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Why Solomon is the Uncrowned Emperor of Soul!
on 17 February 2003
As a "child of the sixties" I was slightly aware of Solomon Burke via two early Rolling Stone covers and a hideous version of Dylan's Maggie's Farm (regularly voted one of the worst Dylan covers ever made I understand and thankfully not on this collection!).
As a Mojo magazine reader I was aware that his latest CD "Don't give up on me" was Mojo's Album of the Year in 2002, so when I saw he was coming to London to appear at the Mojo Festival at the RFH in January I took a chance.
Suffice to say the show was so great (closest to a 60s Soul Review since I saw Ike & Tina Turner Revue in the early 1970s)that I wanted to rehear many of the early songs he performed that night in their original form and so immediately bought this Rhino re-issue via Amazon.
To get to the key review point, this has been one of the most pleasurable reissues I have come across in years and has been played incessantly since receipt. This is due firstly to Rhino Records which has done it's usual masterful job courtesy of Bill Inglot (apparently most of the original 45s that were the hits were remixed or re-recorded for LP and later CD release so this CD does truly represent the original 45 hits unheard for so long from the master tapes and boy does it show in the clarity both emotional and auditory).
But the real pleasure is that Burke who did not enjoy great success in the UK (one suspects lack of touring exposure in mid-60s plus he was ahead on most of the others (Redding, Picket etc.)in age and early hits) was (and still is based on the above recent evidence I can assure you!) a great all time soul voice and song interpreter who can coax a lyric so that it becomes truly etched on your memory cells in that you keep going back to listen to it again. The two other singers I find myself comparing him with in my mind are Arthur Alexander and James Carr who had a similar gift and who have all similarly benefited belatedly in both cases from recent re-issues. Some of the early 60s tracks sound slightly Ray Charles influenced (around the time of his C&W LPs) but Burke has a much richer vocal timbre and to these ears is throughout able to underscore it with his unique religious and spiritual vein (the inner notes fully cover this unique side of his life) so that you do understand why he is called the "Emperor of Soul" by many.
Burke was also well served by his Atlantic Producers, notably Bert Berns and Jerry Wexler who together produced the first 12 cuts of the 16 on the CD(Wexler produced one other on his own) though if the inner notes are to be believed Burke was his own man when it came to how a song was going to be paced and interpreted, in his rendering of it.
Only bummer is that the sleeve notes refer to Burke's full coverage of the history to all the 16 songs when interviewed by the Head of Rhino, but not all make it to the sleeve though the stories that did are well worth it.