The last scheduled release from Johnnie Taylor before his death in May 2000 is a mix of contemporary and old-school R&B. Though there are drum machines and synthesizers a-plenty, Taylor's matchless, hurting tenor brings an ageless feel to everything it touches. With GOTTA GET THE GROOVE BACK he transcends his influences, and his former incarnations as Sam Cooke's successor in the legendary Soul Stirrers, the '60s soul singer of "Who's Making Love," and the '70s disco star of "Disco Lady".
Frederick ("I've Been Lonely for So Long") Knight's "Big Head Hundreds" is given the full Taylor treatment; up against this recording, most contemporary R&B is reduced to candyfloss. Taylor's at his most effective when playing both funky and wounded--his voice evokes Otis Redding, or Wilson Pickett's guttural depths, but also carries a singular high lonesome sweetness. This is most evident on slower, more contemporary cuts, such as "Juke Joint," whose spare production gives this muscular singer room to express both the urgency and the despair in a search for after-hours gratification. His aside, "I feel lucky tonight," speaks volumes. The irony of the final track, "Soul Heaven," where Taylor dreams he's at a gig with the Bar-Kays, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Sam Cooke, et al, will escape no-one.