Tired of "soul" stars in it for the money? Get your sweaty palms on this CD. Dan Penn is the master of soul music, everything is slooowed down to effect the greatest amount of feeling. There are no histrionics here - just a smouldering lesson in REAL soul. PS If you like this buy any record by Sir Mack Rice
It's one thing to be able to write great songs that are name-checked as masterpieces some 45 years later (Penn has scribed many as you will find out) – but it's another ball of wax to find out that the man can actually sing 'Soulful' too - gargle warmth and personality with the best of them –reminding you at times of great unsung white male singers with black Soulful voices like Eddie Hinton and Terry Reid.
The premise here is this – Alabama’s DAN PENN - a 60ts and 70ts gifted white boy in-house songwriter working with huge names in the Soul and Rock world in Rick Hall’s legendary powerhouse FAME STUDIOS in Muscle Shoals – revisits his old hits in his old stomping ground with his playing buddies at his side. He will do 'his' versions of songs made famous by icons like Aretha Franklin - her 1967 smash "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" on Atlantic Records, James Carr's 1967 hurting "The Dark End Of The Street" on Goldwax, Percy Sledge's 1966 heartbreaker "It Tears Me Up" on Atlantic, James and Bobby Purify's 1966 ode to devotion "I'm Your Puppet" on Bell Records and "You Left The Water Running" - a song so popular it was first done by Barbara Lynn, Otis Redding, Maurice & Mac, Sam & Dave, Ralph Jackson and Wilson Pickett. In fact in the case of "I'm Your Puppet" - a song also done by Dionne Warwick and as a duet with Marvin Gaye and Valerie Simpson - I'd argue that the new 1994 Penn version excels the sublime original and all other retellings - instilling the new take with incredible pathos, genuine beauty and feel. I play this sucker into the ground - always moving me. But let's get to the technical details first...
UK released 31 October 1994 - "Do Right Man" by DAN PENN on Sire/Warner Brothers/Blue Horizon 9362-45519-2 (Barcode 093624551928) was Produced by DAN PENN and GEORGE DRAKOULIAS, Recorded and Mixed at MUSCLE SHOALS SOUND STUDIOS in Sheffield, Alabama and Mastered by STEPHEN MARCUSSEN (he handled the 2009 Rolling Stones Remasters). The 16-page booklet has liner notes from noted R 'n' B and Soul Writer/Historian PETER GURALNICK and its ten-tracks plays to 37:15 minutes:
1. The Dark End Of The Street 2. Cry Like A Man 3. It Tears Me Up 4. You Left The Water Running 5. Do Right Woman Do Right Man 6. Memphis Women And Chicken 7. Zero Willpower 8. He'll Take Care Of You 9. I'm Your Puppet 10. Where There's A Will (There's A Way)
The band reunites Penn with: REGGIE YOUNG and JIMMIE JOHNSON on Lead Guitars BOBBY EMMONS, SPOONER OLDHAM, DAVID BRIGGS and CARSON WHITSETT on Keyboards DAVID HOOD on Bass ROGER HAWKINS on Drums.
The MEMPHIS HORNS on all cuts are: WAYNE JACKSON on Trumpet, HARVEY THOMPSON on Tenor Sax DOUG MOFFET on Baritone Sax (Flute on "He'll Take Care Of You") CHARLES ROSE on Trombone
BACKING SINGERS on all cuts are: AVA ALDRIDGE, CINDY RICHARDS-WALKER, LENNY LeBLANC, BUZZ CASON and GEORGE SOULE
DELBERT McCLINTON plays Harmonica on "Memphis Women And Chicken"
It's true that the new songs are competing with tunes so ingrained in your consciousness that it's hard to think of the newbees as anything you could compare favourably with the old - but I'd argue that Penn succeeds. His interpretations of "Dark End Of The Street", "It Tears Me Up" and especially "Do Right Woman Do Right Man" are spine-tinglingly good. And that "I'm Your Puppet" just does me in. Not to be outdone there are 'new' old songs too - tunes he's returned to that apparently lay unfinished - some for over twenty years.
There's the slow groove of "Cry Like A Man" - maybe an answer song to "Cry Like A Baby" - a Penn tune picked up by Arthur Alexander and Cher in 1969. The jaunty greasy food song "Memphis Women And Chicken" and the truly gorgeous "Zero Willpower" - a song you'd swear has to have been done by some Soul giant back in the Sixties but turns out to be new - a modern day classic (lyrics from it title this review). It ends on the Funky Brass groover "Where There's A Will (There's A Way)" which is good rather than being great.
He would tour this album with just Spooner Oldham - voices and keyboards - simple, eloquent and Soulful. And in some ways that's how you would sum up this overlooked beauty of an album – an eloquent slice of Modern Day Soul by a songwriter who helped shape its very foundations.
Get the 'Do Right Man' into your life soon as poss...
Like a moth attracted to the flame, I have returned to listen to him time and time again. Dan Penn has the ability to swoon you into a place where life is bitter but also sweet. This is an album that should be heard, forget the pap that is served up over the airwaves and check out some top drawer, down to earth soul. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who is searching to reconnect with themselves. Soul to the max.
It came as a shock some years ago to discover that the musicians in the brilliant house band at Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama were white . I had always assumed that the immaculate backing on so many soul classics recorded in that modest building was laid down by black guys . Songwriter in chief on those classics was Dan Penn and on this album he records them in his own name with the superb accompaniment of his mates . He sings in a straightforward unflashy almost understated way . You will wonder why you are sweating after ten minutes or so . Great songs . Great singing . Great playing . A soul classic .