Northern Boulevard

27 Aug

Northern Boulevard

Nothing anchors interest like an unusual cover song. A few tracks into this mix, Della Reese’s salty version of Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man” grounds us in a mid-60s soul-jazz vibe that I’ve been wanting to explore. Reese almost chuckles through her bad luck in love. She rattles off names–Billy, Lou, and the other girls–rapping cocktail talk while the big band holds back. “It be’s that way, sometimes,” Simone answers. If her follow-up song declines to offer consolation, she acknowledges the parade of walk-outs, “guys who’ve got [their] hats and made [themselves] hard to find.”

The musicians on “Northern Boulevard” equate love with pain, commonly enough, and they distinguish themselves in this sentiment with the complete absence of self-pity. They don’t want your sympathy. They want to impart a lesson. Or issue a warning, like Terry Callier’s exclusive 7″ version of “You’re Goin’ Miss Your Candyman.” On his essential 1972 album What Color is Love, Callier presents “Candyman” with pushy languor that places him just past the threshold of the bedroom door. Does he want to stay or go? You might not notice that the song exceeds seven minutes as you try to unravel his intent. Recorded in 1968, the 45 rpm single that I’ve included possesses none of the same uncertainty. Callier’s rhythm section runs up and down the same flight of stairs; horns and handclaps build to crackling intensity. The song culminates in the colossal energy required to make a definitive break: “I might not ever come back at all.”

The tracks that follow fall loosely between genres, ranging from rockin’ bones to R&B. In the second half of the mix, you’ll hear a few Northern standards like “Magic Corner” by Belita Woods that absolutely demand a wider audience. And the session concludes with two of my favorite ballads that remain somewhat underplayed, even among the most fastidious soul collectors. That being said, I don’t want to misrepresent myself; this isn’t a mix for obsessives or aficionados. These are current favorites in my living room. I spent several weeks compiling the records with the goal of making something that would appeal to funkrunt readers–informed, curious, and eclectic in their tastes.

Track List:
1. Gloria Walker – Talking About My Baby
2. Tony Adams – The Blues Don’t Like Nobody
3. Shep Grant – You Found My Lonely Heart a Home
4. Della Reese – Solitary Woman
5. Nina Simone – It Be’s That Way Sometimes
6. Terry Callier – You’re Goin’ Miss Your Candyman
7. The Dynamics – Misery
8. Jean & The Darlings – How Can You Mistreat The One You Love
9. Bobby Brown – A Woman and Some Soul
10. Beau Williams – Outside Love
11. Belita Woods – Magic Corner
12. Arnold Albury & The Casuals – My Baby Don’t Understand
13. Steve Mancha – I Don’t Want to Lose You
14. The Chosen Few – Birth of a Playboy
15. Della Humphrey – Don’t Make the Good Girls Go Bad
16. Marva Josie – You Lied
17. Bill Coday – A Woman Rules the World
18. Willie Tee – My Heart Remembers
19. Doris Troy – He Don’t Belong to Me

Photo credit: Maurice Seymour.

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