Monday, February 18, 2008

Taylor's Good Love Was Good Soul & Blues

Johnnie Taylor was one of the great soul and blues singers of the past five decades (emphasis for the eurocentric editors of the Penguin Guide who exclude a whole genre of contemporary blues because they consider it soul music, yet they somehow cannot similarly weed out blues-tinged rock recordings). The following is a slightly modified review that originally appeared in 1997 in Jazz & Blues Report.

Issued in 1997 Johnnie Taylor’s Malaco album, Good Love, was another latest installment of a remarkable musical career that started when he replaced Sam Cooke in the legendary gospel group Soul Stirrers. It continued with recordings for Cooke’s SAR label as well as his glory years with Stax where he recorded soul and blues classics like Who’s Making Love and Cheaper to Keep Her. Later he was with Columbia, where he recorded the smash Disco Lady. Today he continues performing and recording with Malaco, recording some of the best soul and blues in the Stax vein. Good Love made the Billboard Blues charts with its mix of southern soul, soulful ballads and blues typical of his Malaco recordings. George Jackson’s fine composition Last Two Dollars, is a strong blues about a lady who has lost everything at a casino and asks the soul philosopher for two dollars so she can pay the bus fare home and will have enough to play the juke box while she waits, so she can hear some down home blues. I suspect this number will resonate strongly in the gambling venues in Mississippi. The title track and Sending You a Kiss, are ballads were written and arranged by Charles Richard Cason, although they share what sounds like programmed accompaniment. The rest of the album was recorded at Muscle Shoals and Malaco’s Jackson, Mississippi studios with Clayton Ivey, Jimmy Johnson, David Hood and Roger Hawkins among the studio band. While the backing on the Cason tracks may not appeal to some ears, little fault can be found with Taylor’s singing on these, or elsewhere on this collection of new recordings. Another George Jackson number, the ballad Walk Away With Me, has a melodic line that loosely suggests, Dark End of the Street, while Sam Mosely and Robert Johnson penned the fine blues Too Late to Try to Do Right, which shows that one doesn’t have to start out at full tilt to put the lyric over. The pair also penned Slide On, a number that should go over well with urban audiences that groove and dance to the electric slide. Ain’t That Lovin’ You (For More Reasons Than One) is a duet with his daughter Tasha that establishes her as a talent to keep an ear out for. There may be a couple of weaker songs, and the wonderfully sung This Masquerade, stays too close to George Benson’s hit version. But, even with a few production lapses and a couple of weak lyrics, this album is evidence of just how vital a singer the soul philosopher still was.

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