Jazz organist Jimmy Smith redefined the instrument with his classic recordings for Blue Note in the 1950s, working the drawbars and pedals of his Hammond B-3 like no one before him and bringing a pianist’s speed to his fills and runs, drawing the blues base out of bop and setting the stage for the later soul-jazz movement. Smith's records for Verve in the 1960s were quite different. His style as a player didn’t change so much as the personnel around him and the kind of material he tackled -- the two albums combined here, 1967’s Respect and 1968’s Livin’ It Up!, are a case in point. One could call it the pop Jimmy Smith, although his lightning-fast and sinewy organ runs aren’t all that removed from his Blue Note days. Respect features Smith in a funky soul mood, tackling Otis Redding's “Respect,” Allen Toussaint's “Get Out of My Life,” and Joe Zawinul's “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” with characteristic verve and energy, and it’s pretty exciting stuff. Livin’ It Up! features Smith backed by Oliver Nelson's big band and sweeping cinematic string arrangements taking on Tinseltown movie themes like “Valley of the Dolls” and “Mission: Impossible,” pure pop fare like Gerry Goffin and Carole King's “Go Away Little Girl,” soothing ballads like Antonio Carlos Jobim's “The Gentle Rain,” and even gruffly singing on Willie Dixon's “Big Boss Man” (which Smith co-wrote). What’s most surprising here is the bonus track, a version of Smith singing the Mickey Mouse Club theme that was recorded at the Respect sessions. Do these two albums work together on a single disc? They do, and the reason they do is that Jimmy Smith was Jimmy Smith no matter what kind of ocean he sailed across -- yeah, he was a jazz organ player, but even more than that, he was an organ player like no other.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett