Wet Willie


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OK, they may not be the same Wet Willie that made sweaty, soulful rock & roll across the early '70s, but this incarnation of the band had its virtues -- not only was Jimmy Hall still in great voice, but he and keyboardist/vocalist/composer Mike Duke were joined on harmony vocals (a new element) by guitarist Marshall Smith and drummer Theophilus K. Lively. With guitarist Larry Berwald added to the mix with Jack Hall, as always, on bass and vocals, the result is an exceptional album -- Manorisms relates to Wet Willie's earlier work the way that Motown relates to Stax; it's all soul, but there's an achingly beautiful pop/rock element added here, and moments, on "Make You Feel Love Again" and "We Got Lovin'," where one may well get flashes of the Four Tops circa their debut LP or, better yet, their second album. It might not be as intense as and maybe it's a little less distinctly Southern than their earlier work, but it is fun and some of the harmonized blues, such as on "Rainman," is unexpectedly gorgeous. What's more, even their tribute to vintage rock & roll, "Street Corner Serenade" -- which should be too self-conscious by its very nature -- displays attributes of the group that are worth isolating, including some elegant harmonies. There is some of the "old" sound here as well, most notably the bracing "One Track Mind" and the hauntingly soulful "Let It Shine," and overall the album covers enough of the right bases that it's well worth hearing, even if it generated no AM radio hits.

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