Lou Johnson – 1969 – Sweet Southern Soul

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A Southern Soul Masterpiece.

Lou Johnson’s Sweet Southern Soul is a solid album of journeyman soul. Recorded in 1969 for Atlantic offshoot Cotillion, the mix of ingredients is classic: production by Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd, musical backing by the Muscle Shoals crew, songs by Don Covay, Eddie Hinton, and Curtis Mayfield. Indeed, the whole thing reads like a textbook to Southern soul in the late ’60s.

An incredible bit of southern soul and one of the few records ever by deep soul singer Lou Johnson! The masterpiece was recorded at the Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, at a time when the outfit was at the height of its powers capturing Lou with a sweet-burning style that matches (if not betters) the best by Otis Redding or James Carr from the same period. Each song is a treasure, handled by Lou as if it were his own, and transformed completely by the amazing setting of the recording (Dusty Groove).

This is a fine @320 vinyl rip of the original Cotillion record including covers.

Tracks
A1 Rock Me Baby 2:15
A2 It’s in the Wind 2:26
A3 This Magic Moment 2:08
A4 She Thinks I Still Care 3:13
A5 Move and Groove Together 2:43
A6 Please Stay 2:48
B1 I Can’t Change 2:47
B2 Tears Tears Tears 2:37
B3 People in Love 2:39
B4 Don’t Play That Song (You Lied) 2:33
B5 Gypsy Woman 3:00

Lou Johnson- Sweet-Southern soul-back

Lou Johnson never properly got his dues, which is a shame… The man could do it all, from Bacharach/David ballads to all-out hard socking Southern Soul. This album, recorded in Muscle Shoals and released on Atlantic’s subsidiary Cotillion, is a greatly overlooked LP that’s brimming with all that makes Southern Soul so irresistible.

Johnson doesn’t mess around and hits you right over the head from the get-go, strutting his way through a truly ridiculously funky rendition of the B.B. King classic “Rock Me Baby”. The groove is so thick and fat, you could cut it with a knife. One o’ them greasy, unwashed ones…

Lou’s smoothness is still very much in tact on Don Covay’s pensive “It’s in the Wind” – with its beautiful, gospel choir – and it’s truly dynamic on a zesty cover of the Drifters’ “This Magic Moment”, where Lou shifts from the tried-and-true R&B-stomp on the verses to funkier terrain on the chorus. His versatility is further demonstrated when he belts out the country chestnut “She Thinks I Still Care”, a huge hit for George Jones in 1962. The fingers get back to poppin’ with the mid-tempo soulful bliss of “Move and Groove Together”, after which Side A closes with an inspired reading of Bacharach’s “Please Stay”, which is smothered in blazing horns.It’s another Don Covay composition – and another considerably low key one at that – which opens the flip, as Johnson laments through “I Can’t Change”, featuring a brilliant, sizzling trumpet solo. While lyrically the mood remains particularly gloomy, “Tears Tears Tears” nonetheless is a fastpaced, rockin’ slab of brassy R&B.

One of the finest tracks on this magnificent album, the original “People in Love”, co-written by Eddie Hinton, has the feel of Bacharach and the grit of Muscle Shoals; a wonderful little country-soul-gospel hybrid with more of those deep horns and that fantastic backing choir.

“Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)”, a soul staple from the pen of Ahmet Ertegun, is souped up for late ’60s consumption, meaning the chord progressions remain the same, but the beat is funked up just a tad. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. The album in fact closes on a similar note, as Johnson puts his spin on Curtis Mayfield’s all-time classic “Gypsy Woman” the beat is juiced up considerably, and it’s all good.

The high esteem in which Lou Johnson is held by soul collectors is sadly disproportionate to the size of his catalog he recorded only 10 singles and two albums in his ten year career. Sweet Southern Soul was his first album and, by common cognoscenti consensus, is also his best. Despite the fact that he started his career by working with Burt Bacharach and Hal David and recorded the original versions of several of their classic songs, not much is known about Lou Johnson. He doesn’t appear to have been interviewed in his prime. Fortunately, Johnson’s recorded legacy speaks volumes for his talent.

Biography from AMG

Do not miss his 2nd amazing 1971 album,  “With you in my mind” in our back pages here.

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Conversation for album: Lou Johnson – 1969 – Sweet Southern Soul

50 Comments
  • k02
    Posted at 20:31h, 08 August 2008 Reply

    Appreciate it Nikos

  • magicsoul
    Posted at 01:51h, 09 August 2008 Reply

    dope…album got a shaolin soul feelin, lovely dusty drums overall on this 1, peace

  • alberto
    Posted at 03:23h, 09 August 2008 Reply

    This album is just awesome. As obscure as Lou Johnson is still one of the best soul singer i have ever heard.

