By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
While he never attained the stature of, say, Sam Cooke, Sixties soul singer Solomon Burke exerted his own substantial influence. Artists such as the Rolling Stones (who covered his "Cry to Me" and "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love"), Tom Jones, and Otis Redding borrowed liberally from Burke's bellicose singing style. However, by the end of the Sixties, Burke's run on the charts came to an end, so he turned his attention to preaching, practicing his craft as a professional mortician, and raising his 22 children.
In 2002 Burke was coaxed back into the spotlight. Bolstered by songs from a veritable who's who of grateful admirers such as Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, and Elvis Costello, Burke mounted a mighty comeback in 2002 with Don't Give Up on Me, garnering a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album, reams of critical kudos, and a new surge of recognition.
Fueled by this new momentum, Burke is back with a followup that's even more rousing than its predecessor. Soaring on the strength of his rich, riveting voice, which rolls from a low, seductive croon to an impassioned embrace, Make Do with What You Got's assortment of cover songs easily transcends the well-etched originals. The wobbly reading the Band gave Robbie Robertson's "It Makes No Difference" in 1975 is supplanted by Burke's powerful yet plaintive wail. In his hands the Jagger/Richards song "I Got the Blues" veers from a slide into self-pity to an assertive plea for perseverance. Some of the songs were written with Burke in mind; his unflappable presence is a perfect fit for Van Morrison's "At the Crossroads" and its rock-solid sentiments.
Like Solomon Burke, Al Green mounted his own comeback album with Memphis musicians who helped shape his string of Seventies hits, specifically producer Willie Mitchell, bassist Leroy Hodges, and backing vocalists Rhodes/Chalmers/Rhodes on 2003's I Can't Stop, Green's first secular album in more than 25 years.
The group returns for another go-round with Green's Everything's OK, but this time the results are mixed. While the steady rhythms and organ fills replicate his signature sound, the quality of the songs (most of which Green wrote or co-wrote) ranges from stirring, assertive testimonials ("Real Love," "Magic Road," "Another Day,") to standard-issue R&B, and even an unnecessary rehash of "You Are So Beautiful." Nevertheless Green delivers some of the most exuberant performances of his career; he could sing nursery rhymes and still sound inspired.