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Burke (RIP 2010) -- vocals
- Little Vincent
- The Soul Clan
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: I Wish I Knew
Catalog: SD 8185
Country/State: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: 1577
Produced by Tom Dowd, sadly, 1968's "I Wish I Knew" brought Solomon Burke's partnership with Atlantic records to an end. Most critics seem to think the album was a bit haphazard and inconsistent, but I'll disagree with the mainstream perspective, True whoever convinced Burke to cover Jimmy Webb's 'By the Time I Get To Phoenix' should have had their song selection rights yanked. Similarly, a cover of J.W. Alexander's 'Why Why Why' was simply dull. There were also a couple of tunes that were merely okay. A cover of J.D. Loudermilk's 'Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye' was better than The Casinos hit, while the original Ivory Joe Hunter version of 'Since I Met You Baby' outshined Burke's reading. Still, that left seven strong performances which is an amazing batting average for anyone. So how do you start to pick the highlights ? Thought largely forgotten, title track was one of the best civil rights anthems every recorded, easily rivaling better known songs by the likes of Sam Cooke and Curtis Mayfield. Ballads like 'Meet Me In the Church' and 'Shame On Me' made it clear that Burke was one of the finest soul "love men" out there. The biggest surprise came in the form of his up-beat soul performances. Never known for his work in this genre, tunes like 'Get Out of My Life Woman', a rousing cover of Ray Charles' 'What'd I Say', and 'Save It ' were all killer performances. Maybe not his creative zenith, but well worth hunting for !!!
"I Wish I Knew" track listing:
1.) I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free) (Billy Taylor - Dick Dallas) - 2:51
I've always wondered how it was this song failed to reach the same level of recognition and appreciation other civil rights anthems such as Sam Cooke's 'A Change Is Gonna Come', Curtis Mayfield's 'People Get Ready' or Nina Simone's '"Mississippi Goddam' have. My only guess is the tune had too much of a Gospel feel to it. Shame since it's a near perfect performance which remains as apt today as when written. Atlantic tapped it as a single:
- 1968's 'I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel to Be Free) / It's Just a Matter of Time' (Atlantic catalog number 45-2507) YouTube has a clip of an impressive 66 year old Burke performing the tune at a 2006 Jazzaldia show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1UGJebG37Y rating: ***** stars
2.) Get Out of My Life Woman (Allen Toussaint) - 3:20
Proto-rap ? Perhaps. It's certainly been sampled enough. Regardless, it was simply one of the funkiest things Burke ever recorded. Atlantic also tapped it as a single:
- 1968's 'Get Out of My Life Woman' b/w 'What'd I Say' (Atlantic catalog number 45-2566) rating: **** stars
3.) Meet Me In Church (Joe Tex)- 3:33
Burke brought all of his understated power to this Gospel-tinged cover of the Joe Tex tune. I always thought this was the ultimate "pick up" church for the righteous amongst us. rating: **** stars
4.) By the Time I Get To Phoenix (Jimmy Webb - Johnny Rivers) - 2:56
The album's first misstep - I'll admit Burke's deep soul cover was better than the Glen Campbell massive pop hit, but the song was just so irritating, I'm not sure anyone could. rating: ** stars
5.) Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye (John D. Loudermilk) - 3:03
The Casinos had a top-10 hit with their lounge act arrangement of the tune. Burke delivered one of the better covers, bringing his patented gravitas (always wanted to use that word in a sentence), to the arrangement. rating: *** stars
1.) What'd I Say (Ray Charles) - 4:46
For most artists trying cover a classic tune like Ray Charles' 'What'd I Say' would be suicidal. Charles is just so associated with the tune, there's virtually no way to avoid comparisons with the original performance and those comparisons aren't going to be favorable. Burke was one of the few singers who even had a chance and while you weren't going to forget Charles' original, the cover was quite good. Anyone who doubted Burke could handle hardcore soul should check this one out. The only disappointment was the track's length - it faded out way too soon. rating: **** stars
2.) Since I Met You Baby (Ivory Joe Hunter) - 3:45
Burke taking the audience to church ... Ironically, as good as his cover was, Ivory Joe Hunter's 1956 original was even better. rating: *** stars
3.) Save It (Don Bryant) - 2:23
Maybe I'm the odd one out, but I've always thought Burke was at his best on up-tempo, dance-ready tunes like the killer 'Save It'. One of those tracks that is virtually impossible to sit still through, this one deserved to be on every Burke "best of" compilation. Wonder if the late Joe Cocker got some of his vocal stylings off this performance ? It was also tapped as a single:
- 1968's 'Save It' b/w 'Meet Me in Church' (Atlantic catalog number 45-2527) rating: **** stars
4.) Shame On Me (Don Bryant - Willie Mitchell)) - 3:31
One of the prettiest tunes he ever recorded. Normally I'm not a big fan of spoken word segments, but Burke's work was so heartbreaking, he ultimately won me over. rating: **** stars
5.) Why Why Why (J.W. Alexander) - 2:24
This country-soul tinged ballad wasn't all that great and certainly wasn't helped by an extended spoken word vamp. Kind of a bland way to end the LP. rating: ** stars
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: Proud Mary
Catalog: Bell 6033
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: SOLD 5309
Like a lot of soul artists, by the late 1960s Solomon Burke's career was on a downward trajectory. He hadn't scored a major commercial hit in a couple of years and without hits his longstanding partnership with Atlantic Records had come to an abrupt end (adding to the irony, his final Atlantic single was entitled 'I Wish I Knew (How It Feels To Feel Free)').
