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What is Uptown Soul?


What is Uptown Soul?
Definition: Uptown soul can be considered the R&B equivalent of adult contemporary music, at least for the period of time in which it was popular, from about 1962 or so through the end of that decade. It originated from New York, also the origin of its two major influences: Lieber & Stoller's productions for the Drifters from 1959-1961 on Atlantic ("There Goes My Baby," "Save The Last Dance For Me," "This Magic Moment"), which introduced strings and horns into R&B for the first time, and Ray Charles' 1962 album Modern Sounds in Country and Western, a smash hit that introduced lush, "easy listening" pop arrangements into the new genre known as soul. Chicago was also a hotbed of this adult urban music, however, thanks mainly to the Vee-Jay, Chess, and Okeh labels, producing a slightly more earthy subset known as "Chicago soul."

The typical "Uptown Soul" song is much less rhythmic than other soul songs; the soul comes across almost entirely in the vocal performance, backed by lush strings and horns and (usually) Sixties-pop style background voices. The general theme is one of profound romantic turmoil or loss, making Uptown Soul far more dramatic and flamboyant than its earthier counterparts. Motown occasionally toyed with the style but never committed to it fully, while grittier soul labels wouldn't touch it, so it was regulated mainly to labels eyeing the pop market.

Interestingly, the rise of this genre more or less parallels that of the civil rights movement, as blacks sought to "assimilate" into white American culture; by the end of the decade, as African-Americans began to embrace their own unique cultural identity, funk took over, relegating Uptown Soul to the slagheap of history. However, the pop market still had a taste for soul, so "Philly Soul" was created as an alternative -- lush, but with a danceable beat. Eventually, disco followed.

Also Known As: Pop-soul, Sweet soul, Chicago soul
  1. Little Anthony and the Imperials, "Goin' Out of My Head"(purchase/download)
  2. Chuck Jackson, "Any Day Now (My Wild Beautiful Bird)"(purchase/download)
  3. Jerry Butler, "Only the Strong Survive"(purchase/download)
  4. Baby Washington, "That's How Heartaches Are Made"(purchase/download)
  5. The Impressions, "Gypsy Woman"(purchase/download)
  6. Diana Ross, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"(purchase/download)
  7. Maxine Brown, "Oh! No Not My Baby"(purchase/download)
  8. Barbara Lewis, "Baby I'm Yours"(purchase/download)
  9. Major Lance, "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um"(purchase/download)
  10. Billy Stewart, "I Do Love You"(purchase/download)
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  6. What is Uptown Soul? - Oldies music styles and genres

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