In 1969, Solomon Burke's long association with Atlantic Records had come to an end, and he hadn't had a major hit in several years when he strolled into the Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL to cut his first and only album for Bell Records. Proud Mary's lead-off cut was a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's titular hit tune (still in the charts when Burke recorded it), and while that may have seemed like a bald-faced bid for pop radio play, in Burke's hands the song became a bracing tale of life in the Deep South as African-Americans searched for liberation aboard the ship that carried them as slaves and put them to undignified labor serving wealthy whites. It was a bold conceit and Burke brought it to rich life, and while the rest of the album is hardly as surprising, it's as satisfying as anything he cut during the later part of his Atlantic tenure. The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section are in typically fine form here, accompanying Burke with rich, soulful passion while always serving the song and the artist ahead of displaying their own chops (keep an ear peeled for the potent groove of Roger Hawkins' drums and Eddie Hinton's succinct but blazing guitar solo on "That Lucky Old Sun"), and Burke brings the full weight of his fervent, churchy presence to each cut, especially the righteous "Uptight Good Woman" and a cover of "These Arms of Mine" that pays sincere tribute to Otis Redding while still sounding like pure Solomon Burke. Bell had already dropped Burke by the time Proud Mary's title cut had become a hit single, which seems like utter foolishness given the strength of this material -- Solomon Burke and the Muscle Shoals crew were a superb match, and this album finds them bringing out the best in one another.