Percy Sledge

The Soulful Sound of Percy Sledge

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Percy Sledge had a massive hit with his first recording, the desperate "When a Man Loves a Woman," perhaps the most misunderstood song in pop history. Propped with a funereal organ line, Sledge delivers a classic vocal about the pitiful degradations of being hopelessly, dangerously in love. That it is regarded as a classic love song is ironic at best. It is a song about love, certainly, but not the devotional kind, exploring instead the destructive, obsessive side of the subject. Brilliantly sung, "When a Man Loves a Woman" hit the top of the charts in 1966. Although Sledge followed it up with some decent singles, including a wonderful version of the Dan Penn/Spooner Oldham song "It Tears Me Up," he never flew that close to the sun again. Both songs are collected here, along with other examples of Sledge's countrified soul approach like "Warm and Tender Love" and "Take Time to Know Her." Best at slow-burning ballads, Sledge seldom gets too up-tempo, and past four or five songs, the pace gets a little samey, but his expressive, impassioned vocals still manage to carry the day. There are dozens of greatest-hits compilations available, usually with these same songs, so one is probably as good as another, provided they're not the re-recorded versions Sledge did in the late '70s.

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