I'm making a personal playlist of the best vocal performances of all time. I wonder if you could tell me 2 or 3 best vocal performances of the following singers:
Sam Cooke - The Night Beat
album contains his best vocals, because the arrangements let his voice breathe. It's mandatory listening, especially "Lost And Looking". I'd say his absolute peak was him with the Soul Stirrers, especially the live 8 and a half minute "Nearer To Thee". My favorite though is "Somebody Ease My Troublin' Mind", which was released as a B-side posthumously. It should've been an A-side and a Top Ten hit, it's stunning.
Clyde McPhatter - With groups. The Dominoes "Have Mercy Baby" and The Drifters "Lucille". His solo take on "Without Love" kills Elvis's IMO (and Elvis's opinion). I always liked the opening and closing accapella refrains on "You Can't Stand Up Alone", though the bulk of the song is weighed down by sappy female choruses. For a great late career track get "Crying Won't Help You Now", which is mid-60's uptown soul at its finest.
Marvin Gaye - The National Anthem before the NBA All-Star Game in 1982 is riveting. "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" and "What's Goin' On" are his masterpieces, but a slightly overlooked gem from that same era is ""Too Busy Thinking About My Baby", he's so laid back at times in it, but when he bears down and hits the falsetto it gives you chills.
Otis Redding - For vocals I'd take "That's How Strong My Love Is" as his best, other than the Live from Monterey versions of "I"ve Been Loving You Too Long To Stop Now" and "Try A Little Tenderness". One of my favorites is the lesser known "Look At The Girl", he exudes sheer radiant joy with that.
Ray Charles - again, something live captures him best. "Drown In My Own Tears" from Ray Charles In Person
in 1959. But my absolute favorite track of his is "I Don't Need No Doctor", as pure a funky workout as he ever gave off.
Little Richard - With Richard, his hits are SO well known and his exuberant style is almost a caricature by now, so I always lean towards different styles he did, slower stuff, more emotional, so in that regard my choices would always be "Send Me Some Lovin" and "I'm Just A Lonely Guy" from the 50's and maybe his most acclaimed lesser known track from the 60's "I Don't Know What You've Got, But It's Got Me".
Al Green - The Belle
album. The whole thing. Trust me! But individual cuts, "Belle" and "Feels Like Summer" from that album are sublime. Al never really changed, all of his vocals are of such uniform high quality that you can pick anything, from any era, and it stands up to anything else. He was like a machine vocally. Another good choice is his take on "God Is Standing By".
Smokey Robinson - "Tears of A Clown" and "Ooo Baby Baby are perfect, but predictable choices. More leftfield selections might be "What's So Good About Goodbye" for a ballad and "Come Round Here I'm The One You Need" for something uptempo .
Tony Williams - "My Prayer" is his best, and "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" not far behind.
Roy Hamilton - "Angelica", "You'll Never Walk Alone", or for pure rock "You Can Have Her". A rare cut that is fantastic is "Ain't It The Truth", an authentic soul side from the mid-60's that I wish he had delved into more at that point of his career.
Solomon Burke - "Cry To Me", the transition he makes on the line "In the night" is so smooth and perfect that you just keep waiting for it breathlessly each listen. Another that has that same effect is the slow burn he does towards the end of "Baby Come On Home". Brilliant. For uptempo I love "Home In Your Heart", but again, you gotta hear him live and the medley of "Take Me Just As I Am" and "I Can't Stop Loving You" from Soul Alive
is amazing, though it really needs to be heard in the context of the entire album. His gospel sides are great too and the full five and a half minute "Peace In The Valley" from the album Take Me, Shake Me
is incredible. The one found on Youtube is that same performance, but they cut the last part of it off for some reason, which is criminal and detracts from the overall experience too much to take.
James Brown - With James its never about vocals, he just wasn't a great singer, but the live "Lost Someone" from Live At The Apollo
is his tour de force. "Try Me" for his best vocal on a studio cut. Also if you can find it (it's on Roots Of A Revolution
) the undubbed "Oh Baby Don't You Weep" is him at his best, but they put in fake crowd noise for it when it came out as a single, which kills it. In his funk years, something like "Mother Popcorn" is really good, but by then his voice was shot and it was all about the rhythm.
Levi Stubbs - "Bernadette" and "Reach Out, I'll Be There" are his two most acclaimed vocals for good reason. Overplayed, but not overrated.
Eddie Kendricks - "Girl Why You Wanna Make Me Blue", "Just My Imagination", "Please Return Your Love To Me" (but you need Ruffin too in order to hear the Tempts at their best, so "My Girl", "Since I Lost My Baby", "Get Ready" and "(I Know) I'm Losing You" would be good choices for him).
Wilson Pickett - I'll pick a few unexpected cuts for Pickett. "Three Time Loser", "I'm In Love", a very tender "Cole, Cooke & Redding" and for the single best scream ever captured on a rock record, the fade of "I Found A True Love".
Little Willie John - "Suffering With The Blues" (turn it up too, his voice has a frightening natural echo to it on this). "Fever" is truly every bit as good as it's reputation. The way he inhabits that song is unreal. "Talk To Me, Talk To Me" will also floor you.