When Solomon Burke died in 2010 at the age of 70, American song lost one of its most towering talents. With a figure as imposing as his deep voice, The King of Rock and Soul sat upon his throne for decades, spreading the gospel…not just the gospel of music, but the Gospel itself. Tapping into his roots in church music, jazz, blues, and country, Burke was one of the pioneering artists who bridged the gap between “R&B” and “soul,” and he did it at Atlantic Records. Run Out Groove’s new 14-song vinyl compendium Solomon Burke: The Best of Atlantic Soul 1962-1965 proves indisputably that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee remains one of soul’s most underrated yet significant figures.
Run Out Groove’s compilation is the first domestic vinyl anthology of Burke’s output since 1966 – and it’s a delicious sampler, indeed. It kicks off with the country-and-western of “Just Out of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms)” before segueing into “Cry to Me,” penned and produced by one Bert Russell, a.k.a. Bert Berns. Recently the subject of the acclaimed documentary film BANG! The Bert Berns Story, Berns brought an urbane, Latin-inspired, New York style to the studio…and it happened to fit Burke’s resonant, earthy voice like a glove. With a beguiling arrangement by Claus Ogerman, “Cry to Me” was a fusion of country, gospel, and R&B – in other words, soul. He was frequently joined by the cream of New York’s session singing crop on these incendiary, impassioned anthems.
Berns’ songs were often filled with loneliness, hurt, and despair, and Burke was able to channel those universal emotions more convincingly than almost any other artist. The Berns/Burke team is represented here with a number of songs that are still classics today, including “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” (which featured on the Blues Brothers soundtrack), “Down in the Valley,” “Baby (I Wanna Be Loved),” and “Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye).” Berns produced Burke’s own composition, the swaggering “Looking for My Baby,” which originally resided on the B-side of “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” in 1964. It wasn’t all torrid soul for Burke; his boisterous 1963 novelty “Stupidity” (the flipside of “Can’t Nobody Love You,” also on this set) earns a spot on this set, too. Burke sang at his smoothest on another self-written tune, “Got to Get You Off My Mind,” accompanied by a brassy Gene Page chart.
Naturally, The King was attracted to songs by the greatest talents the R&B world had to offer, among them Don Covay (“I’m Hanging Up My Heart for You,” with its tinkling cocktail piano flourishes), the “wicked” Wilson Pickett (“If You Need Me”), and Otis Blackwell (the funky “Home in Your Heart”). In fact, Burke’s performance of Pickett’s song helped launch the future superstar’s career: His manager took the tune (co-written with Robert Bateman and Sonny Sanders of Motown’s The Satintones) to Atlantic honcho Jerry Wexler. He didn’t pick up Pickett’s recording, later released on Lloyd Price’s Double-L label, but he did pick up the song – and promptly turned it over to Burke to cover! Though Pickett’s version made No. 30 R&B, The King of Rock and Soul’s version reached No. 2. Wexler recalled in his 1993 memoir, “Pickett told me he wanted to be on Atlantic when we met in my Broadway office in 1964. This was only a year after the fight over ‘If You Need Me’ and I asked if that hadn’t pissed him off. ‘F–k that,’ he said. ‘I need the bread.'” Burke got the hit, Atlantic got Pickett, and the rest is history!
The limited edition Best of Atlantic Soul is housed in a Stoughton-printed tip-on jacket beautifully designed by John Sellards, who has also contributed period Atlantic replica labels. Compilation producer Matt Block has written the appreciation of Burke which resides on the LP’s back cover, and an insert is also included with memorabilia images, credits, and photos. Sound quality as remastered by Paul DuGre is up to Run Out Groove’s usual high standard, with these blazing slices of soul pressed on quiet, 180-gram black vinyl.
Solomon Burke’s catalogue contains many riches, from the first to the last. But for a sampler of his most beloved music, much of it made in conjunction with the late, great Bert Berns – look no further than Run Out Groove’s lovingly-curated collection.
ROG’s latest title, an expanded edition of Secret Machines’ Ten Silver Drops, is available for pre-order now for a limited time only! Also available in ROG’s Cornerstones series is Bill Frisell’s Nashville, making its vinyl debut. You can pre-order Nashville here!
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