Friday, February 2, 2024

Johnny Adams - Heart 'n' Soul (1969-70 us, brilliant southern soul rhythm 'n' blues, 2004 digipak remaster)

Renowned around his Crescent City home base as "the Tan Canary" for his extraordinary set of soulfully soaring pipes, veteran R&B vocalist Johnny Adams tackled an exceptionally wide variety of material for Rounder in his later years; elegantly rendered tribute albums to legendary songwriters Doc Pomus and Percy Mayfield preceded forays into mellow, jazzier pastures. But then, Adams was never particularly into the parade-beat grooves that traditionally define the New Orleans R&B sound, preferring to deliver sophisticated soul ballads draped in strings.

Adams sang gospel professionally before crossing over to the secular world in 1959. Songwriter Dorothy LaBostrie -- the woman responsible for cleaning up the bawdy lyrics of Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti" enough for worldwide consumption -- convinced her neighbor, Adams, to sing her tasty ballad "I Won't Cry." The track, produced by a teenaged Mac Rebennack, was released on Joe Ruffino's Ric logo, and Adams was on his way. He waxed some outstanding follow-ups for Ric, notably "A Losing Battle" (the Rebennack-penned gem proved Adams' first national R&B hit in 1962) and "Life Is a Struggle."

After a prolonged dry spell, Adams resurfaced in 1968 with an impassioned R&B revival of Jimmy Heap's country standard "Release Me" for Shelby Singleton's SSS imprint that blossomed into a national hit. Even more arresting was Adams' magnificent 1969 country-soul classic "Reconsider Me," his lone leap into the R&B Top Ten; in it, he swoops effortlessly up to a death-defying falsetto range to drive his anguished message home with fervor.

Despite several worthy SSS follow-ups ("I Can't Be All Bad" was another sizable seller), Adams never traversed those lofty commercial heights again (particularly disappointing was a short stay at Atlantic). But he found a new extended recording life at Rounder; his 1984 set, From the Heart, proved to the world that this Tan Canary could still chirp like a champ. With producer Scott Billington, he recorded some nine albums for the label prior to his cancer-related death on September 14, 1998. 
by Bill Dahl

A lost southern soul classic -- recorded by Johnny Adams in Nashville, and done in a great blend of country and soul styles! Johnny's career initially began in New Orleans, where he recorded a number of indie singles -- but this was the record that really pushed his career into the limelight, and gave his deep down-homey vocals a perfect style in which to work! 

The set's got a really rich quality that reminds us of some of the lesser-known Hi Records work at the time -- a mode that's willing to go past simple labels and chart soul conventions -- and work in a mode that reaches out with a fresher approach that's really appealing. Titles include the hit single "Lonely Man", plus a bunch of other smokey little cuts that include "Losing Battle", "Real Live Living Hurtin' Man", "I Can't Be All Bad", and "Reconsider Me". The release also adds in some bonus singles.
1. Georgia Morning Dew (Margaret Lewis, Mira Smith) - 3:25
2. In A Moment Of Weakness (Vivian Keith, Naomi Martin, Ray Riley)  - 2:35
3. Real Live Living Hurtin' Man (Margaret Lewis, Mira Smith) - 3:10
4. Lonely Man (Johnny Adams, Mac Rebennack) - 2:37
5. I Won't Cry (Dorothy LaBostrie, Joseph Ruffino) - 2:17
6. Release Me (Eddie Miller, James Pebworth, Robert Yount) - 2:46
7. Proud Woman (Fred Burch, Skip Gibbs) - 2:40
8. I Can't Be All Bad (Margaret Lewis, Mira Smith) - 3:04
9. Losing Battle (Leonard Dauenhaur, Mac Rebennack) - 2:23
10.Living On Your Love (Don Hill, John Koechner) - 1:45
11.Reconsider Me (Margaret Lewis, Mira Smith) - 3:50
12.You Made A New Man Out Of Me (Joseph Broussard, Ruenell Rudison) - 2:58
13.I Want To Walk Through This Life With You (Margaret Lewis, Mira Smith) - 2:51
14.If I Could See You One More Time (Albert Savoy, Wardell Quezerque) - 3:32
15.South Side Of The Soul Street (Robert James Benninghoff) - 2:57
16.Kiss The Hurt Away (Chuck Reed, Finley Duncan) - 2:41
17.Too Much Pride (Ben Peters) - 1:45
18.I Don't Worry Myself (James Granville Jr.) - 2:32

*Johnny Adams - Vocals