Solomon Burke – Proud Mary


Solomon Burke


Listen – Proud Mary MP3″


That’s it.

Not “good morning”, or “top o’ the morning” or any of the other sunny have-a-nice-day-isms that we keep pocketed for just such an occasion. I’m not in the mood. So far (and I’m only accounting for the last 98 or so minutes) this has not been a good day. This is not to say that anything serious has gone wrong, but rather that since I left the house this morning I have encountered one irritating, pestiferous obstacle after another.

It’s almost as if I had been besieged by a cloud of gnats, organized by some mysterious, higher gnat-telligence for the sole purpose of making my every turn a wrong one, every step a misstep, a tack on every seat, a paper cut in every sheaf…you know the drill.

I’m at the stage where I think I need to go to the top of the mountain, find the wise man with the long white beard, and sock him in the nose, if only to send him rolling down the slope, so I can take his spot, whipped in the chill wind, and gather my thoughts, if only for a moment*.

On that sour note, I will attempt to turn things around, using only the power of music (“only”, heh…).

Once a month or so, I hunker down in the old Funky16Corners “library” (that would be the monument to clutter I call a record room) and pull out ten to fifteen selections to fill yon blogspot for the coming weeks. Some of these are thematically coordinated, in that they can be grouped in one way or another (like ‘New Orleans Week’ etc.), while others are pulled completely at random, just because they grabbed me. I try to maintain a balance, mixing in equal quantities of funk and soul, and all of the permutations thereof, that call my crates home.

When I decide what I want to post up on a particular day, unless I’m bound by a previously advertised “theme”, I take an organic approach and upload whatever feels good. Today’s selection is one that I had waiting in the wings for a day such as this. Something so potent, so filled with authentic, Grade A, soul that it would take the storm tossed seas of my psyche and turn them once again into a smooth, glassy pool in the midst of the forest primeval, disturbed only by a gentle breeze and the rays of the sun.

Feeling like I do this morning, this is a tall order, but certainly nothing a little bit of Solomon Burke can’t take care of.

I’ve gone on before about the essential, deep soul that to this day rolls of the tongue of the mighty King Solomon. He’s one of the last living giants of 60’s soul, with a powerful voice capable of delivering soul, gospel, even country tunes with equal conviction. Back in nineteen and sixty nine Burke left the big city and headed down to Alabama to work his magic through the lens of Muscle Shoals. The resulting album, ‘Proud Mary’ (with liner notes by no less an authority than John Fogerty) is a classic, taking Burke’s sophisticated sound and applying a slightly rougher edge. His take on the title cut starts off with the chug (choogle) of the original – which of course was one of the finest bits of Southern-iana ever cranked out by a gang of denim and flannel clad San Fran-sisky-ans – and ladles on helping after helping of a mystical brew, composed of butter beans, old bibles, Spanish moss, red clay and (oddly enough) an electric sitar. The end result is one in which hints of all the ingredients are present, but are almost impossible to get a handle on because they have combined into something far more powerful than its components.

Now, this had certainly been done by many others, often successfully (see – Goldwax Label, recordings of, Carr, James et al), but weaving a glorious cloak out of these fibers and draping across the massive back of Solomon Burke is another thing entirely. It’s almost like taking an ox-cart, and swapping out your livestock for a Sherman tank. Of course, as with any such outsized exchange, the possibility – nay likelihood – of overkill is present, but miraculously enough the overall effect here is one of subtlety.

Burke never really has the chance to soar, but its not really not that kind of record, and doesn’t have to be. Where Ike and Tina took “Proud Mary” and produced a mushroom cloud (which despite the enjoyment I get out of their performance, is in reflection a somewhat inappropriate interpretation of the source material), Burke looks at the CCR version and sees it as a place to anchor a slightly “realer” story (listen to his preamble at the beginning of the record).

If you get a chance, grab the Sundazed reissue ‘Proud Mary: The Bell Sessions’ which collects the entire ‘Proud Mary’ LP as well as a number of 45-only tacks from the same sessions. If all you know of Solomon Burke is his earlier work for Atlantic, I think you’ll be pleased by where the big man was taking it in 1969.

Buy – Proud Mary: The Bell Sessions – at Amazon.Com

*It’s like in the film ‘Office Space’ where the impossibly cheery office drone peeks into the protagonists cubicle and says “It looks like somebody’s got a case of the Mondays!”, and he gets a look on his face that is a perfect combination of dismay, disgust and barely controlled rage.

9 Responses to “Solomon Burke – Proud Mary”

  1. Art(uro) Says:

    I just ran across a copy of this on 45 and my immediate reaction was to judge it against Ike & Tina’s version–which is why I didn’t buy it (and wasn’t buying it, either!). I was also thrown by the almost sitar-like guitar licks that bisect the lines vocal lines. But, now that I’ve read your post, I’m going to go back and listen to it for what it is. I guess it’s easier to appreciate what he’s doing with the tune within the context of the LP, but I only had the single and the flip-side at my disposal.

  2. pete Says:

    Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes, well, he eats you…

  3. soulbrotha Says:

    I found Art(uro)’s comment very strange, because Creedence Clearwater Revival had a HUGE hit with this song and they used the same “sitar” sound and it was even more pronounced than the original!
    I can’t beleive he never heard that before.

  4. Deezy Says:

    Dig. I dig.

  5. Art(uro) Says:

    soulbrotha, I had no idea Creedence did a cover of this song?!? Seriously, btotha, go back and listen to the track again. If you listen to it with headphones your head will involuntarily nod to the right (or left if you’ve got them on backwards) the second the “sitar” plays the first riff. The sound is (to me) so jarring that it’s as if George Harrison were playing that lick. Honestly, the Creedence version (or any other I’ve heard) sounds nothing like this. Creedence’s sound is so carefully melded that nothing sounds out of place. And that was my only point about the Burke track. The guitar licks seem OUT OF PLACE–even a bit hokey–compared to his smoothe voice. Perhaps I should have been a bit clearer. Sheesh!

  6. Todd Lucas Says:

    Of course, CCR’s version of “Proud Mary” IS the original version.


  7. funky16corners Says:

    Thank you Todd.

  8. Pete Gloria Says:

    Spanish moss?! Wicked. Well I got me some of my own day of pestilential pains in the drain today, read yon illustrious preamble, listened to this top lustrous track and alkahest that it is that deeeeep soul just dissolves away my silly trifles and tribulations down the river. I was pissed off, now I’m dancing.

    Personally I have a soft spot for tracks with soul or funky overkill, there’s something so buzzingly innocent about them they somehow overcome the tacky and transcend the original exactly because of the unwitting preposterousness of conceit. Like Billy Stewart’s killer Old Man River, that sort of thing.
    However I did see Shirley Bassey do a ‘sultry’ version of Eleanor Rigby once on TV. I cant describe the appaling menopausalness of seeing her part her dress to show some leg as she delivered the lines ‘All the lonely people, where do they all come from…’. The horror.
    Anyway, probably a good theme for a seleksh, Mr Funky16?

  9. kling Says:


    I am old enough to own the vinyl of Burkes Proud Mary LP – and I always wondered why this masterpiece was nver really recognized – except by John Fogerty in the LPs liner notes. The Turner Version is second rate in comparison.

    Now it is back again. Great.

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