sunday afternoon soul

My elementary school years were marked by a horrific fear of all teachers. I don’t know exactly where it stemmed from, but I was desperate to avoid being called on. Mrs. Huber’s third grade class was particularly terrifying; she wore rubber finger grips that made her look like some demented flea market vendor. At age 9, this was the manifestation of my greatest dread. Rumor had it that she threatened Kevin from the grade above us with a letter opener.

When I came home from Mrs. Huber’s third grade class, all I cared about was escaping our gray Plymouth Voyager and making a beeline to my room to tune into to my favorite station, Oldies 103.3 KLOU. It was no different from every homogenized Clear Channel trash pile you can see hawked at 3 am as a compilation by some inoffensive, moderately attractive middle-aged woman on a Time Life infomercial, but it owned a special place in my weekday afternoon anxiety-cleansing sessions.


Gary Puckett: Stand-in for Siegfried and Roy.

So much of what KLOU played is elevator music to the modern listener; it’s impossible for me to listen to many of these songs without an immediate instinct to change the dial. Like Gary Puckett. I fucking hate Gary Puckett.

It’s the gripe that remains with most oldies stations: how do you manage variety with a playlist that has been static for 40 years?

A while back, I happened upon a massive compilation of 60s and 70s funk and soul cuts from the West Coast called “What It Is!: Funky Soul and Rare Grooves.” There are contributions from all-stars like Aretha, Young-Holt Unlimited, Earth Wind & Fire and Curtis Mayfield, and then there are numbers from only slightly less reputable acts such as Rasputin’s Stash, Cold Grits, the Mystic Moods and Fred Wesley & the Horny Horns. It was all so familiar, yet I’d never heard it; a goldmine of dusty vinyl and lost bass grooves. I was hooked.

From that day on I’ve had an insatiable appetite for all this music that I’ve missed and rediscovering songs that I never really thought twice about. How can I give two shits about this week’s myspace sensation? There’s just so much homework to be done! It just puts into perspective how much great music has been made that is on the brink of oblivion until a Kanye or J Dilla (RIP) samples it, and I have this fear that it’s all being buried in the media overload.

Every Sunday, when I’m finally devoid of all obligations and worries and my Sabbath guilt holds sway, I lay on my bed, comfortably adorn my headphones, pop on my Sunday Afternoon Soul playlist and find that freedom, that pure relief and joy like I felt when I came home from Mrs. Huber’s third grade class. I risk sounding like I’m advertising for Pure Moods here, but these moments have been the closest I’ve felt to something spiritual in a long time. There is nothing I look forward to or relish more than this hour or two I have alone with Al Green or Eddie Kendricks or Otis Redding. And I’d like to share it with you.

Every once in a while, I’ll come up with a few of my old (new) favorites. In turn, you’ll reserve them strictly for Sunday afternoon listening.

Sunday Afternoon Soul, Volume 1

Read about the songs after the jump.

Due up this week:

King Curtis – Memphis Soul Stew

I’ve never seen a picture of King Curtis, but context clues tell me he’s probably seen his way around a few stews in his day. He memorized this recipe, after all; just listening to this song makes me picture him with flabby jowls drooling all over the place. But hot damn, the man knows how to make the ingredients come together. By the time he shouts “Now BEAT…WELL,” you’ll be salivating too. The final product explodes with flavor; it’s impossible for me to hear this song while walking and not align my strides into a funk-step.

King Floyd – Groove Me

My parents complain about how explicitly sexed-up current popular music is; my mother mostly blames the Clinton administration. What it really comes down to is a lack of creativity–the song has remained the same since my parents’ days at the sock hop, but people like King Floyd found more FCC-compliant ways to politely suggest the matter. “Come on, give me something/Girl, I’ve been needing for days,” he begs. “Yes, I’m good, good loving/With plenty, plenty hugging.” You want hugs? King’s got ’em in spades. Only if you GROOVE THE EVER LIVING SHIT OUT OF HIM. “Make me feel good inside/Come on and groove me, baby.” Hell, half of the entire soul catalog has to do with gettin’ down in some form or another. It’s harder to remain oblivious these days.

Society’s Bag – Let it Crawl

I have this confident feeling that most of the songs from the What It Is! compilation were jammed in one take by artists who happened to be at that studio on a given day, who in turn give themselves one-time names like Society’s Bag. This song is as-advertised, a trotting number that fades in and out with handclaps and wicka-wicka-wow-wow guitar effects that can be heard aped at outdoor jam band festivals all summer long, albeit so much more stale than this cut. Can serve as a walking montage in your roll-out scene.


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