A Deeper Shade of Psych Soul

Over at the Brooklyn Vegan blog, Andrew Sacher recently took on the task of selecting 30 Essential Psychedelic Soul Songs. The psych soul sound emerged when straightforward R&B artists tapped into the late-‘60s/early-‘70s countercultural vibe with trippy arrangements and often socially conscious lyrics. But it can be a slippery beast: On the early end of the timeline, it can be tough to draw the line between progressive but still relatively straight late-‘60s R&B and its turned-on, tuned-in cousin. On the later end of the timeline, all the wah-wah floating around tends to blur the border between acid soul and the realm of blaxploitation.

But Sacher does a fine job hitting plenty of the genre’s highlights: The Chambers Brothers’ loopy, barnstorming epic “Time Has Come Today” and The 5th Dimension’s flower power harmony-pop classic “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” rub shoulders with the heady swirl of Funkadelic’s “Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow” and Terry Callier’s hypnotic, jazz-kissed psych folk saga “Dancing Girl,” along with a healthy batch of contemporary tracks. But as satisfying as the list is, it largely sticks to marquee names and iconic cuts, and as Sacher rightly points out, there’s plenty more territory to be explored.

In that spirit, here’s an addendum to the BV playlist; think of it as a psychedelic soul annex. You’ll find more esoteric acts like Black Merda, Madhouse—not the Prince side project—and William S. Fischer, as well as unexpected artists like Muddy Waters, Chubby Checker, and jazzman Stanley Cowell dipping a toe in the psych soul waters. Closing the list with a cut from Childish Gambino’s 2016 tour de force Awaken, My Love! underscores the fact that this sound needn’t be tied to a single era.