Best Of 2018: The Year In Review

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Portrait of Best Of 2018: The Year In Review by Daddy B. Nice

Best Of 2018: The Year In Review

January 6, 2019:

Overflow From Daddy B. Nice's BEST OF 2018 page...


In addition to a bevy of collaborations for which he’s always been in the highest demand, top-rated recording artist Sir Charles Jones dominated 2018 with a new album, “The Masterpiece”. The hubristic title raised sky-high expectations and begged comparisons to “The Love Machine,” the classic that launched Jones’ career. The singles “Step It Out” (with Prince Damons), “Squeeze Me,” “Call Me” (with Calvin Richardson and Omar Cunningham)” and “100 Years” charted #1 (January), #1 (May), #2 (May) and #1 (August) respectively on Daddy B. Nice’s monthly Top 10 Singles.

Sir Charles was also a prime influence for artist P2K Dadiddy’s 5-star-rated debut album, “Welcome To The Boom Boom Room,” which included an outright Sir Charles homage, “Soul Brothers Moonshine,” a collaborative effort (Sir Charles, P2K and Jeter Jones) on which Charles also sang the opening verse. The song was so steeped in Sir Charles Jones musical lore it could have graced “The Masterpiece”.

Whether “The Masterpiece” was the crowning achievement of the King of Southern Soul’s career was debatable--fans would probably still give “Love Machine” that honor--but there was no disputing the quality of the lyrics, which eclipsed “Love Machine’s” youthful yearnings with the ruminations of a grown man.

In “Squeeze Me,” the song that blended the best of the new and old Sir Charles, the troubadour sang, “Said it’s been three years now,/ And you still don’t see/ How much you mean to me./ I know, baby, I’m a man./ He did you wrong,/ But don’t make me pay/ For the other man’s mistakes."

And in “100 Years” Charles opined, “When God made a soul/ He split that soul in two./ He gave half to me,/ And the other half to you./ As fate would have it,/ The day came when we met./ Friends called me Romeo/ And you Juliet./What are you doing/ For the next one hundred years?”

"Southern Soul fans should be proud of Charles," (Daddy B. Nice wrote in his August '18 critique) "for 1/ recognizing a once-in-a-lifetime classic when he hears it, and 2/ being brave enough to record it in a no-frills, pop-balladeer style (acoustic guitar, strings, piano), putting the emphasis squarely on the naked vocal."

Lyrics, in fact, were a road map to the year’s most durable themes. Highway Heavy, the Louisiana maestro behind two of the last half-decade’s top-rated songs, Pokey Bear’s “My Sidepiece” and Cold Drank’s “Three,” returned with a new and even more flamboyant artist, Johnny James, and some of the most wildly carnal lyrics since Clarence Carter’s “Strokin’” and Theodis Ealey’s “Stand Up In it.”

Heavy’s most musically satisfying opus of raunch, “Sweet Dick Johnny,” featured James phlegmatically growling the best opening line of the year: “She was big and yellow (pronounced ‘yella’)/ With some real big thighs.” And soon after: “Built just like her mama,/ Real bad attitude,/ But I still tell her what to do.”

Frequently the fact the lyrics didn’t make ready sense added to a record’s mystery and allure. In ”The Blame” new singer Fat Daddy (who wasn’t fat) described himself as an unfaithful man sitting in his “lonely room” wishing for his woman to come home. “The blame is on me,” he kept repeating. “But the crazy thing about the whole story,/ With all the wrong I’ve done,/ She left me with all these cars and houses.” More than a few listeners, especially the men, must have wondered why their divorces couldn’t have concluded in such a benign denouement.

As for the women, in the song, ”That Bitch Ain’t Me,” a re-invention of Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind,” southern soul chanteuse Karen Wolfe sang, “You thought that things would be better,/ I’m happy for you all,/ So quit texting my phone/ Saying, ‘Can I come home?’/ Hell naw!”

The “hell naw!” was a reference to Bishop Bullwinkle’s “Hell Naw To The Naw Naw,” the novelty-hit sensation of 2015 and 2016, and a reminder of how swiftly the current of change can raise an artist into headliner status and just as swiftly sweep him away, as Bishop Bullwinkle faded from the touring scene in 2018.

Many another southern soul veteran must have wondered why dropping his or her new record didn’t make the same cannonball-like splash it had in the past. The reason was simple. Southern Soul’s chitlin’ circuit was over-run from the Carolinas to the Texas Gulf Coast with both veterans and newcomers jostling for airtime and bookings in a market in which they could no longer count on the fans’ undivided attention, as the music expanded into hiphop-dominated Georgia, saturating Louisiana, mingling with zydeco, consolidating footholds in Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth, extending feelers into Austin, Las Vegas, St. Louis, Kansas City and formerly uninterested venues on the West Coast and in the North.

In the traditional southern soul bastions of the Mississippi Delta, well-known venues including big county auditoriums booked southern soul concerts at twice the rate of a few years earlier, while Alabama, Arkansas, and the fertile grounds of the Carolinas spawned gigs with unflagging regularity.

Energy, volatility and competition—-the earmarks of a genre’s incipient arrival—-ruled. The old marketing model whereby an artist recorded an album and went back to his or her day-job was DOA, and older-generation musicians either flourished in the new, tour-driven market or were passed by. Among the stars at the top of their game were T.K. Soul, Bobby Rush, Big Pokey Bear, Calvin Richardson, Sir Charles Jones, Tucka and Nellie “Tiger” Travis.

O.B. Buchana broke out of the safe but stagnant mold of Memphis’ Ecko Records’ frequently-recorded but seldom-touring musicians, collaborating and performing with the likes of new torridly touring giants Pokey Bear and Tucka, while Sir Charles Jones, J-Wonn and Tucka recorded and/or performed with national R&B stars like Keith Sweat, Silk and R. Kelly.

YouTube, Spotify and other streaming services rivaled and all but overwhelmed the traditional gospel-by-day, southern-soul-by-night-and-weekend, regional-radio, air-time model, so much so that if you didn’t publicize your new music on YouTube, your prospects for getting your music heard were nil.

Of course, the combined “resistance” of the national radio conglomerates, the insistence of the national white audience on restricting the “blues” to its mid-twentieth-century generation, the ongoing and clueless acceptance of the faceless and derivative neo- and retro-soul genres, the melody-averse, hiphop-saturated sensibilities of young blacks and the stubborn backlash of the African-American intelligentsia and black middle class for whom the “culturally-incorrect” themes of southern soul were anathema continued to be the major brakes on the growth and popularity of southern soul music.

--Daddy B. Nice - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

--Daddy B. Nice

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