Lonnie Youngblood

Black Is So Bad: The Turbo 70's Soul Years

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This two-fer by saxophone soul king Lonnie Youngblood (Jimi Hendrix's fave sax player) features his classic Sweet Sweet Tootie album on Turbo next to his self-titled album on the same label, plus bonus tracks. Sweet Sweet Tootie was issued in 1972, and is full of sweet soul groove and glide. There is a shimmying female backing chorus on nearly every track (a fine example is on "Super Cool"), with ethereal strings flitting through the background of George Kerr's production. And there is Youngblood's blowing, always meat and potatoes, always in the groove, just barely trailing the beat with in-the-pocket phrasing. But the part of Lonnie Youngblood that is always left out is his singing. As a Philly soulster, he sounded as if he belonged in Memphis. Take a listen to "I Only Hurt Myself," "Black Is So Bad," or the title track to hear how deeply talented Youngblood was as a singer. On the second album here, recorded five years later, the vibe is completely different. Here is Youngblood embracing disco, and the Kerr production has so much sheen that Youngblood's big sound is reduced to George Howard breeziness. The seemingly synthetic beat and oddly Puerto Rican disco overtones are implicit in the mix as well on tunes like "Happiness Is Music" and "Push It In (As Far as You Can)." Yeah, great title. Youngblood's voice is also under heavy treatment, coming through phase shifters, a ton of echo, and even a synth in places. The two albums don't go together very well and kind of show the sacred profane and the kitsch profane next to one another. The price is right, though, making the first record a bargain and a necessary purchase for any serious '70s soul collection.

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