Solomon Burke: Make Do With What You Got

Solomon Burke: Make Do With What You Got

Solomon Burke proclaimed himself the "King Of Rock And Soul," and throughout the '60s, he backed that claim with single after single and show after show. Decades later, however, his name was on the tip of few tongues, until the release of 2002's Don't Give Up On Me, an album whose title doubles as a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Featuring songwriting contributions from heavyweights like Tom Waits, Brian Wilson, and Van Morrison, as well as the spare, sympathetic production of Joe Henry, it captured an artist of undiminished power. Burke inhabited songs like Elvis Costello's "The Judgment" and Bob Dylan's "Stepchild" as if he'd simply been lying low all those years, gathering material and waiting for just the right moment to make his comeback.

That trick only works once, but what the new Make Do With What You Got lacks in surprise, it makes up for in other areas. It even factors a mini-comeback into the album itself. "I Need Your Love In My Life," penned by Coco Montoya and David Steen, opens the album with an uptempo pop song that makes Burke strain to keep pace. It plays to the worst inclinations of producer Don Was, layering backing layer on top of backing layer and letting lead guitarist Ray Parker Jr. (yes, that Ray Parker Jr.) wail away without much oversight. Once that's out of the way, however, the album settles into the business of creating slow-burning soul of the kind that made Burke famous. Burke co-wrote one song, the tender tribute to a lasting relationship "After All These Years." Elsewhere, he summons up the interpretive skills that served him so well on Don't Give Up On Me, removing the clichés from Van Morrison's "mystic knights" imagery on "At The Crossroads," putting a kick into Dylan's "What Good Am I?", and turning The Rolling Stones' "I Got The Blues" into a soul rave-up (complete with a cheeky reference to The Rolling Stones). Burke ends the album with Hank Williams' "Wealth Won't Save Your Soul," bringing both his voice and the song back to the church that created them. He delivers a bit of inescapable truth before the drummer ends the album with a definitive thump. What do kingdoms and comebacks mean in the face of what really matters?

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