James immediately sets to praising Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir‘s “Like a Ship,” a song so good that after Numero Group, one of two soul-reissue heavy-hitters, licensed the song for its Good God! Born Again Funk compilation, they teamed with the other big reissue label, Light In The Attic, to release Barrett’s entire 1971 LP. James also big-ups Syl Johnson, whose Twinight label was for a time practically Numero’s raison d’être: “I can’t believe this song is not one of the staples of classic radio,” James says of Johnson’s “Together Forever.”
James doesn’t stick to the soul rarities though; if anything, his theme is one of righteous struggle, whether personal, romantic, or political. He discusses the 1985 Mike + The Mechanics single “Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)” in the context of union struggles in the midwest and dictatorship struggles in the Middle East; he quotes William Bell’s super-smooth “Everybody Loves a Winner” as “one of life’s truths: ‘Everybody loves a winner, but when you lose, you lose alone.’”
He goes far out for his last pick, Ubon Pattana‘s “Lam Sarawan”—not because the late ’60s Thai pop sounds strange, but in his description of the song. Many Southeast Asian pop groups of the era composed songs inspired by the psych-rock of the American counterculture, but played on Thai instruments, creating a new spin on what was nonetheless still pop. But James describes being “in Thailand on a business trip” eight years before he was even born. 4/20 is tomorrow, Jim.
Remember, My Morning Jacket’s VH1 Storytellers episode is set to air on Friday, June 3rd at 11pm.