Andre Williams' life has been one wild ride -- he cut some powerfully greasy singles for Fortune Records in the 1950s, was a staff songwriter and producer at Motown and Chess Records, worked with the likes of Ike Turner, George Clinton, and Stevie Wonder in the '60s and '70s, and after a few years down and out' came roaring back in the '90s with the roots-punk assault of his albums Silky and The Black Godfather. But the road got a bit too rough for comfort a few years into the new millennium, and 2010's That's All I Need was cut after Williams went through a stay in the hospital and a stint in rehab, and one press release reports this is the first album he's recorded entirely clean and sober. The 74-year-old Williams does sound better controlled and less frantic on That's All I Need, but the songs suggest that getting straight hasn't changed him all that much -- "There Ain't No Such Thing As Good Dope" is a tale of street life that focuses on money rather than personal health, on "Cigarettes and My Old Lady," he wonders which is going to kill him first, he recalls adventures both good and bad on "My Time Will Come" and once again insists he's got the skills to be your lover man on "Tricks." Williams produced this set in collaboration with Matthew Smith (who, after overseeing sessions with Nathaniel Mayer and Scott Morgan, seems to be making a career out of working with legends of Michigan R&B), and Smith has put together a tight, emphatic band for That's All I Need, with Motown guitar legend Dennis Coffey working alongside underground rock stalwarts Troy Gregory, Dave Shettler, and Mike Alonso. That's All I Need isn't as fiery as some of Williams' recent efforts, but this is music that clearly aims for a feel that's soulful rather than manic, and on that level it works very well, especially on the confessional "Amends" and the title tune. 54 years after his first hit record, Andre Williams still has plenty to say and can conjure up a tough, funky groove that comes straight from the heart, and That's All I Need suggests he may have another decade or two of potent music left in him.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming