The jazz world is infamous for having a lot of narrow-minded snobs who could care less about other forms of music -- myopic individuals who wouldn't know Marvin Gaye from the Sex Pistols or Joan Baez from Joan Jett. The late Billy Butler, however, wasn't one of them; he was a versatile, flexible, broad-minded guitarist whose taste in music ran from hard bop to soul, funk, and the blues. Produced by Bob Porter in 1969, Guitar Soul reflects Butler's diversity. Parts of this album are straight-ahead, hard-swinging bop; his interpretations of Wes Montgomery's "The Thumb" and Benny Goodman's "Seven Come Eleven" certainly fit that description. But the nine-minute "Blow for the Crossing" is another matter; this gem (which Butler co-wrote with his nephew, Charles Black) boasts an infectious New Orleans-style funk groove -- it's exactly the sort of thing that the Meters would have recorded in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Equally groove-oriented and equally memorable is a performance of Bill Doggett's "Honky Tonk," the tune that Butler is best remembered for. To his credit, the Philadelphian doesn't try to turn this 1969 remake of "Honky Tonk" into a carbon copy of the famous 1956 version -- he knows better, and the "Honky Tonk" found on Guitar Soul has a magic of its own. Meanwhile, "B&B Calypso" is a Caribbean-flavored gem that is influenced by Sonny Rollins' jazz/calypso experiments, and was written by Bob Bushnell, who is employed on electric bass. Butler's other sidemen on this LP include saxman Seldon Powell, organist Sonny Phillips, and drummer Specs Powell, all of whom do their part to make Guitar Soul the creative triumph that it is.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson