J.'s Reviews > The Rough Guide to Soul and R&B

The Rough Guide to Soul and R&B by Peter Shapiro
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Aug 14, 09

bookshelves: arts, history, music, reference, bio, rough-guides

From the Uk based Rough Guide series, a compilation that strives to make some sense of the six decades or so that were the crucible of Soul Music, R&B, and much of what now comprises any kind of Pop heard anywhere in the world.

A slight translation problem here is that when the author refers to Northern Soul, he's referring to a sensation in the north of England, a tumultuous reappraisal by British enthusiasts of the big dancefloor numbers and rave-ups coming in from the US in the 60s, so-- a kind of Uk retro scene, albeit featuring American soul music. But-- when he refers to Southern Soul, he's referring to the original US soul music from the south, as in the Stax/Volt or Muscle Shoals sounds. Whereas, Us Northern regional sounds are referred to as Chicago or Philly soul, for example. Bit confusing for the North American reader, and probably the Brit one too.

First the quibbles : there is a full entry, well deserved, for Louis Jordan, but not Slim Gaillard ? Little Willie-John, but not Little Richard ? Janet Jackson but not Mahalia Jackson ?

Hmm. Shalamar, Klymaxx, and Rose Royce each somehow qualify for a full, stand-alone entry. Where are the full entries for Willie Dixon ? Dinah Washington ? Muddy Waters ? The Shangri-Las ? The Ronnettes ? Slim Harpo ? Chubby Checkers ? Howling Wolf ?

Overall, quibbles aside, there are layers & layers of great info here, filtered thru a real connoisseur's sifter, that should start any Soulster on their way... Not just the artists, but (some of) the backstage movers as well .. Quincy Jones, Holland-Dozier-Holland, and Phil Spector get full entries, as do the iconic sounds of every era -- Ike & Tina, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Prince, and an entry on Parliament / Funkadelic that is larger than those on Aretha & Stevie Wonder combined. (Obviously the writer/editor has his favorites, though it's good luck that he also has good taste.)

What you want out of your Rough Guide is to be able to find, immediately, what happened to star-crossed soul martyr Johnny Ace....(clowning backstage with loaded pistol)... Or the facts that Tommy Browder as August Darnell and Andy Hernandez as Coati Mundi founded what would come to be known as "Kid Creole And The Coconuts".... Or that Ruby & The Romantics charted first with "Our Day Will Come" in'63 but not with "Hey There Lonely Boy" which had to wait for a '69 remake to chart. These are the kind of facts that the Guide is filled with, and if you need help sorting out your Houstons & Warwicks, Womacks & Womacks, or any combination of Nevilles, this book can help.

One improvement would be a second Index, to follow the generic one, of Titles for tracks & albums, especially since many listeners may know the song rather than the name of the group or the artist.

Last, as a Philadelphia native, I'm also glad to report that the objective Uk-based Peter Shapiro sees fit to include the Soul City of Philadelphia way more often than New York, and about as often as Motor-City Detroit. And rightfully so. But he'd best not ever again include the late Soul Man Lou Rawls in the same sentence as the disparagement 'supper-club-soul'... even in passing. Just saying.

Overall a great book, great resource, and should suit beginner to advanced-intermediate Soul Men & Soul Women. Now, who did the first version of "Land Of A Thousand Dances"... ? "Mickey's Monkey" ? It's in there...
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