This document of Lou Rawls' decade with Capitol in the '60s celebrates the beginnings of the recently departed artist, one of the rare male vocalists with a big, beautiful sound who could sing his butt off. His professional beginnings were with the gospel group The Singing Travelers, and their 1962 recording of "Motherless Child opens the disc. The essential enrichment provided by Eddie Beal (piano) and Rene Hall and Cliff White (guitars) is much more than mere accompaniment. Partnership is the special joy of this collection, which finds this fine singer in mutually appreciative settings with a lineup of first-rank musicians.
Les McCann's piano provides the most sympathetic of intros to "God Bless the Child, with Leroy Vinnegar (bass) and Ron Jefferson (drums). Rawls himself is in peak voice, showcasing his rolling thunder baritone, which always radiates an innate optimism, no matter what he sings. On Benny Carter's jumpin' arrangement of "Nobody But Me, Al Porcino and Bobby Bryant's trumpets provide sunny brass for days as Rawls delivers a jubilant tribute to a "genuine Venus from her head to her feet.
A live performance of "Goin' To Chicago Blues is typical of what became a signature style for Rawls: a talking intro to blues songs. Well, not merely "talking," exactly, because the rhythms of his poetically spoken beats could almost be heard as an a capella ancestor of hip-hop. As if the pot needed any sweetening, three previously unreleased 1963 tracks with Curtis Amy's sextet are included; the swinging take on "Fine and Mellow is particularly choice.
Motherless Child; God Bless The Child; Nobody But Me; Blues For The Weepers; Goin' To Chicago Blues; How Long, How Long Blues; Southside Blues; Tobacco Road; Somthing Stirring In My Soul; Georgia On My Mind; So Hard To Laugh, So Easy To Cry; Old Folks; Somebody Have Mercy; Why (Do I Love You So); Street of Dreams; I Wonder; Let's Burn Down The Cornfield; One For My Baby, One For The Road; Mean Old World; Long Gone Blues; Fine And Mellow.
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