With the release of Make Do With What You Got, veteran soul music revelator Solomon Burke once again provides a powerful set that both reflects his unparalleled past achievements and attains a higher artistic plateau. Presented with a warm, after-hours feel from a funky-tight sextet, Burke’s incomparable vocals float with an intimate grace, grind down to the gritty rock valley bottom and deliver soul-stirring testimonials of abiding hope. Drawn from the work of some of the 20th century’s most vaunted songwriters, Hank Williams and Bob Dylan among them, the ten tracks play as a series of messages conveyed in oracular metaphor that, coming at a critically uncertain moment in history, strive to manifest the understanding and endurance so sorely needed.
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Produced by the prolific and celebrated studio auteur Don Was, Make Do With What You Got is a dazzling confluence of masterly technique, top degree talent and exemplary material. Burke’s mixture of elevated spirituality and earthy passion transports even as it penetrates to the essential core of human vulnerability and emotion; Burke’s ability to imbue a lyric with profound gravity, achieved by his gospel-informed phrasing and instinct for creating a purely empathic listener reaction, is precisely what has always distinguished him as soul music‘s preeminent stylist. Always an undeniable force, his natural voltage and peerless virtuosity remain nothing short of arresting.
The course that led Solomon Burke to his throne atop the celestial hierarchy of soul singers has been one of the most extraordinary in pop music history. Born on March 21, 1940, his unerring gift for hitting dead center every time was developed very early in life. By the age of seven, Burke was already a phenomenon, holding forth as the regal-robed Wonder Boy Preacher before not only his own congregation in hometown Philadelphia’s Solomon’s Temple, but also an untold number of listeners who tuned in to the live remote broadcasts local station WDAS provided.
Delivering innumerable sermons, Burke was already sifting through a complex spectrum of mind and spirit, coaxing right from wrong, uplifting the desperate, examining frailty and failure through a prism that not only explored human psychology but provided direct and invaluable experience with all the passionate intricacies of sanctified gospel singing, the very bedrock upon which so much American popular music is built--territory that Solomon Burke owns.
Recording for the independent Apollo label at age 14, his already skillful presentation resulted in 1954’s million selling gospel Christmas Presents From Heaven, but after rhythm & blues tastemaker Jerry Wexler brought him to Atlantic Records in 1960, and Burke applied the gospel technique to secular R&B, it provided the depth, involvement and range of emotion that defined what would come to be known as soul music. His output at Atlantic was stunning, a string of classic numbers (“Cry To Me,” “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love,” “Down In The Valley”) that defined the idiom with architectural precision, influenced everyone from Otis Redding to Tom Jones and ensured his subsequent coronation as the King of Rock & Soul.
An unchallenged ruler with a remarkable pedigree -- record sales topping 17 million, a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction -- Burke has thrived not only artistically, but also spiritually (he maintains his own church in the San Fernando Valley) and personally (his family boasts 21 children), and shows no sign whatsoever of slowing. Make Do With What You Got makes clear that all of his formidable proficiency is gloriously intact, and the vocals are sublime, fully realized performances, bristling with subtle nuance and expressive strength. From the first beat of the Dr. John-penned title track, he brings those powers to bear with elegant authority and soulful depth; longtime Solomon fans Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’ “I Got the Blues” is wholly redefined and the gutbucket guitar crunch that drives Burke‘s vocal on Coco Montoya‘s “I Need Your Love In My Life“ lets the Glimmer Twins know that the old man was definitely rocking not only first but perhaps best; “Let Somebody Love Me” finds an inconsolable Burke out on a lonely street with a bitter cold wind at his back; Burke’s consummately forlorn journey through Robbie Robertson’s “It Makes No Difference” cuts to the bone; and Hank Williams’ mournfully solemn warning “Wealth Won’t Save Your Soul” takes on a whole new relevance, while the powerful, affirmative conscience of Bob Dylan’s “What Good Am I” resonates with a nobility and compassion that none but Solomon Burke could conjure.
Since his 2002 Grammy® win for Best Contemporary Blues Album introduced him to a new generation, Solomon Burke’s always impressive cachet has only expanded. He has made numerous television appearances, undertaken his second tour with the Rolling Stones, done studio collaborations with the hipster likes of Junkie XL and Zucchero, been featured in the acclaimed documentary Lightning In A Bottle -- a raft of resume additions that would be an impressive chapter in any musical career, but for an artist such as Burke, one who trades in the profound and illimitable truths of soul music, these are mere speed bumps along the way. Make Do With What You Got brings the focus back to exactly where it should be, on that unrivaled, intoxicating voice, an instrument able to elevate, enchant and more importantly, inform.
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