  • Gary
    Posted at 03:28h, 09 August 2008 Reply

    Oh My God!!!!! AMAZING!!!! I am so grateful. Million thanks.

  • ben
    Posted at 12:00h, 09 August 2008 Reply

    Fantastic post! big up nikos!

  • FIN
    Posted at 12:39h, 09 August 2008 Reply

    I’m impressed of this excellent album. Lou voice is heaven. Thank you again and again.

  • musicmeiho
    Posted at 12:45h, 09 August 2008 Reply

    Fantastic! Thank you

  • Paul S.
    Posted at 12:47h, 09 August 2008 Reply

    Looks promising, can’t wait to hear it.

  • robert
    Posted at 17:59h, 09 August 2008 Reply

    Another one of your hidden gems. Brother i love what you do. Respect.

  • Sammy
    Posted at 18:36h, 09 August 2008 Reply

    Thank you for sharing the amazing vinyl collection of yours.

  • invisiblenigma
    Posted at 18:55h, 09 August 2008 Reply

    Thanks Nikos, For this Classic Rare Gem! I love the sample video.

  • fiona
    Posted at 18:58h, 09 August 2008 Reply

    Unbelievable album indeed!

  • hooch
    Posted at 19:23h, 09 August 2008 Reply

    first rate Nikos – thank you so much! – you don’t have anything by the superb Ray Pollard by any chance? – crosses fingers & prays 🙂

  • robert
    Posted at 19:45h, 09 August 2008 Reply

    WOW! Just an incredible album. Love that late 60’s Muscle Shoals/Fame sound so much!

  • liston
    Posted at 20:36h, 09 August 2008 Reply

    A Treasure! Big big big thanks.

  • manny
    Posted at 00:11h, 10 August 2008 Reply

    thanks for posting

  • whiteray
    Posted at 01:12h, 10 August 2008 Reply

    Mmmmm! One of my fave studios and my fave eras! Great share, one of the best. And nice blog, too!

  • Eliah
    Posted at 01:51h, 10 August 2008 Reply

    A lovely piece of deep soul.

  • Doctor Okeh
    Posted at 02:12h, 10 August 2008 Reply

    mos def coming back for this one , thx in advance Nikos!!!!

  • John F
    Posted at 02:57h, 10 August 2008 Reply

    Great Classic!!! any chance of sharing his 2nd album “With You in Mind”?

  • Elinor Rigby
    Posted at 03:01h, 10 August 2008 Reply

    “She Thinks I Still Care” is so lovely. Thanks for sharing such a gem.

  • Mick
    Posted at 12:02h, 10 August 2008 Reply

    another great discovery. thanks man

  • dar
    Posted at 14:39h, 10 August 2008 Reply

    i’ve been checking for Lou Johnson after “Rock Me Baby” was included on the “What It Is” box set. i can’t wait to hear the rest of this album. good looking out!!

  • Vincent the Soul Chef
    Posted at 18:08h, 10 August 2008 Reply

    With a writeup like this, how can I not dive in and enjoy it… As always, thanks for the share!

    Peace and blessings.

  • Liza
    Posted at 22:50h, 10 August 2008 Reply

    Thanks for another dope share! Your posts are incredible. This music is immortal. thanks for keeping it alive.

  • Tom
    Posted at 23:16h, 10 August 2008 Reply

    Maybe he is not Otis Redding or James Carr but he is really great. Thanks for introducing me this gem, nick.

  • nikos1109
    Posted at 00:30h, 11 August 2008 Reply

    hooch, Sorry for the delay to reply but i am afraid i have only a few songs of Ray Pollard on mp3, like the famous cut “the drifter”. Be sure i will search for him from now on.

  • gary
    Posted at 01:05h, 11 August 2008 Reply

    My old vinyl copy had to be retired a while ago. So this is appreciated a lot. Love your blog. Thank you.

  • Groovy Emmanuel
    Posted at 07:54h, 11 August 2008 Reply

    Way back in early 60’s, Bacharach & David were so much impressed by Lou’s deep singing skills that they gave him the opportunity to perform first many of their original gems. And when Atlantic established their soul only imprint Cotillion in 1968, Lou was one of the first artists to get a deal there. Moreover he was sent down to Florence Alabama Music Enterprises (that’s the famous Rick Hall’s FAME studios…) to cut this fine little record with the back up of David Hood/Roger Hawkins/David Johnson/Barry Beckett/Eddie Hinton under the supervision of Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd. That was just before these great session men moved to their own studios down the road and form the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, humbly THE RHYTHM SECTION… Need to say more? Oh, only this: Lou’s final appearance on vinyl came two years after this and it was another gem under the supervision of Crescent City’s genius Allen Toussaint… can’t wait to see it posted here!

  • Rasty
    Posted at 11:29h, 11 August 2008 Reply

    That’s why I love this blog so much. For such unknown rare gems you always bless us!!!

