Make Do with What You Got
First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2005, Volume 12, #3
Written by John Metzger
Solomon Burkeís recordings for Atlantic Records in the 1960s not only helped to build the foundation of the rock ínĎ soul movement, but they also influenced a number of up and coming artists, including The Rolling Stones and Van Morrison. While he never stopped releasing albums, the publicís attention, as it often does, shifted elsewhere, though Burke certainly didnít help his cause by regurgitating songs he had already mastered and by tackling material that was far beneath his supreme vocal abilities. Honored with an induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 and given a new life via an unlikely recording contract with Anti-, an offshoot of the punk label Epitaph, Burke ó along with producer Joe Henry and a series of high profile songwriters such as Elvis Costello, Brian Wilson, and Tom Waits ó concocted a magnificent comeback titled Donít Give Up on Me. The collection effortlessly propelled him back into the mainstream and scored a Grammy Award for Contemporary Blues Album of the Year. Miraculously, his long awaited follow-up Make Do with What You Got is an even stronger set, and it proves without a doubt that after all these years, Burke is still the reigning king of rock ínĎ soul.
Where Donít Give Up on Me was a low-key effort that featured sparse, open structures designed to place Burkeís dramatic vocals in the spotlight, Make Do with What You Got rumbles with a fiery, rock-infused intensity. However, despite its denser, full-band arrangements, which frequently are punctuated by the bold and brassy sounds of a Memphis-style horn section, itís still Burkeís emotive evocations that transform the album into something extraordinarily remarkable. For the record, the outing is a tighter, more focused affair, one which highlights exactly how consequential his country-laced soul was to the music that flowed from Britain during the 1960s. Through his interpretation of Bob Dylanís What Good Am I?, one can hear how heavily his ruminations weighed upon Morrison, and undeniably, Coco Montoyaís I Need Your Love in My Life is charged with the same exuberant energy that fueled the Stonesí classic material. Granted, a little bit of the studentsí influence upon the teacher also peeks around the corners of the various tracks on the collection, but by the time Burke has wound his way through Morrisonís At the Crossroads and the Mick Jagger/Keith Richards-penned composition I Got the Blues, he so masterfully has turned the tables and made them his own that no matter how well the original artists perform these songs in the future, they are destined to sound as if they merely are covering them. Indeed, despite the more than 40 years that have passed since he made his debut, Burkeís voice is as strong and impassioned as ever, a notion to which his gentle interpretation of The Bandís It Makes No Difference as well as his haunted, gospel-drenched restatement of Hank Williamsí Wealth Wonít Save Your Soul can attest. Make Do with What You Got is, pure and simple, classic soul. It is devoid of the bells and whistles that pervade far too many modern recordings, and it relies instead upon the wide-sweeping range of emotions that once made the genre so awe-inspiring and sublime.
Make Do with What You Got is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box