Archie Shepp

Something to Live For

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    5
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This highly anticipated vocal album does not quite make it. Unfortunately, either the saxophonist was having an off night (or nights), or he simply lost his ability to sing gracefully by the mid-'90s. The choice of tunes is perfect: "A Flower Is a Lonesome Thing," "Strange Fruit," "Hello, Young Lovers," and "Georgia on My Mind," among others. So is the band, which includes trumpeter Eddie Henderson, pianist John Hicks, bassist George Mraz, and drummer Iris Muhammad (with Steve McCracken substituting on one track). Shepp speaks and shouts the lyrics more than he sings them, seemingly agonizing over each syllable. His tenor performance is subpar, too. He sounds almost as though he is playing with marbles in his mouth. Hicks explores some nice, if familiar ground, on piano, where he adds pleasant and stimulating lines both in support and as a soloist. Shepp's career as a vocalist appears short-lived, as he again focused on his saxophones after this one was recorded.

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