  • Sam ER
    Posted at 16:41h, 11 August 2008 Reply

    Because of you, i’ve found so many classics and rare stuff that I could never find. You’re awesome, man!!!

  • Steven
    Posted at 16:48h, 11 August 2008 Reply

    memories keep flooding back every time I hear it ….keep the faith.

  • hooch
    Posted at 20:00h, 11 August 2008 Reply

    thanks for the reply Nikos – i have found a cd by him on a german website.
    It has all his solo work on it.

    http://www.bear-family.de/blues-rb/rb-soul/revival-doo-wop/vol2-cd-ckc-1008.html?lang=1

  • nikos1109
    Posted at 02:16h, 12 August 2008 Reply

    Thanks hooch, did you buy it?

  • Mark
    Posted at 09:44h, 12 August 2008 Reply

    Loving this.

  • hooch
    Posted at 16:17h, 12 August 2008 Reply

    yes m8 – i just ordered it!

    i’ll rip up a copy once it arrives!

  • nikos1109
    Posted at 17:06h, 12 August 2008 Reply

    That’s wonderful, hooch. i am sure it would be great. Appreciate it.

  • hooch
    Posted at 23:46h, 12 August 2008 Reply

    np m8 – just to say thanks to you and mr moo for all the gems you have provided, which otherwise i would not have had the pleasure of listening to.

  • phatrapper
    Posted at 16:56h, 17 August 2008 Reply

    Great stuff Nikos! Loving the blog. Can’t wait for the Jean knight album!

  • cafecafecafe
    Posted at 00:11h, 20 August 2008 Reply

    Thanks Nikos. Good oldie one.

  • matt
    Posted at 22:05h, 29 August 2008 Reply

    awesome album! thanks for all your hard work in sharing gems like these.

  • dgram
    Posted at 07:52h, 30 November 2008 Reply

    Thanks for this great album. I’ve been a fan of Lou Johonson ever since I heard his version of “Always Something There to Remind Me,” but I’d never heard this disc in full. What a treat! I’ve been away from the blogs for a bit but I see you haven’t let up. I was a big fan of Lost in Tyme. Big thanks!

  • liam
    Posted at 07:37h, 26 December 2008 Reply

    Thanks for this, Reach Out For Me is, for me, the best version although Ray Pollards “The Drifter” is not – diff’rent folks etc

  • Hugh Pickering
    Posted at 01:55h, 17 October 2009 Reply

    Good evening everyone, my name is Hugh Pickering and I was born in Guyana. I only just found this wedsite today. I would like to say that it’s really great, but I never knew that so many folks appreciated the music of ths GIANT. The songs that are mentioned by everyone here I’ve never heard by Lou. So I would like to mention some that were evry popular in Guyan. Here they are. Reach out for me..Magic Potion…A Time to Love and a Time to Cry…Always something There to Remind. Man Oh Man… I’ve got some more to speak about later..Please reply my Soul Mates..Man this is Great

  • Hugh Pickering
    Posted at 02:05h, 17 October 2009 Reply

    This is Hugh Pickering once again. I guess that I’m so excited about what I was typing that I made a few errors, but please excuse me for that. But to continue, I’ve got just about all those tunes on 45’s, but by other singers like Ben E. King, Otis Redding, The Drifters etc, etc. of which I’ve now transfered to CD’s. Thing is though, even now I would still play my turn-tables, when some of my buddies come by to visit. Some of them would laugh, but then they would tell me how envious they are of me to still hve these gems. To tell you all the truth, I will never get rid of my 45’s. Never, Never, Never…..Sincerely Hugh

  • cleffdeadly
    Posted at 14:18h, 09 December 2009 Reply

    great album, an unknown classic!

  • George Hall
    Posted at 08:47h, 03 January 2010 Reply

    Great blog! I saw an interview recently where Allen Toussaint was asked to name a favorite song that he wrote for another artist. After naming a few he wrote for Irma Thomas & Lee Dorsey, he said ‘If I was to think of a song that I think the most of in my life, it wasn’t heard by anyone but me and the artist, and that was Lou Johnson; a song called “Transition”… it was on his album [1971’s With You In Mind], of course, but it wouldn’t be one that would be remembered or even heard by most. But that happens.’

  • Eugene
    Posted at 23:50h, 12 April 2010 Reply

    Another artist who is entirely unknown to me. Thank you for broadening my musical horizons.

    Respect,

    Eugene

  • jeff
    Posted at 19:31h, 08 May 2010 Reply

    I’m now a big Lou Johnson fan, thanks to your website. Gotta love that southern soul! Thanks for all the work you do to bring these sweet platters of soul to the world.

  • Jan
    Posted at 01:22h, 02 June 2013 Reply

    Beautiful music. For the first time I heard this album.

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