Sunday, June 07, 2009

Sunday Soul - the Great American Soulbook

You're probably familiar with the term the Great American Songbook, the body of songs, primarily written between the 20's and 60's, that form the cannon of standards that singers of that period heavily drew upon. It's composed of songs written by such songwriters as Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and others, and if you look at any albums from the big acts of the day, you'll find all sorts of credits to them. Ella Fitzgerald even recorded a series of eight albums in the 50's and 60's titled The Complete Ella Fitzgerald Song Books.

Today's post is about none of those artists, writers, or songs. Instead, it's about the Great American Soulbook. Haven't heard of it? Well Tower of Power wants to change that with the release of their album of the same name. While talking about their live album The East Bay Archives Last December (back here), I had hinted that they were coming out with an album of soul covers, and now it's here, twelve prime cuts of soul goodness. Here's the line-up:
1. You Met Your Match (Stevie Wonder cover)
2. I Thank You (feat. Tom Jones) (Sam & Dave cover)
3. Loveland (Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band cover)
4. It Takes Two (feat. Joss Stone) (Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston cover)
5. Me & Mrs. Jones (Billy Paul cover)
6. Star Time ( Tribute To James Brown ) - "It's New Day""Mother Popcorn,""There It Is"&"I Got The Feelin"
7. Mr.Pitiful (feat. Sam Moore) (Otis Redding cover)
8. Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel (Tavares cover)
9. Since You've Been Gone (Baby, Baby, Sweet Baby) (Aretha Franklin cover)
10. (Heaven Must Have Sent) Your Precious Love (feat. Joss Stone) (Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell cover)
11. 643-5789 (feat. Huey Lewis) (Wilson Pickett cover)
12. Who Is He (And What Is He To You)? (Bill Withers cover)
While admittedly all of these cuts aren't necessarily the definitive soul songs of all time, they're still pretty darn good. On top of that, you might have noticed some guest vocalists adding their star power to the project, including Tom Jones, Joss Stone, Sam Moore (a genuine soul star of Sam & Dave fame), and Huey Lewis (maybe not the first, or 300th, name that comes to mind when talking about soul music, but he does an admirable job covering Wilson Pickett).

You can tell that the group is having a good time while performing these tracks, the first time really that TOP has devoted to covers. Overall, the songs are presented in a jazzed up, polished manner that are reminiscent of what was done with the Commitments soundtrack - a an updated, modern shine that simultaneously pays homage while bringing a new feel to the table. Below are a couple of tracks in which you can see what I mean. The first features Tom Jones singing a Stax track, I Thank You. The second is a medley of James Brown songs deftly woven together into an original arrangement, Star Time.

Visit their website.

the originals

Sam & Dave - I Thank You : I Thank You

James Brown - Mother Popcorn : 20 All Time Greatest Hits!

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