photo from "Proud Mary" LP back cover
Dropped by Atlantic, Bell Records quickly stepped in with a contract though Burke's first came in the form of a enjoyable, but unexceptional single:
- 1969's 'Up Tight Good Woman' b/w 'I Can't Stop' (Bell catalog number 759)
In contrast Burke's sophomore release proved an unorthodox move. Burke certainly exhibited good tastes in his decision to cover Creedence Clearwater Revival's 'Proud Mary' ('Proud Mary' b/w 'What Am I Living For' (Bell catalog 783)), though the fact the song was still on the pop charts made it a questionable marketing move. On the other hand Burke's personalized version of the song was simply spellbinding. Great sitar-ish guitar throughout. John Fogerty's comments (found on the liner notes for the supporting LP basically said it all:
"The first time I heard Solomon Burke sing 'Proud Mary' I was plain amazed. 2000 miles away this man had crawled right up inside my head to learn what 'Proud Mary' was all about. Sure it's great when someone sings your song - but when he understands it, you listen like it was the first time. Some times the older wine is the best."
With the single just missing the top-40 charts (it peaked at # 45), as was standard marketing procedure Bell executives agreed to finance a supporting album. In an inspired move Burke was shipped to Muscle Shoals' FAME studios where he was teamed with the cream of Muscle Shoals studio talent including Roger Hawkins and Eddie Hinton. Co-produced by Burke and Tamiko Jones (allowing a soul artist to produced himself was still a rarity) the cleverly-titled "Proud Mary" served to clearly demonstrate that Burke's patented mix of Gospel, soul and R&B remained in fine form. Offering up a mixture of popular hit covers, more obscure covers and one original the set was every bit as good as the cream of his work for Atlantic. The album's distinctive soul edge certainly didn't hurt (check out the killer Burke original 'How Big A Fool (Can a Fool Be)' or ' I Can't Stop (No No No)' which would have done Redding proud). 'Course the fact the man had a voice that would sound good singing a phone book listing helped the proceedings. Hard to pick standout performances, though my nods would go to his cover of Otis Redding's 'There Arms of Mine', a slightly countrified 'I'll Be Doggone' the killer ballad 'Don 't Wait Too Long' and perhaps best of all - Burke's own 'How Big A Fool (Can a Fool Be)' . Elsewhere Bell tapped the album for a follow-on single in the form of:
- 1969s 'That Lucky Old Sun' b/w 'How Big a Fool' (Bell catalog number 806)
"Proud Mary" track listing:
Mary (John Fogerty) - 3:17
These Arms of Mine (Otis Redding) - 2:54
I'll Be Doggone (William Robinson - Warren Moore - Marv Tarlin) -
How Big A Fool (Can a Fool Be) (Solomon Burke) - 2:15
Lucky Old Sun (Beasley Smith - Haven Gillespie) - 3:00
Uptight Good Woman (Dan Penn - Spooner Oldham - Jimmy Johnson) -
I Can't Stop (No No No) (Dan Penn - Roger Hawkins) - 2:17
Please Send Me Someone To Love (Shirlee Kaplan) - 3:02
5.) What Am I Living For (Fred Day - Art Harris) - 2:55
Ironically by the time the LP was released (peaking at # 140), Bell had already dropped Burke. That didn't stop the label from tapping the album for a pair of follow-on non-LP singles:
- 1970's 'The Generation Of Revelations' b/w 'I'm Gonna Stay Right Here' (Bell catalog number 829)
- 1970's 'In The Ghetto' b/w 'God Knows I Love You' (Bell catalog number 891)
For anyone interested, Burke's late-1990s/early 2000s re-emergence includes an interesting website at:
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: Electronic Magnetism
Catalog: SE 4647
Country/State: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: 3052
By the late 1960s Solomon Burke's recording career was largely in shambles. Dropped by Atlantic, he'd bounced from label to label with little to show for his efforts. In late 1970 manager Buddy Glee helped him get a deal with Mike Curb's MGM Records. While I'm no expert, to me it certainly seemed like an odd pairing. Curb and MGM certainly weren't known for their expertise in soul. On the other hand, Burke clearly needed to pay his bills so a contract was a contract.
