High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Thursday, June 10, 2010

On the Record: Swan Songs - Sweet Soul's Last Gasp at the Shady Dell

Crowded out of the jukebox by hard rock, garage rock and psychedelic sounds, sweet soul music was nearing extinction at the Shady Dell during 1967's Summer of Love.

In June of '67, classic soul made it's last stand at the Dell when 45's by Linda Jones and the Fantastic Four showed up in the jukebox and became two of the greatest Dell hits of the mid 60's.

The Fantastic Four released a string of singles on Detroit’s Ric-Tic label, part of what has become known as the other Motown.

At a lofty #19 spot on my 200 Greatest Hits of the Shady Dell, the group's recording ”You Gave Me Something (and Everything's Alright)” is the highest ranking Dell song of 1967!

This mid-tempo northern soul masterpiece is a lush, grand, triumphant declaration of pride and exalted testament to idealized love.

Released at a time when James Brown was breaking out in a “Cold Sweat” after two years in “A Brand New Bag,” the sweetness and sincerity of “You Gave Me Something” was an anachronism - a throwback to the simpler times and more innocent sounds of yesteryear.

By the middle of 1967, songs that spoke deferentially about the pompatus of love were becoming scarce as hen's teeth. That is exactly why Dell rats cherished "You Gave Me Something" by the Fantastic Four!

"You Gave Me Something (and Everything's Alright)" was only a minor hit, completing its journey in the middle of the pack on the Billboard Hot 100. It performed better on the R&B Singles chart where it went to #12. The Fantastic Four are best known for their previous release, “The Whole World Is a Stage.“

Detroit soul nirvana was again achieved by the Fantastic Four in the spring of 1968 with the release of Ric Tic 139, "Ive Got to Have You."

This quiet storm classic never showed up on the pop chart (Shady's Law) but spent 10 weeks on the R&B survey, winding up at #23.

The Fantastic Four poured it on during the mid and late 60's, releasing one excellent soul single after another. At the Shady Dell, however, it was no contest - “You Gave Me Something’ is the one song by the Fantastic Four that reigned supreme.

Linda Jones is arguably the most soulful singer in the history of r&b. Linda didn't mess around - she got right to the point. Her story is a profile in courage. Linda was seriously ill with diabetes when she recorded and her vocals could not mask the pain. Yet, suffering of one kind or another is the foundation of deep soul, and Linda left us with some of the best recordings of the genre.

Linda's music is heavily church influenced (gospel-tinged). She is credited with elevating melisma - the technique of singing several notes on one syllable - to an art form.

Intensity was Linda’s trademark. Her songs often started at a climax and worked up from there, reaching a level of hysterical, towering fury rarely duplicated. The ravages of diabetes claimed Linda in 1972. She died shortly after collapsing backstage at the Apollo.

I would like to share with you my favorite Linda Jones recordings beginning with two of her classic Blue Cat sides. In the spring of 1966, a few months after label mate Evie Sands released another of my favorites "I Can't Let Go" on Blue Cat 122, Linda Jones hit the street with a supercharged soul doublesider. Side A of Blue Cat 128 is the drama laden “Fugitive From Love.”

Linda's uncharted Blue Cat singles are very hard to find and are coveted by record collectors worldwide. The flipside of Blue Cat 128 is pure dynamite: "You Hit Me Like T.N.T."

After a stint with Loma/Warner during which she recorded "Hypnotized" followed by a fine rendition of the O'Jays' "I'll Be Sweeter Tomorrow" waxed on Neptune, Linda moved to Turbo Records where she released another of my favorites, a cover of the Moments' ballad “Not On The Outside."

"Not on the Outside" is such a great song that I wanted to include the version by the Moments.

It's almost criminal that this wonderful slow jam halted less than half way up the pop chart. The song went to #13 R&B in the early weeks of 1969. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the epitome of sweet soul!

Unfortunately, some of the recordings that Linda Jones made near the end of her life spun out of control with unbridled intensity.

In contrast “Hypnotized,” a song recorded five years before Linda's death, is tastefully restrained rather than overwrought, and became her biggest hit.

"Hypnotized" barely missing the top 20 on Billboard and became a major snuggle song at the Dell, landing just outside the top 50 on my Greatest Hits of the Shady Dell survey.

Hot on the Dell jukebox when the party of my carefree youth was all but over, “You Gave Me Something” and “Hypnotized” were among the last great soul ballads of the Shady Dell’s golden era.

Have a Shady day!

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