Customer Review

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Soul Soul Soul!, 12 Sep 2010
This review is from: Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook (Audio CD)
Just in case it is not yet fully appreciated it is worth noting that Bettye LaVette & Mavis Staples, survivors of the classic soul scene of the 1960s to early 70s, have been issuing some of the finest work of their respective years of late & I don't think it an exaggeration to suggest that these two remarkably voiced women can probably be acclaimed as the High Priestesses of contemporary soul music. This is Bettye's 3rd offering on the Anti label and is a more subdued affair than the previous two, but don't let that put you off because if it does you'll be missing out on one hell of an achievement here. It takes a few plays to get to grips with what is going on but by that time the restrained excellence of the music has begun to work its magic. Bettye accurately describes herself as an interpreter of songs and what she does with them is quite remarkable. Most of the material here will be familiar to seasoned listeners of the rock tradition but Bettye & her superb band have deconstructed them & stripped them down to the bare melodic bones in order to allow the singer to get under the skin of the lyrics. That last part of the process is the key to the lady's artistry, since once the songs have been re-assembled they have been recast as vehicles for a voice that makes every note & every line count for more than you might expect. I would love, for example, to witness Ringo Starr listening to what she's done with his 'It Don't Come Easy': transformed here from a happy-go-lucky jolly into an eloquent pean to the blues which elevates the song to a status that not even Ringo would have dreamed of. There are 13 tracks here, including the now famous live performance of The Who's 'Love Rein O'er Me' from the John F. Kennedy Centre, with maybe just 3 that don't quite hit the mark as effectively as the others but, hey, 10 out of 13 is a ridiculously high hit rate in this day & age! This is an album to be savoured over repeated plays, during which time it reveals itself as a masterclass in vocal brilliance and empathetic musicianship. Her version of the Stones' 'Salt Of The Earth' is well worth singling out for particular attention, as is her reading of Pink Floyd's 'Wish You Were Here' which brings a lump to my throat & moisture to my eye every time I hear it. Damn! Soul music doesn't get much better than this!
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