Billy Preston

Sixteen Year Old Soul

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Sixteen Year Old Soul Review

by William Ruhlmann

For anyone who feels that the LP debut of a 16-year-old organist is lacking in precocity as compared with Little Stevie Wonder's The 12 Year Old Genius, released around the same time, it should be pointed out that Billy Preston first made his mark at the age of 11, when he appeared as the young W.C. Handy in the 1958 biographical film St. Louis Blues, before being succeeded onscreen by Nat King Cole. Here, the teenage veteran, now a protégé of Sam Cooke, for whose record label he records, is joined by a band including Earl Palmer (drums), Clifford Hils (bass), and Eugene Edwards (piano) on a session of lively instrumentals encompassing elements of jazz, blues, and R&B. Preston always keeps things moving with his bright, energetic playing both on the originals (generally co-credited to J.W. Alexander, who co-produced the disc with Fred Smith) and the covers (including "I Can't Stop Loving You" [a nod to obvious influence Ray Charles], Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child," and Cooke's "Bring It on Home to Me"). He is clearly a talent already well developed at a young age. [The 2011 digital reissue on ABKCO includes two bonus tracks, "Sweet Thing" and Cooke's "Win Your Love for Me."]