They didn't call the late Johnny Adams "the Tan Canary" for nothing -- the man had one of the finest and most graceful voices in soul music, and unlike many R&B artists who earned some early success and cruised at half-speed into a latter-day career on a roots-friendly indie label, Adams' voice and his instincts about what to do with it actually improved with the passage of time. Between 1984 and 1998, Adams cut nine albums for Rounder Records, and you could compile several very listenable compilations from his output for the label -- which is what Rounder has done, in a sense, as they've put together two CDs from his work for the label, one devoted to blues-oriented material and this, which is focused on great soul numbers. Some have said that Adams' artful phrasing made him seem more like a jazz vocalist than a typical soul man, and the best of his work makes the argument seem reasonable. And like a jazz artist, Adams had a gift for interpreting material made famous by others -- Adams may not have been the first guy to record "You Don't Miss Your Water," "Neither One of Us," or "I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody's Home," but his versions on this disc give them the firm stamp of his own musical personality. Producer Scott Billington was behind the board for all of Adams' Rounder releases, and these 12 songs confirm he was a sympathetic collaborator who created excellent settings for Adams that boosted his soulful energy without getting in the way. This is hardly the definitive Johnny Adams collection, but soul fans looking for a way into his Rounder catalog -- as well as anyone who loves great R&B singing -- will find this very useful indeed.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming