Lou Johnson - Soul Legend

Published Monday 15th July 2019
Lou Johnson - Soul Legend
Lou Johnson - Soul Legend

RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 176490-28613
LABEL: Master Classics

Reviewed by Tony Cummings

The death of soul singer Lou, aged 78, recently got me turning in the first time in many years to Lou's recordings for New York's Big Top Records. Made in the early '60s they, or most of them, were subsequently compiled on two albums, Kent Records' 'Incomparable Soul Vocalist' and this 21-song set. Ex-gospel singer Lou's voice was a wonderful soulful baritone and at Big Top it found the perfect musical setting through the songs and productions of Burt Bacharach. Much has been written about the Jewish pop music genius Bacharach and several of his greatest compositions, brilliantly enhanced by lyricist Hal David, are some of the most memorable songs in popular music history. Lou's recordings of classic Bacharach/David material are all good, aided by Bacharach's neo-symphonic arrangements and though his renditions of "Reach Out For Me" and "Walk On By" were later surpassed when Bacharach got another ex-gospel singer Dionne Warwick to record the songs, Lou's hoarse emoting still hits home. Such a great voice accompanied by Burt's classy piano chords, jerky electric guitar rhythms, dramatic brass embellishments and the Sweet Inspirations sistahs emphasising the hooks all make for great pop soul 56 odd years after they were put onto recording tape. Lou's career in mainstream music was only semi-successful. The best two Johnson/Bacharach/David music marriages, "Kentucky Bluebird (Send A Message To Martha)" and "(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me", got him some recognition Stateside though in Britain it was hugely inferior cover versions by Adam Faith and Sandie Shaw which swept up most of the record sales. Ironically it was Britain's Northern soul scene, with their flipsides and obscurities obsessions, which was later to give some UK exposure to the fast-tempoed "Magic Potion" and "Unsatisfied" (both on this compilation). It has to be said that some of the obscure non-Bacharach recordings featured here aren't very good. But Lou's best sides still impress today.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

Interested in reviewing music? Find out more here.

Be the first to comment on this article

We welcome your opinions but libellous and abusive comments are not allowed.

We are committed to protecting your privacy. By clicking 'Send comment' you consent to Cross Rhythms storing and processing your personal data. For more information about how we care for your data please see our privacy policy.