MIND BLOWN (Segue of the Day: 3/7/17)

I’ve been listening to various editions of Rhino’s old twenty-volume Didn’t it Blow Your Mind series for the last few weeks. The series is an excellent overview of 70s soul, and perhaps unique in that emphasizes the breadth and depth of the genre rather than the preeminence of big names like Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder.

Some of those names are present, but, in this context, their records flow by in a river that’s far deeper than any handful of geniuses could have either created or maintained by themselves. Given time I’ll want to write about it at length some day, because the scope really is staggering. I’m not going to say the 70s were the greatest decade for black music–that would be a hard case to prove, given what had gone on during every decade back to the 20s. But if “greatness” were simply measured by now many fine records were made, and how much those records managed to say, then I’ll say it would probably take longer to get to the bottom of the soul 70s than any other decade of black music.

For instance, you can be nodding along, to something like Volume 13 of Didn’t it Blow Your Mind, still knocked out by the hits you know by heart–“Rock the Boat,” “Rock Your Baby,” “Hollywood Swinging,” “Side Show”–and then have your entire perception (er, “mind”) opened up (er, “blown”)–by nothing more than some old pros doing what they do. And if you think, as I do, that these deceptively modest records, huge hits on the R&B chart which also made the pop charts, carry the weight of history as much as big and fabulous crossover smashes like “Tell Me Something Good” (which follows them on Volume 13), you might experience nothing less than an ephipany.

 

SEGUE OF THE DAY (11/28/12)

The Staple Singers/Ann Peebles

The Staple Singers “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” (Television Performance)

Ann Peebles “I Can’t Stand the Rain” (Studio Recording)

My default driving around music for the last couple of weeks has been the twenty volumes of Didn’t It Blow Your Mind, a seventies’ soul series Rhino put out in the mid-nineties which I finally managed to assemble complete about a month ago. (I’m nothing if not persistent!)

Listening to it all at once has been both uplifting and depressing, especially if I switch from cd to radio at any given moment.

On the one hand, the boundless glory of what was…on the other, the reality of what is, unlimited only in its tedium..

It’s not really nostalgia for me because I didn’t hear most of this music when it came out.

I was alive–even old enough–just not cognizant.

So…something else.

Granted modern music suffers from an industry-wide compulsion to suppress the human voice (aided and abetted by the same industry’s self-pitying assurance that they are being made obsolete, i.e., their profit margin is being eroded, by technology–this following a stretch of many decades when virtually every technological advance actually helped increase sales and not one decreased them).

But it also suffers from juvenilization, something which has pretty much destroyed country, pop and hip-hop and put a serious dent in the sort of R&B music represented on the Rhino series.

I got to this specific state of enlightenment/depression via the last two sides on Volume 11, which feature Mavis Staples’ rasp-of-uplift on “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” giving way to Ann Peebles’ rasp-of-despair on “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” two songs that were big hits in their day and which I’ve never heard on “oldies” radio (which tends to juvenilization itself), though I have heard them–and their like–on retro R&B stations, where they–and their like–tend to blow down whatever neo-soul items happen to surround them at any given moment.

The very specific question that came into my mind, then–a corollary my standard “Where did the great voices go?”–was this:

“Where did the grown-ups go?”

Oh yeah, and “What’s the cost of their disappearance?”

That came just a little later.

I know golden ages never last, in art or anything else.

But the specifics of why, exactly, we threw this one away so quickly and with even less reason than societies usually have for throwing away golden ages, continue to confound me.

And, hey, today, there’s a new Spinners’ box cued into the cd player…All their early albums, complete…

Somehow I don’t think that’s gonna help!