This is a pic of the wondrous Carla Thomas performing at the legendary Wattstax concert in 1972. While every day is a good day to celebrate her endless fabulosity, today I have a more specific reason to talk her up as she is a key player within one of my weirdest musical obsessions: covers of ’70s soft rock songs done by soul artists in the actual ’70s. I know. You’re like wtf, that is really, really specific and nerdy. But it is a more vast, beautiful and magnificently weird world than you can imagine…and I really want you to hear what I’m talking about.
I wrote a piece here at PuR a while back but have blown it up to epic proportions over at Cover Me. There you will find a demented and infatuated essay titled “My Cover Story: Soul In The Middle Of The Road” where I break down some of the absolute finest and craziest R & B covers of ’70s soft rock songs ever-ever-ever. When I say you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Donny Hathaway turning a smoky LA club into a church on his version of “You’ve Got A Friend” or Walter Jackson rambunctiously reinterpreting Elton John’s “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” and covering it with white powder or Carla walking down and owning James Taylor’s “Country Road”, well, you haven’t lived.
I’ll explain, share 30(!) soft-soul covers and talk all kinds of loved up (and brutally honest) shiz about the songs and the artists responsible, as well as describe how years of sitting in the back seat of my Mom’s car and being endlessly showered with the sounds of ’70s AM pop radio, did unspeakable things to my future musical taste. Plus if you have a little soul in your heart, I promise you will fall in love with at least one of the covers (or be seriously confused by them and hey, that’s always fun).
Click here to check it out!
Come soul with me…
p.s. We are currently at work on a massive “rate the album-ponder existence” essay on a big, famous old band for PuR. It is stadium-size and all shades of nuts and coming soon…
BIG YAY! A big Hope item to read going into the weekend, and it’s Soul and it’s Covers. It’s either Christmas come late or Christmas come early. After you making me aware of the Donny-You’ve Got A friend – I’m so looking forward to discovering more diamonds. Thanks!
Ha, it’s a total beast Dave! Let me know what you think 🙂
Spent a few days with this…. loved this so much! This is the auditory adventure I didn’t even realize I needed right now! It was especially fun listening after getting those juicy intros before heading in. It’s so surprising how these recordings hit you now. And it’s interesting remembering how it wasn’t uncommon at all for a soul group to cover a top rock act. I admit, I wasn’t as into it back then but was far less open. Musicians were much more in-tune and together back then though. We’re missing some of that now. But, I also think you bring these gems to light at the best possible time. As if they aged into some new magical, sound.
Can’t stop listening to, It Don’t Matter to Me, Come Down in Time, Fire and Rain and Dirty Work!
This threw my YouTube feed into a 70’s wonderland of treasures!
This is simply superb. Soul vs Soft Rock vs Covers -genius. Not a bad track among them. I was going to list my faves, but I got to about x 14 and realised that basically, I love them all. And the writing and descriptions (too many to highlight) – spot on and warm and put a smile on my face for the duration of reading and listening. 2 x Hall and Oates covers too. What’s not to like. Randy Crawford transformed that song into something great and unrecognisable to the original. Dramatics AND H+O? Woo hoo! Lattimore – perfection. Viola with the almost mariachi horns. We already know of the power of Donny – hope this item spreads the news further. And I always thought that E.L.O.- Showdown needed a soul cover – you found it! I used to play Dirty Work a lot in the shop I worked in back in 79. The other guys ridiculed me no end for having the audacity to prefer this to Steely Dan. (and Richard Perry requires something to be written about his productions, Hope!). And the icing on this particular Covers Cake – Wilson Picket doing Love Will Keep Us Together. You can see that he knows this isn’t your typical Wilson song – but he gives it his all and conquers. An absolute joy hearing these, but just as important, an absolute pleasure in reading what you’ve written about each song. I can’t give enough praise. Thank you! Think what a great double album this would make…..
Dave! I’m so, so glad you dug it! Total labor of love! That’s so weird that you mentioned Richard Perry as I have been digging into a bunch of his stuff over the past week and revisiting the Pointer Sisters 2 rock-flavored albums (both of which I find intriguingly weird)! I know Steely fans who detest the Sisters version but they just don’t get it (so you were way ahead of your time ;)) What’s funny is some of the covers were a slow burn for me and it took time for me to fall in love with them, and now, I prefer 90% of them to the originals, seriously, which is crazy:) I’m at that stage that if I were doing a road trip with these 31 songs booming in the car, I could do every drum fill and bizarro, beautiful vocal embellishment, right down to Lattimore’s extraordinarily disturbing, uh, stuff! Thanks so much for your awesome feedback/joy ! And yes, you’ve already got me thinking about a future piece (again)!