Soul is musical label that is easy to stick onto but hard to explain. What may have come from the transition from religious to secular hymns by the likes of Ray Charles and Sam Cooke is nowadays part of the colours of a musical palette. While in the US the sound has been constantly developing from rough r&b to elegant Motown (northern) soul to funk to modern, disco, boogie, hip hop (to some extent) Swingbeat, r&b again (different sound) to Nu-Soul - the approach in Europe has been slightly different.
Apart from the UK (and the popcorn scene in Belgium), where those up- and midtempo Motown-like 45s were all rage - the real fascination with anything soul in the rest of europe came from the borrowing of former underground hits by temporary artists. The Dexys brought us Horns and "Geno", Soft Cell reminded us of "Tainted Love" and The Jam were covering Curtis Mayfield (amongst others), with the Mod Revival adding up to that. So the more inspiring artists took their punkish attitude and looked for new and energetic sounds - and found them in the rich past of american soul.
Growing it's own scene
This is the reason why Soul Music finally became big in europe too - it was the retro thang. From the Northern Soul Revival of the Neo-Mods, to the appreciation of the Godfather James Brown up to Funk, Acid Jazz and so on. It actually became a scene and then a business model. Now you could even form a soul band on the continent. So when D/Troit from Copenhagen came to town we were excited. A New Band from a place where people know how to speak proper english - something german soul bands are often lacking.
When the band were moving and shaking, it was quite clear that they master their tools. Those eight guys from D/troit were clearly "in the groove". But: this had nothing to do with "Detroit" - where they derived their name from. Just remember: Detroit was home to Motown and other smaller labels that were famous for going uptown: Fast rhythms, entertaining lyrics, but most of all songwriting and arrangements on a high level. Even today Detroit stands for elegant soul of the past (plus Techno - but that is a different story). And that is exactly what these danish guys were proposing, when they used that association as a band name.
But elegant soul is exactly what D/troit are lacking. With their earthy, funky sound, they should rather call themselves "M-Phis" or "@tlanta" (© by me). They were too often relying on one riff that went all the way through the whole song - no bridge, no extra melody no diversified arrangements. So it wasn't surprising that their last encore was a medley of James Browns Greatest Hits.
D/troit: Soul Music germans like
Clearly the audience loved it. It was well-played soul-funk with a charismatic singer upfront who had unique dance moves - to say the least ;-). But i guess he reminded most of the people in front of the stage of a younger Joe Cocker - rather than one of the Detroit Masters like Marvin, Smokey or Stevie. And Germany is well known for being a little on the slow side when it comes to challenging or modern music. Secretly "we" are still longing for the Beatles Reunion - who are "actually a band from hamburg, you know".
Words don't come easy
"No Man is an island", "It's a Soul Thing", "Freedom is not for free" - this kind of lyrics are an offence. Those are frankly a succession of trivialities copied from songs of yesteryear. Great Soul is more than weepy sad love songs. It often had a political sideline. And if you can't walk the walk, then don't talk the talk. They should have stuck with the former and sing about the dos and don't in a relationship.
Now soul clearly brings more "girls to the yard" (in heterosexual terms) than heavy metal, hardcore hip hop and heavy funk. So calling your stuff "Neo Soul" is meant to sell tickets. But sadly I couldn't hear any "new" sounds. And the old ones could have done with a bit more arrangement, brighter melodies (and better lyrics). D/Troit are more skilled than a cover Band, but today lack ambition when it comes to standing on its own. The latest 45 have been mixed by Gabriel Roth of Dap-Kings and "Back To Black"-Fame. So let's hope they will turn out to be a bit more unique and original when the return next time.