Modern soul is a style of music with associated clothing and dance styles (precursors to the disco era), that developed in Northern England in the early 1970s.
Modern soul developed from the Northern soul scene, when some DJs began looking in record shops of the United States and United Kingdom for something more complex and contemporary. What emerged was a richer sound that was as lyrically and melodically soulful as Northern soul, but more advanced in terms of Hi-Fi and FM radio technology. Another benefit was that unlike Northern soul, it offered a steady stream of new releases. Modern soul records are not necessarily "modern" at any one point in time; some current modern soul favourites are over 30 years old. The records are simply modern-sounding relative to the traditional Northern soul sound.
A large proportion of modern soul's original audience members came from the Northern soul scene, retaining their adoration of underground and rare, independent label soul music. One of the first modern soul clubs was Blackpool Mecca, which was fronted by the DJ Ian Levine. He broke from the Northern soul mould by playing a new release by The Carstairs ("It Really Hurts Me Girl") in the early 1970s. Levine: "Back in England I found this dealer called John Anderson who’d moved from Scotland to Kings Lynn. I told him I wanted this Carstairs record and he’d just had a shipment in from America of 100,000 demo records from radio stations. We went through this collection, me, Andy Hanley, and Bernie Golding, and we found three copies of the Carstairs record. Went back to Blackpool, played the record and changed the whole scene. Blackpool Mecca suddenly became the home of this new Northern soul sound. I would’ve heard this record in 1973, when it was supposedly released, but not obtained it until 1974". Around the same period, Colin Curtis played The Anderson Brothers' "I Can See Him Loving You", and another key modern soul track emerged: Don Thomas' "Come on Train".
The main protagonists of the two soul genres had a falling-out and went their separate ways, with soul clubs generally siding either with modern or northern. Modern soul became a major force, drawing more people towards the music and its venues. Liverpool, the only major northern city of the West-East swathe of England, had remained largely immune from the Northern soul scene in the 1960s and 1970s, preferring Motown and funk. The city showed itself to be a more fertile area for the modern soul sound.
Despite their initial differences, Northern and modern soul remain inextricably linked genres. Some DJs, such as Richard Searling and "Soul Sam" (Martin Barnfather), have championed both the Northern and modern soul scenes for several decades. Nowadays, most UK soul venues play music from both genres. A Greg Perry track, could immediately follow a track by The Vibrations, a mix that would not have happened in the 1970s. Some venues also have a main room for traditional Northern soul favourites and a separate "modern room" for the newer sound.
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