After Les Fleur yesterday, today’s track features another great Charles Stepney arrangement and if Les Fleur is springtime-in-bloom exciting, then California Soul is summer-in-a-can joyful - a perfect go-to track when everything’s good, and you want everything to be great. (If you want everything to be awesome, you have to take it to yet another level…)
Like Riperton, Shaw was on the roster at Chess offshoot label Cadet Records, before moving to Blue Note (jazz had always been her preference) after her second album The Spice of Life, on which California Soul appears.
California Soul had been written by the husband and wife song-writing partnership of Ashford & Simpson, and first appeared as a Motown b-side, on the single Window Shopping by The Messengers. At this stage it’s a bit soul-pop, but not a million miles from Marlena Shaw’s version:
The 5th Dimension, a vocal group, then took it up and did something slightly different with it. I had never heard this version until now, and, well… yes. Or - indeed - no.
And then along came Stepney and Shaw, and together they turned into a timeless classic. Let’s hear it for the Motown (and others) culture of pairing up song-writers with artists in as many combinations as it took for the magic to happen.