Unlike collectors of breaks and beats, soul searchers ought to take more than a general interest in Lou Rawls' output from the second half of the '60s. This period proved an immensely productive one, as the artist managed to produce over a dozen records between 1965 and 1970. From a creative point of view, they also tended to get the better out of both Rawls and composer/producer David Axelrod. The latter teamed up with Rawls and was given enough space to develop his own unique ideas, complete with session musicians of his choice and arranger H.B. Barnum. Apart from the singer's smooth but convincing delivery, Axelrod's original approach deserves some credit. The very recognizable guitar and organ parts remain subtle most of the time, careful not to interfere too much with Rawls' delivery. Every now and then though, an element of surprise turns up, whether it's an orchestral outburst, a funky intermezzo, or even a hint of psychedelia. It may leave the listener in bewilderment, after the song continues in its original way. These unexpected twists make most of the Rawls/Axelrod collaborations an exciting listening experience, for you're never quite sure whether a moment like this will turn up. By the time The Way It Was: The Way It Is was issued, Axelrod and Rawls had already done a considerable number of albums together. Nevertheless, it's a surprisingly strong set. Interpretations of well-known soul classics like "Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa (Sad Song)" and "When a Man Loves a Woman" get the full Rawls/Axelrod makeover here. The album further contains Axelrod at his peak in the seemingly awkward but brilliantly chosen "Season of the Witch," of Donovan fame. Also included is the sublime "Your Good Thing (Is About to End)," which earned Rawls his third consecutive chart success and would also appear on his next album of the same name. To this day, both albums did not receive a proper release on CD. Too bad, for the album cover is definitely worth a closer inspection: The Way It Was: The Way It Is finds the artist appearing from a dark background, tightly dressed in black leather and a stick to match. April Stevens would know how to teach that tiger, wowowowowowouldn't she?
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AllMusic Review by Quint Kik