Freddie Roach

The Soul Book

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As Freddie Roach's Blue Note career progressed, his work increasingly celebrated contemporary black culture, and accordingly developed a greater interest in funky, jukebox-ready grooves, a stylistic departure from his initial melodic finesse. Roach took both interests with him to Prestige, for whom he debuted in 1966 with The Soul Book. But while Roach definitely brings the hard funk on some tracks, there's a laid-back, even meditative quality to others, which is surprising since his liner notes seem to suggest a concept album about the urban grit of Harlem. That isn't a problem, though; The Soul Book is a fine effort that, even if it doesn't hang together quite as well as his Blue Note dates, does find Roach exploring an impressively wide range of sounds. The cool-toned opener "Spacious" has a modal flavor, and the spiritual "Avatara" is even dreamier, with Roach's chords sounding straight out of worship service. The standard "Tenderly" is given a bright, airy treatment, with some intricate soloing from Roach that harks back to his early sound. The second half of the album gets markedly grittier and more jukebox-friendly, with some down-and-dirty organ funk on "The Bees" and the boogaloo-tinged "One Track Mind"; there are some surprisingly gutsy solos from lesser-known tenor player Edlin "Buddy" Terry, and guitarist Vinnie Corrao comes off decently. Plus, the groovy, conga-driven arrangement of the Fortunes' British Invasion pop hit "You've Got Your Troubles" percolates gently and breezily. Roach had one of the more distinctive styles on the Hammond B-3, and The Soul Book captures him at his most diverse.

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