Soul has been so deeply embedded in Luther for so long that it's just a listener's joy to renew the acquaintance with the illustrious Mr. Johnson. Long held aloft by bluesmen like Magic Sam and Muddy Waters (who both employed the young Johnson in their bands), Luther learned his craft first punching bass lines after migrating to Chicago via Memphis from his native Itta Bena, Mississippi. Raised there on a musical diet of Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, and southern chitlin soul, he also moved north just prior to the deep soul era of the sixties. It's influence is still heard in his music and the selections found on this release.
Luther's presence on the Chicago blues scene as a second guitar man led to his own solo work, which also includes this title tune; his first solo hit on the Big Beat label in 1972. That prestige allows him to pull together the first-rate sessionists found here. At Luther's side is guitarist Brian Bisesi, and Muddy alumni Jerry Portnoy on the harmonica. The keyboards are excitedly provided by hot-handed David Maxwell, and Catherine Russell fills in the background vocal and percussion needs. The rhythm section also has top-shelf delivery by drummer Kenny Smith and bassman Randy Lippencott. Horn players are Crispen Cioe blowing the alto, tenor and baritone saxes; and Tom Malone on the trumpet and trombone.
Like Luther says on the title track, "Let's get some soul goin' on" when he kicks off. He does his first recording of a Ray Charles tune with his jumpin' rendition of "I've Got A Woman" with just Maxwell on the ivories. He next revisits the Sam Cooke hit "Somebody Have Mercy," the song he crooned in the mid-sixties that convinced Magic Sam to hire him. Go back in time and hear Johnson's current medley of the Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing" and Bobby Rush's "I'll Pay You Back"; a fresh dip of funky soul for sure!
Big horn arrangements, silky vocal drops, high-end voice responses, and sharpened West Side guitar antics keep this disc 'a movin'. The incessant soul-packed flavors here are bounced atop the give-and-take keyboards, the straight-up-no-nonsense rhythms, and the punchy and punctuated guitar lines. Crammed with quality blues like Freddie King's hit "Lonesome Whistle Blues," Bobby Bland's "You've Got Bad Intentions," B.B.'s "Crying Won't Help You," and vibrant original material like "Crazy Over You" (my endorsed love song of the year), this is soul-soaked, lovin' and dancin', good-time music! The world needs uplifting stuff like this; music that just takes you away from it all!
Telarc International Corp.; 23307 Commerce Park Drive; Cleveland, Ohio 44122:
This review is copyright © 2001 by Mark A. Cole, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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