Ben E. King

Ben E. King Sings for Soulful Lovers

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After parting ways with the Drifters in 1960, Ben E. King wasted no time establishing himself as a solo star with chart-toppers like "Spanish Harlem" and "Stand by Me," in which he made the most of his strong and expressive vocal style. Having scored on the R&B and pop charts, King's third album for Atco, Ben E. King Sings for Soulful Lovers, plays like a bid to cross over to more mature listeners after scoring big with the teens, much in the manner of Sam Cooke; the album is dominated by songs already made famous by other artists, featuring a blend of soulful chestnuts and classic standards, and the production and arrangements are polished and classy while still retaining the influence of the "rhythm & blues with strings" style that had become his hallmark. While "He Will Break Your Heart," "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," and "It's All in the Game" seem tailor-made for King, some of the other cuts are a bit of a creative stretch, especially "Moon River" and "On the Street Where You Live," both of which sound rather clumsy in this context despite the struggle to make them swing. But King never gives less than his level best on these sessions, no matter what the material happens to be, and he effortlessly walks a line between supper-club polish and passionate sweet soul. If Ben E. King didn't become a regular in Las Vegas or at the Copacabana like Sam Cooke or Lou Rawls, it's certainly not because he lacked the style or the chops, and if the song selection sometimes lets him down on Sings for Soulful Lovers, his voice and his phrasing are spot-on on all 12 tracks.

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