Musically "Electronic Magnetism" was best described as an aural mess. MGM management clearly had no idea what to do with Burke. The result was an almost schizophrenic mixture of song stylings. Clearly hoping something would strike the public's fancy, you were confronted with everything from sensitive singer/songwriter moves ('Three Psalms of Elton' which stitching together three Elton John - Bernie Taupin tunes, '70s social commentary ('PSR 1983'), to swamp rock in the form of another Creedence Clearwater Revival cover ('Lookin' Out My Back Door'). In all fairness Burke sounded good throughout the set (check out the Gospel-tinged 'Together We'll Light Up the World'). In spite of the absence of musical direction, Burke was simply too good a performer to turn in an album without some redeeming qualities. With a wonderful breezy melody, 'Bridge of Life' was the standout performance. In spite of the bizarre title, 'The Electronic Magnetism (That's Heavy, Baby)' was a tasty mid-tempo ballad. Still, the album had a disconcerting feeling of desperation. You were left wishing MGM would have just turned Burke loose in the studio to do what he did best - forget popular trends and the desire for commercial success.
"Electronic Magnetism" track listing:
1.) The Electronic Magnetism (That's Heavy, Baby) (M. Burke - Solomon Burke - B. Burke) - 3:29 rating: **** stars
The title was certain strange (I'll take it as being one of those strange '70s things), but the song was actually a surprisingly enjoyable mid-tempo ballad. Burke certainly had a voice as sweet as honey ... MGM tapped it as the album's second single:
- 1971's 'The Electronic Magnetism' b/w 'Bridge of Life' (MGM catalog number MGM K-14221) # 96 pop; # 26 R&B
2.) Three Psalms of Elton - 3:17 rating: *** stars
While there wasn't anything particularly original in this three part musical suite, kudos to Burke for recognizing up and coming talent in the form of a young Elton John.
i.) Your Song (Elton John - Bernie Taupin) -
ii.) Border Song (Elton John - Bernie Taupin) -
iii.) Take Me to the Pilot (Elton John - Bernie Taupin) -
Perhaps because he was a known entity in Europe, the Elton John suite was tapped as a German single:
- 1971's 'Your Song/Border Song/Take Me to the Pilot' b/w 'The Electronic Magnetism (That's Heavy, Baby)' (MGM catalog number 2006 064)
3.) You Can Run But You Can't Hide (Louis - Horton) - 2:45 rating: *** stars
I'm at a loss as to why Burke decided to re-record this 1956 single. To my ears the remake wasn't that different from the original. Anyhow it's always surprised me to see what a big guy Burke was, yet how fragile and tender his voice could be. One of the album's prettiest ballads, the track had a modest country soul feel, though the string arrangement was a bit over-the-top.
4.) All For the Love of Sunshine (Mike Curb - Lalo Shiffrin - Hatcher) - 4:20 rating: *** stars
The previous year Hank Williams Jr. had enjoyed a massive hit with his version of 'All for the Love of Sunshine'. The track was also included in the soundtrack to the film "Kelly's Heroes". Other than the electric sitar backing, Burke's soul and Gospel-tinged revamped version was okay, but hardly awe inspiring. That left you wondering why MGM bothered tapping it as a single:
- 1970's 'All For the Love of Sunshine' b/w 'Lookin' Out My Back Door' (MGM catalog number MGM K-14185)
5.) Bridge of Life (Mark Burke - Solomon Burke - Brown) - 4:20 rating: **** stars
My pick as the album's standout performance - 'Bridge of Life' was an easy going ballad with memorable melody and quickly allowed the Reverend Burke to quickly get into his best preachy mode. This is the tune I would have tapped as a single.
