Indeed it is. 21st century, the year 2002 and all that. Life is very complicated these days and that includes the modern soul scene. What was seen to be a variation of the northern soul scene in the late 70s/early 80s, i.e. rare recently released soul, is now a mixture of many different sub-genres. The good news is that if you’re broad minded and like variety then there’s lots of good stuff out there to listen or dance to. The not so good news is that if you only like a certain type of modern soul, you are going to disappointed at a chunk of the night’s music – unless you go to a specialist modern do that caters for your type of music. If you go to a typical modern soul do, you can expect to hear crossover, two-step, boogie, house, r’n’b, jazz, gospel and even soul from all eras. It certainly can be diverse but, to me, this is the wonder of it all. Rarity does not play a part these days. Although rare records are played, they are alongside new release CDs or 12 inches available at regular prices from HMV or maybe even local record shops. You can pick up most new stuff from specialist shops even if it is on an obscure Japanese import CD.
In fact there is so much good new stuff being released it is difficult to keep up with all. Tunes are turned over very quickly and you can miss out on some very good music if you turn your back over a couple of months. I can’t help thinking that some new releases that aren’t getting much recognition at the moment, because they are just swamped under a lot of other stuff, will be the big expensive in-demand tunes in years to come. Get them now while you can, I say. Here today, gone tomorrow tunes is a phrase I’ve heard attributed to new releases several times recently. How many of these will in fact be classics in years to come? God knows. As long as quality new stuff continues to be recorded then maybe not too many. The tunes that will become classics in years to come will probably be those that were underplayed or not spotted at all at the time of release. However, I think that this is a good thing. It keeps the scene fresh, moving and more accessible for new blood to enjoy. You see the modern scene shouldn’t be a retro scene but one that keeps moving forward with the times whilst still paying respect to its heritage. The clue is the word modern in modern soul.
The modern soul scene today also encompasses a wider group of people than it did twenty years ago. There is no longer a north/south divide. Some people who enjoyed Caister and The Goldmine now turn their backs on McFadden and Whitehead and Slave and the other classics they used to enjoy. In the search of something different, whilst still keeping it soulful, they travel countrywide in order to dance to records that were never popular on the “southern” soul scene years ago and the new music. In fact, many of them venture into the northern room to see what it’s like and develop a taste for that too. Music policy is similar countrywide too - all the way from Brighton to Winsford. Wherever you live a quality venue shouldn’t be too far away. DJs also come from all over the country and have a variety of different backgrounds. Also, some of the records that were played down south 15 or 20 years ago are finding favour to a relatively new audience up north. Something familiar and something new for everyone then.
Amongst the glut of new releases there are, unfortunately, only a minority of CDs that I think are good all the way through. Many are one or two trackers making it an expensive business to buy many of the big tracks. I have listed below my top ten CDs which I think are strong as a complete package without the need to press the skip button more that once or twice, if at all. At least with vinyl, you either like the track or don’t. Even if you find out it’s not the track or mix you were after, at least you’ve only lost ten pounds as opposed 19 quid for an import CD. The British soul labels do a particularly good job. FER, Café de Soul and Grapevine, in particular, put out a consistent number of good quality of releases that you can’t go far wrong with. There is also a constant stream of good quality US house coming out. Releases on King Street, Soulfuric, Yellorange, Naked, MAW, Soulshine and Shelter tend to be strong. Whilst I struggled to write a list of ten strong CDs, I could have written a list of 30 vinyl releases.
Anyway, here’s my top tens for the year, one for CDs, the other for vinyl:
CDs Ray Chew and the Crew – Feelin’ It – Charu CD Maysa – Out Of The Blue – N-Coded CD Jaheim – Ghetto Fabulous – Warner Bros CD Ann Nesby – Put It On Paper – Universal CD Miguel Migs – Colorful You – Naked CD The Spirit Of Philadelphia – Various Artists – Expansion CD Peggi Blu – Livin’ On Love - Expansion CD The Rance Allen Group – All The Way - Tyscot CD Café De Soul Vol 1 – Various Artists – Café De Soul CD California Flight Project - California Flight Project II – CD
Big Moses feat, Ambrosia – Trust Yourself – Shelter 12” Masters At Work feat. India – Backfired (Joey Negro mix) – MAW 12” Jamecia Bennett – If I Go Boy –FER 12” King Ernest – Must Have Lost My Mind – Grapevine 12” Earth, Wind and Fire – Can’t Hide Love (MAW remix) – White label 12” Yvonne Gage – So Good – Slang 12” Arnold Jarvis – Where Has Love Gone – KIF 12” Cornell Stone – Never Get Enough Of Your Love – FER 12” Stephanie Cooke – I Thank You – King Street 12” Blaze – What We Need Is Love – Shelter 12”
Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this. If you’re one of those people who pops their head in the modern room (to go to the bar or eye up the crumpet) and thinks “actually this is not bad, after all”, I hope this has given you a few pointers.