The Soul Children – 1969 – Soul Children
After having lost Sam & Dave – whose career never recovered after the ties with Stax Records were severed – Isaac Hayes and David Porter decided to recpature the highly soulful formula, this time opting not for a duo, but a quartet. Featuring the gritty, full-throttled pipes op J. Blackfoot and the understated, down home vocalizing of Norman West, the two men were coupled with the equally fierce soul belters Shelbra Bennett and Anita Louis. The Soul Children were born, and whilst never as commercially successful as Sam & Dave, the foursome recorded some heavy, greasy Southern fried Soul that is on par with the Dynamic Duo’s sweatiest recordings.
A1 I’ll Understand 2:42
A2 Move Over 2:54
A3 When Tomorrow Comes 3:03
A4 The Sweeter He Is (Part I) 3:01
A5 The Sweeter He Is (Part II) 3:17
B1 Tighten Up My Thang 3:01
B2 Give ‘Em Love 2:47
B3 Doin’ Our Thang 2:32
B4 Take Up the Slack 2:22
B5 Super Soul 2:53
B6 My Baby Specializes 3:13
Review by Soulmakossa
The intense, slow burning “I’ll Understand” mixes gospel piano with swirling strings to create a fiery backdrop to the Children’s church rooted wailing. A classic ‘cheating song’, the lament in Shelbra’s voice is especially poignant.
Isaac’s inimitable piano style opens the deliciously groovy, mid-tempo “Move Over“, a laid back piece of funky testifying showcasing Blackfoot’s captivating beltin’. Blackfoot, who sounds uncannily similar to Willie Hightower, gets into a vocal sparing match with Norman West, the latter evoking memories of Dave Prater.
Blackfoot goes for another bit of vocal gymnastics on “When Tomorrow Comes“, where he belts out a recurring, sustained wail as Shelbra and Anita deal with the verses. A dreamy, gently rockin’ ballad that’s deep in Al Jackson’s drummin’ pocket.
“The Sweeter He Is” is the highlight here – and was also the group’s first Top Ten R&B charter. An indescribably atmospheric love song set to a lazy, sleepy-eyed groove, with Blackfoot and West chirping the typical, deceptively upbeat vocal leit motif. On first listen, you’d expect these ditties were sung by the ladies. A masterpiece, which can be enjoyed in full, as the album version plays out both Part 1 and 2 without interruption.
The group gets in a ferocious funk bag on “Tighten Up My Thang” – another ingeniously rhythmic monster propelled by one of Hayes’ idiosyncratic piano motifs and a swirling horn riff – and gets on down further with the pacey, incessant “Give ’em Love“.
“Doin’ Our Thang” could well have been recorded by Sam & Dave; a breakneck speed jam layered in brass and loaded with vocal harmonizing. The closest thing to filler here, but still incisively funky.
Far more impressing is the fatback, rockin’ funk of “Take Up the Slack“, a floorshakin’ groovefest that lays stupendously deep in the pocket. It’s head-bobbin’ time when the Children reach the chorus. The same goes for the anthemic, powerful “Super Soul“, probably the loudest track on the LP.
The Soul Children’s epynomously titled debut LP ends with a fantastic take on William Bell and Judy Clay’s mid-paced celebratory soul workout “My Baby Specializes“.
A monster album, hugely underrated… This is one of those overlooked jewels in the Stax catalog.
Enjoy two more albums of The Soul Children in our back pages here