Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Solomon Burke's 1972 Country Soul

Solomon Burke - The Electronic Magnetism (That's Heavy Baby)

Solomon Burke's 2006 CD Nashville finds the soul master joining forces with the likes of Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris in a great album with lots of warmth, fun and soul (of course). In many ways, though, the album was really a homecoming to the country sound for Burke, whose very first hit, 1961's "Just Out Of Reach," is probably one of the very first country soul records, along with William Bell's "You Don't Miss Your Water," Esther Phillips' "Release Me" and the early Ray Charles C&W material. In Gerri Hirsch's Nowhere To Run and in Peter Guralnick's Sweet Soul Music Burke discusses in his inimitible humorous style how "Just Out Of Reach" was very popular with white Southerners who didn't know Burke was black, which resulted in several crazy misadventures while touring (including a situtation where Burke ended up doing a command performance, so to speak, for the Ku Klux Klan). Burke's early Atlantic hits stayed in the country-soul vein, but by 1964 or so Burke moved into straight-ahead soul with hits like "The Price" and "Got To Get You Off Of My Mind."

After Burke and Atlantic parted ways in 1968, he began a nomadic career, stopping at Bell, MGM, ABC-Dunhill, and Chess from 1969 to 1976 and recording a wide range of material (he did the first soul cover of "Proud Mary" for Bell - his biggest hit for them - and even got in on the blaxploitation soundtrack game with his contributions to Cool Breeze). His 1971-1973 tenure with MGM is best represented by the Electronic Magnetism LP, and the title track was Burke's most successful recording for the company. The album is pretty eclectic, with rock covers mixed with country-soul tracks like "Electronic Magnetism" and the religious "J.C. (I Know Who You Are)." "Electronic Magnetism" is country soul 1972-style, with country guitar work mixed with swirling strings, Burke's very warm vocal (his atmospheric opening vocals and his late-song monologue lean in the Isaac Hayes / Barry White "love man" direction) and great background singing. Although Burke would later do an album for Chess entitled Music To Make Love By, "Electronic Magnetism" set the standard in that regard. It's heavy, baby!

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