Greatest Soul Divas (3cd set)

Artist: Various Artists
Format: 3CD
Bar-code: 5060342021120
Cat No: NOT3CD112


Soul music emerged in the Fifties from the potent mix of black blues and gospel music, both of which have their roots in the spiritual and secular music of slavery. It’s the suffering that makes the best soul music, whether it’s hard work, emotional torment or spiritual crisis. The finest soul singers are those who can express that anguish in song, and all too often women have had the deepest understanding of suffering. Nobody beats a soul diva when it comes to singing your heart out. The greats are all represented in this outstanding collection – Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Mary Wells. Tina Turner’s very first recording is here, ‘A Fool In Love’, on which she was supported by husband Ike’s backing vocalists, the Ikettes. A year later, the Ikettes were having their own hit with ‘I’m Blue’. The Cookies went the other way, recording a few singles in their own name in the mid Fifties before serving as Ray Charles’ legendary backing singers the Raelettes for six years. In the early Sixties the Cookies were doing session work in the Brill Building where songwriting teams like Gerry Goffin and Carole King were turning out hit after hit. Their supporting performance on Little Eva’s Goffin-King nugget ‘The Loco-Motion’ was enough to relaunch their own recording career with another Goffin-King song, ‘Chains’. That was a hit around the same time as Little Eva’s own Goffin-King follow-up, ‘Keep Your Hands Off My Baby’, a song so catchy the Beatles sometimes covered it in live performance. The Ikettes, the Cookies and others in this collection were part of that first, golden age of girl groups. The Shirelles, Crystals, Ronettes and Chiffons all produced classics of soul-pop. But it was Berry Gordy Jr’s Motown record label that really defined the genre. Diana Ross and the Supremes, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Gladys Knight and the Pips – these are the names we most closely associate with the genre today, and the Marvelettes beat them all to give the label its first Number 1 with ‘Please Mr Postman’. Motown, founded in Detroit in 1959, also made stars out of its solo recording artists; Mable John for example was the first signing to its sister label Tamla, and her first and last Tamla releases are included here. But in its early days it was just one of hundreds of small labels supplying the soul market and launching the careers of the first soul divas. Atlantic Records became known as the House That Ruth Built, such was the sales success of its early signing Ruth Brown with hits like ‘(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean’. Wynona Carr, a pioneer who emerged from the gospel tradition, recorded prolifically for the Specialty label. Sugar Pie DeSanto, whose early releases were for Checker, is a raunchy gallon voice in a half-pint body; little wonder the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, chose her as his warm-up act in Harlem’s Apollo Theatre for two years. She still performs today, a force of nature. Both Carr and DeSanto were also prolific songwriters – DeSanto made more money from sheet music than from performing. Ketty Lester, whose ‘Love Letters’ was originally a B-side but became her biggest hit, carved out careers on TV and film. Barbara Lynn was unusual in also being an instrumentalist – she started on piano, but switched to guitar after seeing Elvis. Esther Phillips could take on almost any style of music, and ‘Release Me’ topped the R&B, pop and country charts. But soul music isn’t always about heartaches and hard times. Sometimes it’s an excuse to get away from day-to-day reality. Dance crazes and novelty songs were popular aspects of the soul scene in the early Sixties, and made hits out of releases like Dee Dee Sharp’s ‘Mashed Potato Time’, laid down the day after she duetted with Chubby Checker on his novelty cash-in ‘Slow Twistin’’. Some divas delivered tongue-in-cheek answer songs, songs that replied to other hits of the day, usually by men. Bluesy Etta James’s 1955 single ‘W-O-M-A-N’ was a direct response to Bo Diddley spelling out ‘M-A-N’ in ‘I’m A Man’, his hit of the same year. Carla Thomas, another Atlantic diva, sang ‘I’ll Bring It Home To You’, written by Sam Cooke in reply to his own hit, ‘Bring It On Home To Me’. When she takes to the stage, each of our divas knows that, at least for the duration of her performance, she is in control of her world. She can talk about it with feeling, she can sing about it with passion. She can share it with you because she knows what she’s singing about. And after the show, as Sugar Pie DeSanto would say, she knows she’s ‘Going Back Where I Belong’.


