Given that R&B does exactly what it says on the tin, it is astonishing how many people have lost sight of what it really means. You take the blues – a set of fancy scales, if you’re a soulless technical player, or a feel that you can’t be tricked into, or out of, if you’re a warm-blooded human being with soul. You then put a rhythm section under them. You create blues you can dance to. You have R&B.
So it’s easy to know you’re listening to R&B – it’s blues music, with a rhythm section, it’s chock-full of soul, and you can dance to it. The Stones were R&B. Sun-era Elvis was R&B. Dr Feelgood were R&B. Chuck Berry was R&B. The Small Faces were R&B. Sam Cooke was R&B. Thee Faction are R&B. When you hear R&B you know it’s R&B. If you hear Dire Straits and think you’re hearing R&B, you need to re-tune.
There are various noteworthy offshoots of R&B, and no doubt you can find venn diagrams and flow charts demonstrating how one relates to another. If you’re the sort of bourgeois trivia gatherer who needs to do that, good luck to you. The only offshoot of R&B which should be of any interest to comrades is Socialist R&B.
Now Socialist R&B is generally regarded by aficionados to be R&B in its purest form. The purer the R&B sounds, the more likely it is to be Socialist R&B. You know it when you hear it. You can google it. You’ll probably just get a load of links to Thee Faction. Cos as far as the general public is concerned, Thee Faction have always been the public face of Socialist R&B. But there’s plenty more out there. Dig through the archives at Sun, at Chess, or at Stax. You’ll find Socialist R&B in there.
What are the pointers? You know how to spot R&B. Add to that the bite of the local rabble-rouser, the spine-tingling of the trade union anthem, the spirit of the Communist Manifesto, the clang of the factory, the unpleasantness of wage labour , the violence of the extraction of surplus value, the pain of alienation, and the bite of what Engels called the ‘dull compulsion of the economic’. That’s your Socialist R&B.
That is Thee Faction.