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Solomon King - Under the Sun

Blue Skunk Music

10 tracks/42:35

Currently based in Los Angeles, former Detroit resident Solomon King is a singer/guitar player trying to make in-roads into the West Coast blues scene. He has enlisted some first-rate musicians to provide help on his latest project. Band members include Ray Parker Jr. of “Ghostbusters” fame on guitar, Ollie Brown on drums (Stevie Wonder, Rolling Stones) and Reggie McBride on bass (Keb Mo, Rickie Lee Jones). Award-winning producer Sylvester Rivers adds keyboards and synthesizers. Shea Chambers, Elaine Gibbs and Cristi Black provide the backing vocals.

The title track opens the disc utilizing a familiar blues riff, with King forcefully stating his case as an accomplished international lover over taut guitar licks and some fine harmonica licks from Jimmy Powers. “Frankie & Johnnie” is another tough rocker in the Stones mode that recasts the traditional tale of doomed lovers. It was written by songwriter Jeff Laine, who penned four other songs on the disc including “Jack Me Up”, which features a surging rhythm and a strong vocal from King.

“Ain’t No Love” finds King slipping into a Motown-style groove with his raspy voice crying out in anguish over a lost love while he pulls some sweet sounds out of his guitar. The closing cut, “Who’s Lovin You Now”, has an opening sequence that finds the band steadily building the intensity before taking off on a romp that recalls the classic Faces recordings. King sings with a higher pitch to his voice and plenty of rock star posturing. The spirited backing trio of voices inject a bit of gospel influence that makes this cut special.

King does not fare as well on three covers. His interpretation of Rev. Al Green’s classic “Love and Happiness” adds nothing new and shows some of the limitations of King’s singing abilities. “Whiter Shade of Pale” is recast as a soul ballad but is missing the majestic organ part of the original and King’s thin voice conveys tenderness at times but never fully grabs the listener’s attention. The worst of the bunch is “Tracks of My Tears” as King’s quivering vocal and halting delivery can’t be rescued by the lush harmony vocals of the backing singers. This release is a mixed bag, both in terms of the performances and the musical genres covered. King is most comfortable in the blues/rock area and the tracks in that vein contain some memorable performances. While King may aspire to be a soul singer, this disc loses steam when he shifts into that genre due to his voice lacking the strength to gain favorable comparisons to the likes of Smokey Robinson. When King sticks to the rocking tunes, he is definitely worth a listen.

Reviewer  Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL.

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