Solomon Burke | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Solomon Burke's magnificent voice and cathartic stage presence made him a gospel-music phenomenon early on. Billed as "the Wonder Boy Preacher" at the age of nine, he crossed over into secular music in the mid-50s and really hit his stride when he signed with Atlantic Records in late 1960. Among the classic soul singers Burke's vocal prowess is unmatched. He modulates effortlessly from a tender whisper to a deep-throated baritone and up into an air-shattering scream that combines a gospel preacher's intensity with the rich timbre and tonal control of a saxophone, fusing riveting intimacy with exuberant communal celebration. But it's Burke's fervor that sets him apart: he melds the spiritual exultation of his gospel roots with the unabashed sensuality of secular soul--a seamless, transcendent blend. His litany of hits reads like a textbook on soul and R & B excellence, but even his unsurpassed Atlantic recordings of the early 60s barely do him justice: his live performances can elevate you to places you've never been, and you may resonate from the effects for weeks afterward. Also on the bill: Bobby "Blue" Bland. Saturday, East of the Ryan, 914 E. 79th; 874-1500.

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