Syl Johnson with Otis Clay, Jackie Ross, and Syleena Johnson | Maurer Hall, Old Town School of Folk Music | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Syl Johnson with Otis Clay, Jackie Ross, and Syleena Johnson All Ages Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Sat., Nov. 27, 8 p.m. 2010

With the 2007 double-disc compilation Lunar Rotation and the recent box set Complete Mythology—which collects 81 tracks Syl Johnson recorded between 1959 and 1977—the local Numero Group label has made an invaluable contribution to the reputation of Chicago soul and R&B imprint Twinight Records. Johnson, the biggest hit maker on Twinight, was with the label from 1967 till '71 (before that he was with Federal, and afterward he recorded for Hi in Memphis), but none of his music appears on Lunar Rotation—even though he'd signed some of the acts, written some of the songs, and produced many of the sides. (Johnson was involved in a lawsuit with Twinight founder Peter Wright over control of his masters, and the Numero Group waited to license his material till that was resolved.) The beautifully packaged Complete Mythology, which contains six LPs (and four CDs with the same material), corrects that omission and then some, persuasively demonstrating what a potent force Johnson was, particularly between the late 60s and his exodus to Memphis. He worked in the territory where hard soul, funk, and the blues overlapped, and he gave his all on every song—his inspiring intensity, easy confidence, and riotous exuberance make even a dud worth listening to more than once. In April 2009, when Johnson headlined an old-school soul revue presented by the Numero Group at Park West, he was backed by lean young revivalist combo JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, but for this concert he's leading a big band anchored by soul veterans he's worked with on and off for more than four decades, among them bassist Bernard Reed, drummer Morris Jennings, saxophonist Willie Henderson, and backing singer Jackie Ross. Their repertoire includes nearly a dozen tracks that Johnson hasn't performed since he originally recorded them—which in at least one case was 51 years ago. Ross and fellow soul great Otis Clay will also sing a few tunes, as will Johnson's daughter Syleena. For more on Johnson, see this week's cover story. —Peter Margasak

Price: $28, $26 members, $24 seniors and children

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