Sampson, I wondered what you made of Solomon Burke's album with Willie Mitchell, Nothing's Impossible. I absolutely love the title track and "When You're Not Here" (the opening 12-15 seconds are absolutely brilliant and caught my ear instantly on the trailers for the album). The rest of the album hasn't caught me though my listens have admittedly been very scattered. It may grow but I prefer Make Do With What You Got and absolutely obviously the 5 star Don't Give Up On Me of his later works. Not heard Like A Fire or Nashville (though I'm aware the reviews for this are glowing, I'm just not sure I can handle a total country directed album, though I'm open to convincing and I'd love to hear your thoughts on that one, and the late period Burke in general.
I'm a big fan of Nothing's Impossible
. It's about what I thought it'd be, but that's good with them since both are so reliable. Mitchell's production style suits Solomon and the songs are pretty good as well. I was very disappointed with Like A Fire
however. It was produced by Steve Jordan, who's very well respected as a drummer, but the whole album suffers from badly written songs. There are two standouts, "A Minute To Rest, A Second To Pray" written by and featuring Ben Harper, which is the best song on the album, and the Eric Clapton/Burke collaboration "Thank You" is simplistic, but charming (as he briefly morphs into Louis Armstrong reincarnated). Otherwise there's nothing in the material for Solomon to sink his teeth into. He sings it all great, but it's just so unimaginative ("Ain't That Something" written by Jordan is basically a re-write of Dylan's "What Good Am I" from Make Do With What You've Got
, which I thought was one of the best songs on that album, but obviously a bad rehash of it here accomplishes nothing). Jordan and guitarist Jesse Harris wrote most of the songs on the album and they're just not good enough songwriters to hold up that end.
On the other hand, Nashville
is brilliant. Get it immediately! I was skeptical too because I'm not a country music fan, and there's a few fiddles and a steel guitar every so often that you might need to get over, but for the most part it is the late in life album that reminds me most of Don't Give Up On Me
. Sparse production, no fallback soul arrangements with horns, and really good material that gives Solomon a chance to breathe and inject his idiosyncracies. "That's How I Got To Memphis" is incredible (I also like the Bill Haley version from back in 60's well after his heyday, that's a real find). I'm floored by "Valley Of Tears". I'd put those up with almost anything Solomon did in the last decade of his life. But really there's not a single misstep on the album - Does My Ring Burn Your Finger, You're The Kind Of Trouble, Atta Way To Go, the Springsteen cover Ain't Got You, the duet with Dolly Parton on Tommorow Is Forever... all of it is great. Highly recommended.
On the whole, the Burke revival showed what people in music knew all along - he could sing anything. I loved the collaboration with Junkie XL on "Catch Up To My Step", I mean, he's doing a dance club track and wrote it himself no less, and makes it work! He did some good stuff with Derek Trucks, Jools Holland and The Blind Boys Of Alabama recently too and his latest album with De Dijk (still to be released, I was privilaged to hear an advanced copy) has some great moments (Text Me in particular is tremendous - the horn riff will stay with you for days after just one listen).
After he passed I put together a multi-disc boxed set of his career for some friends and on all those career spanning boxed sets that come along (the official ones I mean) it's always the last disc which is the weakest no matter what artist we're talking about, but with Solomon I had trouble actually narrowing down the songs for the final disc, his resurgance was just so deep.
Also, this isn't a soul singer, but I recently gave Paul Pena's New Train a listen (several now; it's been in constant rotation since the Summer) and I must say what a wonderful album, and as far as I'm concerned it stands up to anything of that sort of West Coast rock of the early 70s. Stellar songwriting & quite distinct vocals, not to mention more than capable guitar chops. I can't believe that album was in the can for nearly 30 years but it's definitely gonna be one I'm gonna promote as much as I can. What are your thoughts? "Gonna Move", "Jet Airliner", "New Train", "Indian Boy" are all favourites of mine but it's wonderfully consistent - I see only the Hendrix knockoff "Cosmic Mirror" as a misstep.
It's a pretty good album. I hear so many little nods to artists and styles in it that it seemed familiar to me on the first listen. I particularly liked the track "Wait On What You Want". Do you hear some Joe Cocker traits in that one like I do? Maybe some Bobby Womack too.