The unexpected death of Solomon Burke in October left the throne of the “King of Rock and Soul Music” sadly vacant. He was a generation spanning career legend. Burke remains the pioneering classy definition of meaningful soul music. Jerry Wexler once called him, “the world’s greatest soul singer.”
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee in 2001, Burke won his first Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album for, Don’t Give Up On Me, produced by Joe Henry, often compared to the American Recordings from Johnny Cash for its landmark status. His trans-Atlantic epitaph is the “Boy Wonder Preacher,” extraordinary songwriter, renowned premier soul vocal powerhouse, father & grandfather.
Solomon Burke’s last recording, Nothing’s Impossible, is an instant classic. The 2010 collaboration with legendary Memphis producer and performer Willie Mitchell, blends romantic tenderness, tangible sadness and the wrenching rip of heartache from Burke’s cadenced phrasing within an emotionally packed delivery of soul filled orchestrated polish minus any slick sheen.
Using the exact nuanced placement “touch-tones” from The New Memphis Strings & The Royal Horns, Burke and Mitchell provide a gourmet union mixing precise talent which embodies the ability to give without looking to receive in return. They are delivering a positive message in an organically passionate manner.
The amazing arrangements resulting from this marriage provide a dozen selections of solid soul gold. The ballads are built upon the urgency of feelings expressed. The mid-tempo selections create a balance of unity and added sophistication. The passion within the opening track “Oh What a Feeling” is a seductive ballad. The nervous excitement of a new love is found within “It Must Be Love,” has all the yearning and expectation you could ask for. The bitter cardiac arrest of breakup is expressed with clarity in “New Company” while “You’re Not Alone,” is a safety net of assurance to a tender loved one.
The bluesy “I’m Leavin’” and “Error of my Ways,” stand in counterpoint to a challenge of faith to trust the heart evident within the title track ”Nothing’s Impossible.” These selections exemplify a balanced out framing from Burke’s emotional songwriting bookends. The realization of an unreciprocated love is set forth in “Dreams” a testimony to the one who got away.
Burke uniquely amalgamated the sounds of Nat King Cole, Mahalia Jackson, Big Joe Turner, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, and Jackie Wilson. Burke markedly refined the R&B genera with his massive musical influence. He was instrumental in the baton pass as the essence of a cool soul music steward on to musicians Van Morrison, The Blues Brothers and The Rolling Stones among others. Past label mates were Aretha Franklin, personal friend Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, and Percy Sledge. His contemporaries included Marvin Gaye, Al Green, and James Brown. Ironically, Burke lacked a top-twenty hit, yet worked with many studio greats such as Ahmet Ertegun, Don Was, and Buddy Miller.
Add Nothing’s Impossible to the other fine selections from Burke, the Americana-influenced Nashville and soulful Make Do With What You Got to join the aforementioned, Don’t Give Up on Me as the cornerstones of a “must have” collection from “King of Rock and Soul Music.” R.I.P. Solomon.