Solomon Burke's 19-hit run on Atlantic in the 60s helped define modern soul music. An ordained minister for most of his life, Burke brought gospel intensity to his love ballads ("The Price," "You're Good for Me"), but on seductions like "Tonight's the Night," this man of the cloth embodied the satin-sheet lothario later adopted by soul crooners like Isaac Hayes and Barry White. By the 70s his star had faded, but he continued to hit sporadically on various labels--Soul Alive! (Rounder), released in 1984, effectively captured his house-wrecking stage prowess. Last year Burke tackled a new set of compositions by songwriters like Nick Lowe, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, and Dan Penn on Don't Give Up on Me (Fat Possum); his range--from velvet basso profundo through high-tenor ascents--is undiminished, and he can still convey both anguish and ecstasy in a single song, or even a single phrase. There's a dark side to much of the new material (Elvis Costello's harrowing "The Judgment" suggests Leonard Cohen at his bleakest), and Burke isn't afraid to embrace it. But he shines brightest on the inspirational Mann/Weill piece "None of Us Are Free," a plea for social justice that's equal parts righteous demand and final warning, with the Five Blind Boys of Alabama adding a rich gospel harmony behind him. Burke would be enough of an attraction by himself, but this all-star soul revue also includes Mavis Staples, Otis Clay, and Cicero Blake. Friday, January 17, 7 PM, Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph; 312-977-1700 or 312-902-1400.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jesse Fischer.