As a genre, soul music is largely rewarding and a lucky dip into the release of the Sixties and Seventies would likely turn up a couple of decent little numbers without much of a struggle. Despite this, the true greats are few and far between. Sadly, the world has just lost another from this select group with the news of the death of Solomon Burke.
His voice was staggering in its breadth, depth and oomph: equally effective atop a thundering soul stomp or a raw blues ballad. Burke had a phenomenal presence on record and stage, secure in the knowledge that he was bloody good and that anyone in the vicinity of his remarkable set of pipes would be won over. Such strident bravura resulted in some quite remarkable records. If you’re not already in possession of ‘Proud Mary’, then you need to put aside ten pounds immediately and prepare yourself for a treat. I would argue that you would have your money’s worth out of one track alone: ‘How Big A Fool (Can A Fool Be)‘. Belting along in the best tradition of Southern Soul, it is a genuine contender for any ultimate soul music compilation you may be considering.
Latter day Solomon Burke ensured a high quality finale to a remarkable career, initiated by the all-star collaboration, ‘Don’t Give Up On Me’. The 2002 release featured tracks written by a swathe of greats: Waits, Dylan, Costello and Morrison all appearing on the credits. It was a sterling effort with sympathetic production and served to remind the world of an underrated genius. Several more conventional soul records have followed, each containing several crackers, along with 2006’s unambiguously titled ‘Nashville‘. ‘That’s How I Got To Memphis‘, the opening track, is a delight and the airy, sparse recording gives the impression that King Solomon is in the room with you.
If his voice has passed you by until now, it’s time to put that right. The world’s a poorer place for the loss of Solomon Burke.