March 25, 2005


Hail the king of rock 'n' soul (Randy Lewis, 2/05/05, LA Times)

Anyone coming into the presence of King Solomon ought to be armed with this bit of wisdom: prepare to take your shoes off and set a spell.

Sitting on a gilt, bejeweled, red velvet-accented throne in the living room of his two-story West San Fernando Valley home, Solomon Burke, the man dubbed "the king of rock 'n' soul" in the 1960s, exudes an aura that's part beneficent monarch, part folksy Jed Clampett.

He really does require visitors to remove their shoes and leave them in the hallway before moving into the living room, but it's not a move to put callers on the defensive. Once the shoes are doffed, he quickly offers a warm handshake and a gentle bear hug, putting even strangers in their socks immediately at ease despite his commanding presence.

Burke, 64, is hoping to throw that bear-like frame of his around music fans once again with his forthcoming album, "Make Do With What You Got," the follow-up to his 2002 career-revitalizing collection, "Don't Give Up on Me."

That album found the greatly underappreciated singer in superb voice more than four decades after first hitting the charts with "Just Out of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms)" and "Cry to Me." More important, he had songs equal to that voice by such stellar writers (and fans) as Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, Tom Waits, Brian Wilson and Nick Lowe.

As in those Lotto commercials, there was a big upside: renewed attention and respect from critics, fans and fellow musicians; the highest chart numbers of his career, and his first Grammy (for best contemporary blues album).

The downside: What next?

Solomon Burke is a central character in one of the best books ever written about America and certainly the best ever written about American music, Peter Guralnick's Sweet Soul Music. There's a phenomenal two disc intro to his music available: Home in Your Heart: The Best of Solomon Burke, although he's at his best live.

-Soul King: Solomon Burke’s big success. (Stuart Thornton, Jun 24, 2004, Monterey County Weekly)
-PROFILE: The Boswell of the Blues: With his definitive two-part biography, Peter Guralnick did for Elvis what Boswell did for Dr. Johnson. Now he’s set his sights on Sam Cooke. (Eric McHenry, Fall 2002, Bostonia)

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 25, 2005 5:52 PM
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