Solomon Burke – 1968 – I Wish I Knew – Plus (1969 – Proud Mary)
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Reviews by Soulmakossa
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Without question, Solomon Burke is the king of rock and soul.
But for those of you who do question Solomon’s royalty, let I Wish I Knew be an answer (but not the answer, since Big Sol had a string of great albums in the 1960s and is continuing that trend in the 2000s).
Every song on I Wish I Knew is a knock-out, and the album as a whole is a great exposition of the range of talents Dr. Burke possesses. He can croon, swoop, whoop, wail and holler with absolutely anyone, and I Wish I Knew gives you a taste of it all. You can feel his vocal power in “Save It” and his power of persuasion in “Meet Me In Church.” I’m not going to say that his version of the monumental Ray Charles hit “What’d I Say” is the definitive version, but Solomon does unleash energy in the song that you never would have known was there.
If you’re not on the Burke bus yet, isn’t it time you hop on board and join the celebration?
A1 I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel to Be Free) 2:51
A2 Get Out of My Life Woman 3:20
A3 Meet Me in Church 3:33
A4 By the Time I Get to Phoenix 2:56
A5 Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye 3:03
B1 What’d I Say 4:46
B2 Since I Met You Baby 3:45
B3 Save It 2:23
B4 Shame on Me 3:31
B5 Why, Why, Why 2:24
Solomon’s last album for Atlantic Records, released in 1968, may not be as well known as his earlier material, but on its own it’s a superb collection of Southern-styled soul waxings.
Burke’s joyous, thrilling version of “I Wish I Knew” brings together country church grooves with Sweet Inspirations-like backing vocals. Those honey-dipped adlibs throughout are ace, as well… When the Rev speaks, you listen.
Proto-rappin’ on the first verses of Alan Toussaint‘s New-Orleans classic “Get Out of My Life Woman“, Burke and band shift into full funk mode and get down Nawlins-style: huge, fat horns, tinkeling piano, busy drums and an all-out Mardi Gras atmosphere. One HARD socking slice of fingerlickin’ good Southern Soul.
After churning out a rendition of Joe Tex‘ slow burning “Meet Me in Church“, the Rev delves into the popular “By the Time I Get to Phoenix“, giving it a slight jazzy edge. His husky baritone was made for stuff like this, even if the definitive version of this track, naturally, was done by Isaac Hayes a year later.
John Loudermilk‘s achingly beautiful “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” (later done by Bettye Swann) is given the Deep Soul treatment, featuring wailing horns, gospelish piano and a gentle but punchy beat.
Burke’s spin on Ray Charles‘ “What’d I Say” is sheer soul power, a party-pumpin’ floorshaker with a few improvised lyrics, and a whole lot of raw ‘n’ dirty brassy licks, while his treatment of the standard “Since I Met You Baby” is more restrained, although it does have some lazy horns and great country-soul guitar pickings. The same pretty much goes for the equally low key “Shame on Me“, with its plodding, mid-tempo beat and vamps of brass. Fingers get back to poppin’ on the hard driving “Save It“, a heavy jam featuring Solomon at his most nitty-gritty, just blasting out a mammoth vocal. The Rev closes his final Atlantic album with the beautiful country-esque “Why Why Why“, putting in one more of his inimitable spoken interludes.
A wonderful record, essential for Soul buffs.
Solomon Burke – 1969 – Proud Mary
Bigger than life. That’s the most accurate way to describe the regally expansive Solomon Burke: his magic carpet voice fills any room with the sweet, uplifting sound of timeless soul. And Solomon was seldom more soulful than when he ventured down to Muscle Shoals to cut his classic 1969 album Proud Mary for Bell Records.
A1 Proud Mary 3:17
A2 These Arms of Mine 2:54
A3 I`ll Be Doggone 2:56
A4 How Big a Fool 2:15
A5 Don’t Wait Too Long 3:10
B1 That Lucky Old Sun 3:00
B2 Uptight Good Woman 2:42
B3 I Can’t Stop 2:17
B4 Please Send Me Someone to Love 3:02
B5 What Am I Living For 2:55
After having left Atlantic, big Solomon moved to New York-based Bell Records. The execs there swiftly sent the King of Rock ‘n’ Soul down to Muscle Shoals to record what would become his sole album for the label: ‘Proud Mary‘.
His cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s “Proud Mary” received a glowing review from John Fogerty, which was duely printed on the album’s back cover. Indeed, Burke’s interpretation of this rock standard perfectly merges country, gospel and soul – all genres Solomon adored.
But this isn’t a one-hit album; Solomon delves deep into his roots with a chilling take on Otis Redding‘s “These Arms of Mine” and Wilson Pickett‘s earthy blues-edged slow burner “Uptight Good Woman“.
That country soul vibe is on full display on the intense “Don’t Wait Too Long“, with Solomon at his roaring-est finest, and the mesmerizing closer “What Am I Living For“, the old Don Fargo C&W smash, gospeled up for sweet soul consumption.
Good ol’ happy clappin’ uptempo soul shoutin’ comes in the guise of Burke’s own “How Big a Fool (Can a Fool Be)” and it gets greasy and funky with a superb, rugged, struttin’ reading of Marvin Gaye‘s “I’ll Be Doggone” and the blaring, horn-infested groovathon “I Can’t Stop (No No No)“, probably the loudest track on the album.
Rounding out the album are more exquisite cover versions: a smokey, husky spin on Ray Charles‘ “That Lucky Old Sun” and an equally powerful, low-fi take on Percy Mayfield‘s “Please Send Me Someone to Love“.
A pretty obscure album, but one of Solomon’s most intimate and southern-styled; a lost classic.