James Carr

Soul Survivor

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AllMusic Review by

Looking back over ten years since it was released, James Carr's Soul Survivor seems like an unjustly overlooked recording. While it's true that it isn't one of his Goldwax masterpieces, it is nonetheless a hell of a record. For purists who need either a Muscle Shoals or Stax/Volt rhythm section to make it authentic, the slicker 1990s production elements will seem like a travesty. For those who understand that music needs to evolve to be essentially itself, this recording will feel like seeing a lily bloom in the desert. The bottom line is that this is still deep soul music; Soul Survivor transcends time, arrangements, instrumentation, and click tracks; it triumphs over virtually everything else in the neighborhood -- from the 1990s to the present -- and rises above it all to become a work of art in and of itself because James Carr is in phenomenal shape. The title track is worth the price of admission alone in that it tells Carr's own story: the tales of terror and mental and physical illness and the long bouts of bad luck touched by brief moments of victory followed by more loss. Through it all, his ability to deliver the song remains, untouched by time or circumstance. And if that isn't enough, try skipping to track three, "Put Love First," with its deep, heart-worn message and amazing backing choruses by Brown and Brown, where the saxophones come from deep in the pocket and wind around Carr's baritone and hold it fast to a lyric that is as affirming as it is wrenching. To tell about the rest is superfluous; this record is a necessary addition to many modern soul collections and to any library with Carr's work in it. Pick up the CD reissue of You Got My Mind Messed Up and then go for this, play 'em back to back, you won't be sorry.

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