1. Don’t Make Me Over – Dionne Warwick
2. At Last – Etta James
3. Won’t Be Long – Aretha Franklin
4. You’ll Lose A Good Thing – Barbara Lynn
5. Buttered Popcorn – Diana Ross & The Supremes
6. Love Letters – Ketty Lester
7. Should I Ever Love Again – Wynona Carr
8. Who Wouldn’t Love A Man Like That – Mable John
9. Chains – The Cookies
10. Letter Full Of Tears – Gladys Knight & The Pips
11. Hush Heart – Baby Washington
12. Playboy – The Marvelettes
13. Mashed Potato Time – Dee Dee Sharp
14. Soldier Boy – The Shirelles
15. I Gotta Get Away From It All – Mitty Collier
16. He’s A Rebel – The Crystals
17. Bye Bye Baby – Mary Wells
18. Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes) – Carla Thomas
19. I Burned Your Letter – Ruth Brown
20. My Baby Won’t Come Back – Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
21. If You See Bill – Tammy Montgomery
22. I Want To Know – Sugar Pie DeSanto
23. My Heart Went Do Dat Da – Barbara Lewis
24. Release Me – Esther Phillips
25. I’m Gonna Quit While I’m Ahead – The Ronettes


1. Will You Love Me Tomorrow – The Shirelles
2. Baby Cakes – Dee Dee Sharp
3. My Mama Told Me – Barbara Lewis
4. (Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean – Ruth Brown
5. Try A Little Tenderness – Aretha Franklin
6. Time Changes Things – Diana Ross & The Supremes
7. Keep Your Hands Off My Baby – Little Eva
8. It’s Mine – Tammy Montgomery
9. Please Mr. Postman – The Marvelettes
10. Bumble Bee – La Vern Baker
11. A Fool In Love – Ike & Tina Turner
12. I’ll Bring It Home To You – Carla Thomas
13. I’ll Have To Let Him Go – Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
14. Seven Day Fool – Etta James
15. Every Beat Of My Heart – Gladys Knight With The Pips
16. The One Who Really Loves You – Mary Wells
17. Hurt – Timi Yuro
18. Uptown – The Crystals
19. Hey Lonely One – Baby Washington
20. Can’t Let You Go – Sugar Pie Desanto
21. Candy – Big Maybelle
22. I’m Blue (The Gong-Gong Song) – The Ikettes
23. All In My Mind – Maxine Brown
24. Tonight’s The Night – Chiffons
25. I’ll Save The Last Dance For You – Damita Jo


1. W-O-M-A-N – Etta James
2. Love Is The Only Thing – Aretha Franklin
3. You Beat Me To The Punch – Mary Wells
4. I Want A Guy – The Supremes
5. Send For Me If You Need Some Lovin’ – Barbara George
6. I Smiled Yesterday – Dionne Warwick
7. Beechwood 4-5789 – The Marvelettes
8. For You – Carla Thomas
9. Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes) – Dee Dee Sharp
10. Don’t Feel Rained On – Esther Phillips
11. Operator – Gladys Knight & The Pips
12. I Did My Part – Irma Thomas
13. A Handful Of Memories – Baby Washington
14. Actions Speak Louder Than Words – Mable John
15. Tra La La La La – Ike & Tina Turner
16. Don’t Let Her Take My Baby – Mitty Collier
17. Baby It’s You – The Shirelles
18. Don’t Decieve Me – Ruth Brown
19. Two Lovers – Mary Wells
20. Going Back To Where I Belong – Sugarpie Desanto
21. There’s No Other Like My Baby – The Crystals
22. All I Could Do Was Cry – Etta James
23. My Happiness Forever – LaVern Baker
24. I’m On The Wagon – The Ronettes
25. I’m Mad At You – Wynona Carr