Welcome to your Bluffers Guide To Soul, the hopeful beginnings of a musical journey through influential genres and artists - tune in above, and read (and listen) on below... 

My name's Aidan Kelly, I've been a DJ in Dublin for 30 years - I bet at some point you've been out dancing somewhere, and it was myself throwing shapes and tunes in the corner. Unless you meant to visit Dublin and it hasn't happened yet. No hurry. 

I'm sure like yourself we're all very much missing those nights out where we hear a set of music loud and proud in our favourite venues, missing those times with people and tunes we love - but we'll get back there soon.

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Listen: Aidan Kelly's Bluffer's Guide To Soul

Over the last while, I've been working alongside chefs, who love their food and often have a serious passion for certain tastes of music. When you ask them about the building blocks of food, like, say, a good stock, they'll be agreeable to the idea that in terms of popular music, 'soul' music could be said to have the most fundamental effect on modern-day pop.

Aretha Franklin

And, when it comes to soul, we cannot ignore the influence that gospel and blues had on this predominantly African-American of sounds; most soul singers would point to Sunday church as the place where it all started. In this Bluffer's Guide I've linked you to some artists you know and some, hopefully, you won't. 

There's plenty of room for discovery, too, so go digging in the crates, like a DJ and you'll find something new to love.

Bluffer's Guide To Soul - choice cuts

Solomon Burke / I'm All Alone (1955)

We can't talk about soul music without talking about preacher Solomon Burke from West Philadelphia, highly respected and an influence to so many, including James Brown (who we'll talk about later). Solomon has been credited as bringing rhythm and blues together; known for his flamboyant throne and fashion onstage, he was a big personality in more ways than one - ask any of his 90 grandchildren...

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Aretha Franklin / I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (1967)

Although Etta James might disagree, from a very young age Aretha was the leading light in moving from gospel over to soul. Such power in her voice (if you haven't seen Amazing Grace, track this documentary down), and she's so prolific - I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You is from 1967, at the beginning of her reign. Jennifer Hudson is playing her in a forthcoming biopic.

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Etta James / Tell Mama (1968)

From the other Queen of Soul, Etta James, this is the very upbeat and soulful Tell Mama. Although she had her troubles - the movie Cadillac Records, starring Beyonce as Ettais well worth a look - she's listed as the 22nd greatest singer of all time by Rolling Stone. We'd place her higher. 

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Four Tops / I Can't Help Myself (1965)

Often cited as the earliest song adopted by the Northern Soul crews in North English clubs around the early 1970s (we'll be featuring Northern soul anthems in another episode), here's a belter from the extremely stylish Four Tops, who became ambassadors for this classic, diner date Motown sound.

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Gloria Jones / Tainted Love 1964

Later reimagined by Soft Cell and Marc Almond as an '80's classic, this high-tempo pop gem was written by Ed Cobb (again, from the Four Tops) - she re-recorded it in 1976, produced by her boyfriend, Marc Bolan from T-Rex. If you're not dancing in the kitchen, there could be something up with your feet.

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Esther Philips / Just Say Goodbye (1965)

Lesser-known because of her many styles (subsequently, her record label didn't know how to market her), Esther had a very distinctive sardonic sound that wasn't instantly popular but made her a natural heir to the torch from Dinah Washington. She was soulful, but with a blues influence. 

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James Brown / Night Train (1961)

James Brown recorded Night Train with his band in 1961. His performance replaced the original lyrics of the song with a shouted list of cities on his East Coast touring itinerary (and hosts to black radio stations he hoped would play his music) along with many repetitions of the song's name. Brown would repeat this lyrical formula on Mashed Potatoes U.S.A. and several other recordings. He also played the drums on the recording in very tight pants.

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Luther Vandross / Better Love (1982)

The first time I ever saw him was a backing singer on a 1974 David Bowie live performance on Dick Cavett of Young Americans. In I981, he releases Never Too Much, a classic post-disco floor filler - even today, it works anywhere you play it. Everyone knows it. But I've decided to go for a track from his 1982 album Forever, For Always, For Love called Better Love - it's more soulful! Even though his many fans will correct me in saying Luther was a true R&B artist, he was the most soulful one, and is sadly missed.

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Chaka Khan - I Know You, I Live You (1981)

Chaka Khan is and was always very good at drawing from different influences like R&B, but this for me this is a huge soul track. Bordering on disco, it's full to the brim with a huge brass section and her vocal on top is immense. It's different from all the other releases around this pivotal time in African American music in the eighties. She's a maverick.

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Daryl Hall & John Oates / I Can't Go for That (No Can Do) (1981)

One of the most popular soulful and funky duos in musical history - no matter the situation, you could probably slip this into a set in any bar from here to Achill Island. They're just pure magic live, too.

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Omar / Be Thankful (with Erykah Badu) 1997

Still considered a leading light in the British Soul movement that includes the likes of Brand New Heavies and the Young Disciples, Omar smoothly mixes soul into funk and R&B, taking influences from Stevie Wonder among others.

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Joy Crookes - Don't Let me Down (2018)

A brand new beautiful neo-soul tune from Crookes. She hails from South London, Bangladesh and Ireland, and her songs about love and loss go straight to the heart. She may just be the answer to who the next Billie Holiday / Amy Winehouse is.

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Alice Clark - Don't You Care? (1972)

Reportedly joined a cult religion and largely an unknown gem of a singer always got to work with great uptown soul musicians. Rare to find on original vinyl. Listen to her eponymous album from 1972, Thank you, Thomas Tighe, my old school friend for the tip. And keep the faith.

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Also, do check out the excellent New Funk and Soul weekly playlist on Spotify - this changes weekly, which will keep you going for newer tunes...