Graham Reid | | 1 min read
The extraordinary Solomon Burke has enjoyed that rarity in popular music, not just a second coming but a sustained one.
Music history is full of acts who come back after their first seminal period but few of them -- Dylan a notable exception, the Searchers' story the more common -- have a sustained run of artistic as well as commercial success.
Commercial success is a relative term in Burke's case of course, his resurrection began when he was in his 60s and not many rush out to buy albums of people of that age -- but there is no denying the emotional power of his most recent albums which started a decade ago with the Joe Henry-produced Don't Give Up on Me. (Burke is interviewed about his career and that album here).
If anything, this album -- under another telling title -- is superior in many ways: the moods are mostly slower and more penetrating, the production is by kindred soul spirit Willie Mitchell (of Al Green fame), the material is frequently as dark as it is joyous (the tale of infidelity on Mitchell's New Company where the story is only revealed right at the end), and Burke digs deep into a well of experience.
Burke has rarely sounded in better, more empathetic voice and when he sings of gratitude to a wife/lover he is possessed by the same spirit that he doubtless brings to his ministry: he is a man bathing in a blessing.
And when he sings of the other side, even if it is absence rather than permanent loss (When You're Not Here) you can feel how that blessing has been torn away and the hurt it has left.
This is an exceptional album -- and comes with a mantle of sadness.
The great Willie Mitchell -- who really is the co-equal here -- died in January and this was his last project.
Together they have delivered a classic soul album.