Johnnie Taylor

Raw Blues

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While the "Raw" part of the title may be overstating the case just a bit, "Blues" describes this disc pretty well, thank you -- on his fourth album, Johnnie Taylor shifts his focus away from Stax's trademark Southern soul stylings towards leaner and grittier blues-based performances, a style he'd already shown a knack for on his earlier sets. Raw Blues still walks a line between soul and blues, with the sweet-and-sour tone of The Memphis Horns sometimes stacking the deck in favor of the former, but "Part Time Love", "Hello Sundown" and "You Can't Keep A Good Man Down" generate a potent late-night mood vibe which match the downcast authority of Taylor's voice. And if the always air-tight performances of the Stax studio crew (including Steve Cropper and Isaac Hayes) pack enough heat to turn "You Can't Win With A Losing Hand" and "That Bone" into potent dance floor material, Taylor's rough but passionate delivery never lets this get too close to the Land of the Slick. A strong and heartfelt set that serves as an important precursor to Taylor's later blues-oriented sets for Malaco.

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