Solomon Burke - Rock 'n Soul (1964), 3/10

Solomon Burke had an exceptional voice that is showcased on this record quite well. Especially the energetic “Cry to Me” that features his raspy yells show that he had a knack for emotional outcry inspiring movement. Yet the songwriting here is unimaginative and generally poor. With a few clear exceptions these songs quickly blend into an uninteresting fusion of generic rock and soul. There are particularly weak tracks that reveal significant weakness in imagination and even ability such as “Just Out of Reach”, “You Can’t Love Them All”, and the appropriately dim closer “He’ll Have to Go”. Some of Burke’s performances are outstanding enough to carry the weight of an otherwise blank slate of a song, but most are inhibited by a general lack of creativity, a varied quality in performance, or a combination of both. There are far better soul records from the era, even the year, so giving this album significant attention is not warranted. Individual songs like the aforementioned “Cry to Me” or “Can’t Nobody Love You” are enough to save the album from being truly awful but it is nothing special in fully contextualized retrospect. Without the right energy and passionate tension in songwriting, Burke’s voice cannot carry this album to greatness so it falls somewhere among the slew of immemorable records of the mid-sixties. Picking out the few interesting and highly successful singles is enough for anyone including soul fans.