Ben E. King

Soul Remix

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Ben E. King released an unassuming and low-key album called What's Important to Me in 1992 on John E. Abbey's then Atlanta-based Ichiban Records. Competent and pleasant, maybe a tad over-produced, the album featured the love songs "You Got All of Me," "She's Gone Again," and the title track, "So Important to Me," as well as a misguided cover of the Impressions' "It's Alright." Nothing rose to the level of King's pair of 1961 classics "Stand by Me" or "Spanish Harlem," and there was a certain generic feel about the whole project, as if King were simply treading water. Ichiban ran into financial problems a couple of years later, and the label had folded by the end of the 1990s, only to reappear a few years later based in Florida, which leads us to Soul Remix, a complete re-thinking of the What's Important to Me project. Again released by Ichiban, with assistance from Ryko, Soul Remix is essentially the same album with a couple of tracks dropped and a couple of tracks added (including the addition of a totally unnecessary live version of "Stand by Me"), and everything has been remixed and refocused. The end result is an improvement over the original album, and while there still isn't really a track that delivers a knock-out punch, the whole set gives off a warm, easy glow that is easy to like, while the gentle remixes seem to give King's vocals an added resonance. "It's Alright," in particular, benefits from the new approach. The dreadful period drums of the 1992 mix have been lifted for hand drums, and the song picks up closer to the spirit of the Impressions' original. Soul Remix still isn't anything like the great lost Ben E. King album, certainly, but it makes a stronger and more realized statement than What's Important to Me did in 1992, and although King may well be treading water for real this time, he no longer sounds like he is.

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