Tyrone Davis and a genre’s 10th percentile

I was listening to a fine old soul twofer, Tyrone Davis’s Can I Change My Mind/Hold Back The Hands Of Time (a bargain at £5 from Fopp) and thinking of recommending it here, which I guess I’ve just done. He’s a terrific inger and the title tracks are great, but most of the rest is, in all conscience, nothing special, and the playing is often shaky, in that slightly out of tune way common in much Northern Soul. But I really enjoy it anyway, and I was thinking about how I still keep coming across really great singers and songs, new to me, despite a pretty extensive collection and knowledge in this area, and this got me thinking about what we mean when we say we like/love genreX.

I do cite vintage soul as my favourite genre, but do I really love my favourite records (say early Hi Al Green) so much more than my favourite easy listening jazz (late ’50s Louis Prima) or Britpop (Pulp), two genres I would never cite as favourites? There’s not so much in it. For me, it’s how much I love the second or third tier stuff. With soul, I guess I could cite someone like Joe Tex or Etta James there, both of whom I love deeply, whereas with britpop I don’t care very much about Supergrass, and with easy listening jazz I struggle to find another act to mention that I much like. I love country, and that extends beyond Hank and George and Merle to, say, Jimmy Dale Gilmore or Carl & Pearl Butler, but not so much further. But for soul – actually, let’s be more specific: for late ’60s deep southern soul, I’ve hardly heard a record I didn’t like enormously. Maybe when I say how much I like a genre I am measuring my reaction to the 10th or 30th or even 70th percentile (counting downwards in my quality ranking, if I had one) rather than the absolute peak of it. On this basis, I’d have to say that I love reggae more than punk for instance, even though I think more punk records would make my top 100, say.

I’m not sure what the point of this little item is, but there is something there that interests me greatly, so I thought I might as well try to express it.