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