Monday, March 14, 2005

What good am I if I'm like all the rest?
Solomon Burke - Make Do With What You Got (Shout Factory)
In 2002, Solomon Burke's Don't Give Up On Me on Anti Records compiled eleven new songs written by Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Tom Waits, Brian Wilson, Dan Penn and others. The lack of familiarity with these songs allowed Burke's powerful voice to be the central focus of the album, resulting in a brilliant deep soul album that garnered a grammy for Best Contemporary Blues album as well as being named best album of 2002 by Mojo magazine.
On Burke's new album, once again we see various songwriters on the project. The difference this time is that there are only a few new songs, including the Van Morrison penned "At The Crossroads" and "After All These Years" which Burke co-wrote with Eddie Towns. Added to these tracks are covers of “What Good Am I?” taken from Bob Dylan’s 1989 album, Oh Mercy, "It Makes No Difference" taken from The Band’s last great studio album, Northern Lights, Southern Cross, and "Let Somebody Love Me", a song previously recorded by David Ruffin (which can be found on his Ultimate Collection, or the recently released Hip-O Select album, David - The Unreleased Album).
Make Do With What You Got opens with the explosive (by Burke's standards) "I Need Your Love In My Life" (taken from the modern blues album Suspicion by Coco Montoya). Unfortunately, Don Was's production can appear too slick at times, with the opener being the best example of a song suffering from being a little too clean, which strips away from the edge that the song deserves. The gorgeous gospel blues closer, "Wealth Won’t Save Your Soul" from Hank Williams' album I Saw The Light, allows Burke to reflect on the riches of his life, and realize what is most valuable to him.
Despite filling the album with covers of previously released material, Burke's voice strips the songs of their past lives and, similar to his work on Don't Give Up On Me, keeps the focus directly on Burke's vocal strengths and his execution of the lyrics. In fact, many of the songs featured here are stronger than those on Anti release. One in particular is the Otis Redding flavoured Rolling Stones' gem, "I Got the Blues", from Sticky Fingers. Though the Stones attempted to create a Stax era sound, they never really captured the essence in this song. When King Solomon belts out his version on Make Do With What You Got, he returns the song to the southern US in the 60s, when Stax reigned supreme.
In the end, what makes Make Do With What You Got so compelling is that Burke has picked songs from a variety of styles and turned them all into deep soul classics.
posted by Jonathan


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