Monday, 5 June 2017

"Forever Young" by REGGIE YOUNG (May 2017 Ace Records CD) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Soul Love..."

In December 2017 - Missouri's Reggie Young will be a sprightly 81 - and its odds on that you've never heard of the guy. Or have you?

Revered as one of 'the' classiest of finger-picking sessionmen across an astonishing six decades and a long-time associate of Waylon Jennings Touring Band and go-to guitarist for Memphis songwriting cool types like Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham - this elegant axeman's US singles resume alone is a list so damn long that I could be here for days. But check out these as tasters...and note how many are Soul classics or Rock-Soulful in their nature...

The Dark End Of The Street - JAMES CARR (1966, Goldwax Records 317)
The Letter - THE BOX TOPS (1967, Malo Records 565)
Skinny Legs And All - JOE TEX (1967, Dial Records 4063)
Memphis Soul Stew - KING CURTIS (1967, Atco Records 6511)
Cry Like A Baby - THE BOX TOPS (1968, Mala Records 593)
Hooked On A Feeling - B.J. THOMAS (1968, Scepter Records SCE 12230)
I'm A Midnight Mover - WILSON PICKETT (1968, Atlantic Records 2528)
Son Of A Preacher Man - DUSTY SPRINGFIELD (1968, Atlantic 2580)
Angel Of The Morning - MERRILEE RUSH and THE TURNABOUTS (1968, Bell 705)
Memphis Underground - HERBIE MANN (1969, Atlantic 2621)
Sweet Caroline (Good Times Never Seemed So Good) - NEIL DIAMOND (1969, Uni 55136)
Holly Holy - NEIL DIAMOND (1969, Uni Records 55175)
In The Ghetto - ELVIS PRESLEY (1969, RCA Victor 47-9741)
Suspicious Minds - ELVIS PRESLEY (1969, RCA Victor 47-9764)
Kentucky Rain - ELVIS PRESLEY (1970, RCA Victor 47-9791)
Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues - DANNY O'KEEFE (1972, Signpost SP-70006)
Drift Away - DOBIE GRAY (1973, Decca 33057)
I Can Help - BILLY SWAN (1974, Monument ZS8 8621)
Cajun Moon - J.J. CALE (1974, Shelter SR-40238)
Cocaine - J.J. CALE (1976, Shelter SR-62002)

The list above is only scratching the surface so the pedigree is there for sure - but what's the album like? "Forever Young" is seven Soul-Rock instrumentals - all guitar based with sweet keyboard fills and tasty brass additions. Think Phil Upchurch's "Darkness, Darkness" from 1972 (all funky guitar instrumentals), Dan Penn's "Do Right Man" album from 1994 but minus the vocals, or John Mayer's more soulful playing, Clapton's class in the last two decades or an all instrumental J.J. Cale album done as he approaches his twilight years - and that's what "Forever Young" sounds like (39:37 minutes).

1. Coming Home To Leipers Fork
2. Memphis Grease
3. Soul Love
4. Seagrove Place
5. It's About Time
6. Exit 209
7. Jennifer

Young's playing is slyly understated – never overly flashy – just right - you could even call it chill-out George Benson Soul. The 20-page booklet features liner news from the legendary COLIN ESCOTT that includes an interview with the great man (Clapton name-checks Young as one of the great players). Across the pages and beside photos of 3614 Jackson High Studios – you get fascinating reminiscences about his extraordinary career and contributions to so many memorable songs as well as insights into the solo album that took him the whole of his life to get together. So why the four stars instead of five?

While the sexy groove of the opener "Coming Home To Leipers Fork" will undoubtedly seduce you and smooth-as-silk "Soul Love" make you think the man is 30 and not 80 – Young’s first solo album is not all great and a few of the five-to-six-minute cuts simply amble rather than ignite. You keep wishing "It's About Time" and "Seagrove Place" for instance had more in them tune-wise other than sweet playing - and both could have lost those cheesy keyboard punches that sound like something from a decade best forgotten. But the last two songs - the hip and funky "Exit 209" and especially the ballad "Jennifer" (dedicated to his wife who also plays Cello on tracks 1, 2, 4 and 7) are utterly superb - oozing class - beautiful picking - and sweetly recorded too with all the warmth the songs deserve.

UK released 26 May 2017 - "Forever Young" by REGGIE YOUNG on Ace Records CDCHD 1500 (Barcode 0029667079822) is not quite the masterpiece it seems to think it is - but when it's good it's properly gorgeous - a sweet Soulful Guitar instrumental CD that I can't seem to keep out of my player (sublime moments ahoy).

Congrats to one of the greats and all at Ace Records for getting it and his staggering legacy out there...

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