6.) Together We'll Light Up the World (Mark Burke - Solomon Burke - .S Burke Jr.) - 5:53 rating: **** stars
Sweet, Gospel tinged sing-along tune that was far better than you would have expected.
1.) Stand (Sly Stewart) - 2:55 rating: *** stars
So if you could cover John Fogerty and Elton John, why not Sly Stone? Nice enought, but wasn;t going to make you forget the Sly and the Family Stone original.
2.) PSR 1983 (Mark Burke - Solomon Burke - Melanie Burke - E. Burke) - 4:18 rating: **** stars
Social commentary from the great man ... 'PSR - 1983' certainly had a '70s feel, but it was quite effective and it's kind of sad to hear this song and realize how little progress we've made over the last fifty years. Credited to Burke and The Mississippi Sunshine the track was released as the album's third single:
- 1971's 'PSR 1983' b/w 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down' (MGM catalog number K-14302)
3.) Lookin' Out My Back Door (John Fogarty) - 3:59 rating: *** star
Having previously enjoyed a minor hit with his cover of CCR's 'Proud Mary' you couldn't really blame Burke for reaching back into the John Fogerty catalog for another tune. His cover didn't stray too far from the original and the CCR name check was a nice touch. Shame the songwriting credit mis-spelled Fogerty's name.
4.) No Man Walks Alone (Horton - La Verne - Biggs) - 2:38 rating: ** stars
Too MOR-ish for Burke's own good - supper club pop.
5.) J.C. I Know Who You Are (Mark Burke - Solomon Burke - S. Burke Jr. - E. Burke) - 4:27 rating: *** star
Guess Burke had been listening to a lot of "Jesus Christ Superstar" ....
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: We're Almost Home
Catalog: SE 4830
Grade (cover/record): NM / NM
Comments: still in shrink wrap
Catalog ID: SOLD 4491
Price: SOLD $25.00
It's always struck me as bizarre that American audiences don't seem to appreciate the best work from some of our premier artists. Solomon Burke is a perfect example. Echoing those sentiments, good luck trying to find a reference or review of this classic set. Most of the on-line and hard copy references don't even list the LP. In fact the only on-line review I've found (other than this one) is in Japanese (so I have no idea what the comments actually say).
Co-produced by Burke, Gene Page and Jerry Styner (Michael Lloyd handled two tracks), 1972's "We're Almost Home" was Burke second LP for MGM. Musically the collection offered up a somewhat unimaginative mix of light pop and deeper soul. That said, Burke's instantly identifiable voice seldom sounded as good. Exemplified by material such as the title track, 'I've Got To Do My Own Thing' and ''I Got To Tell the set spotlighted Burke's unique blend of Gospel, deep soul and commercial moves. The main problem seemed to stem from MGM's inability to figure what to do with Burke. Was he a soul artists? A pop artist? The end result was that he was saddled with a unfocused collection that failed to take advantage of his unique gifts. On the other hand this was a Solomon Burke LP. Sure the set's a little heavy on the orchestration, but who cares !!!.
MGM tapped the title track as a single: 'We're Almost Home Now' b/w 'Fight Back' (MGM catalog number K-14402. The song was also featured in the film soundtrack "Cool Breeze".
"We're Almost Home" track listing:
1.) We're Almost Home - 2:24
2.) I've Got To Do My Own Thing - 3:40
3.) I Got To Tell It - 3:35
4.) Drown In My Own Tears
5.) I Can't Stop Loving You - 5:24
1.) The Things Love Will Make You Do - 3:20
2.) Everybody Wants To Fall In Love - 3:27
3.) Misty - 2:45
4.) Everything's Going To Be Alright Very Soon - 3:54
5.) Sweet, Sweet Reason - 3:53
One final single for MGM and Burke was off to a new label:
- 1970's 'Get Up And Do Something For Yourself' b/w 'Misty' (MGM catalog number K-14425)
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