Solomon Burke is one of the most fabled of the original soul vocalists. His series of hits on Atlantic in the 60s (including "Just out of Reach," "Cry to Me," and "Tonight's the Night") played a major role in defining the genre--and gave early rockers some ideas as well. And although he hasn't charted in years, he continues to record and remains a major attraction on the international festival-revival circuit. Despite his reputation as a charismatic--even spellbinding--performer, over the years he's started to treat some of his best-loved standards as throwaways, and his gospel fervor has gotten a tad overblown. But his multioctave voice remains capable of virtually every soul embellishment and coloring imaginable, and as a balladeer he still comes on like the Lord's own ambassador to the ladies. Burke's most recent album, The Definition of Soul (Virgin), is a slickly produced affair full of synthesizers and programmed percussion, but out front that legendary voice is in fine form: whether crooning a paean to erotic obsession or sighing a final heartbroken good-bye to a lover, Burke wraps his pipes around his robotic accompaniment as sensuously as he embraced the richly orchestrated arrangements of his early hits. Live in front of a brassy R & B ensemble, however, there are far fewer barriers between him and the deep soul that remains his true forte. Friday, 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-527-2583. DAVID WHITEIS
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Solomon Burke photo by Pablo Serrano.