, you are not afraid to throw on this song and emberass yourself and your lady-friend in front of your and her friends with your best Barry White impression.

6. Marvin Gaye- Let's Get It On

OK, this isn't one you would play in front of your friends. (You would?!?! You kinky one, you!)

This one is bedroom theatrics at its best, just make sure you're fresh and you're awake enough to bring your A game when you put this song on. Anything less would be a disappointment and a black eye to this great, raunchy song.

Let's keep this explanation short, because if you and your girl are reading this article right now, you probably checked out after the first sentence, hit the play button below and are getting it on right now.

5. Boyz II Men- I'll Make Love to You

Changing direction from that kinky girl you know to the girl you are trying to wife (one and the same?!?! You lucky dog, you!)

Seriously, do not play this song unless you plan to make a serious time and emotional commitment to a girl you hope to marry.

This song and the guys were featured on the episode "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" where Will (another native Philly guy) was supposed to get married (seriously, the series made it that far?)

Again, note the word wife has already been used once and the word married two times. WIFE, MARRIAGE, WIFE, MARRIAGE, WIFE, MARRIAGE. Great song, if it's a girl you think you may or may not call again in a week or two, go find something else to get you in the mood.

4.Mary J. Blige- "Real Love"

Upbeat, fun and powerful. This narrator is the strong, independent woman who is not going to be afraid to throw out the bozo even if she has reached the wrong side of 30 and is running out of options.

No, this girl is going to get what she wants and deserves even if it is going to take some time.

3.Xscape- Who Can I Run To

This one is a gem that took me a little bit of searching to find.

Xscape rang a bell but I did not know the band or the song before I found it on this list of the Top 100 Soul  and R & B Songs of All Time.

I fell in love with the intro from the first note, and patiently anticipated the vocals when a big "AHHHHH" sigh came and almost made me stop the song right then and there.

Thank god I didn't, and listened to the rest of the song, which is only enhanced by the "AHHHHHs" if only because this single mistake shows how perfect the rest of the song is.

The singing is quiet subdued, and this song is the opposite side of the coin of Mary J. Blige's "Real Love."

This narrator is a girl who is not afraid to admit she needs a man in her life, a shoulder to rest her head on and someone to run to, and, trust me, she will find it.

2. Al Green- Let's Stay Together

One of the few (or only) soul songs with trumpets as the intro, but they are quiet appropriate in summoning this love song.

Al Green is at his best when he is hitting a crescendo on a single word, as he does many times over on this song.

The narrator seems like the laidback, nice guy who is a little shy that a girl may not go crazy over at first, but ever time she sees him, she falls just a little and a little and a little deeper.

And as this short song goes on, so too does the listener go deeper and deeper and deeper into loving it.

1. Roberta Flack- Killing Me Softly With His Song

You have probably heard the Fugees' version of this song, and known there was another version out there, but may not have had the chance to listen to Roberta Flack's version of "Killing Me Softly With His Song" (which, in itself, is a cover of a pretty unknown song.)

After listening to this for the first time, I could not decide which version (The Fugees' or Roberta Flack's) I liked best.

I decided on Roberta's because, not only is her voice so sweet, her voice more easily fits the "Killing Me Softly" category than Lauryn Hill's. This makes her voice match the words better than Lauryn's, and also gives our spines and our hearts a jump when she reaches the "oohhhh oohhhh ohhh ohh ohhh whoa ohhhh la la la la la" part toward the end of the song.

Man, whoever was the inspiration for these lyrics and this song must be extremely flattered.