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Johnnie Taylor - Live At the Summit Club

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Album Review

With the release of Johnnie Taylor's Live at the Summit Club, the Concord label's takeover of the Stax catalog from its former owner, Fantasy, has already born fruit. This set is a club date recorded in 1972 as part of the WattStax: The Living Word documentary. Taylor was bumped from the festival lineup on the day of because of time overruns. He was booked into the club with his own band and an expanded set of Los Angeles musicians. The ten cuts here have never been issued unedited, and only one, an edited version of "Jody Got Your Girl and Gone," made the film, and three others were on earlier LPs as edited versions. The performance by Taylor is electrifying. He's in a club in front of the City of Angels regulars who, according to the notes, were "fur-lined players and ice cold hustlers." Given the film stills in the booklet, this observation proves to be true. Taylor is far from intimidated, however; he simply delivers an authoritative, strutting, burning performance that engages the audience at street level. They are active participants in what makes this date so special. The band is ragged and sometimes a bit off harmonically, missing cues (especially early), but Taylor doesn't miss a step. He chides them semi-regularly — the first time happens at the beginning of "Steal Away," a Jimmy Hughes ballad he ramps up into a funky burner after his amazing read of Isaac Hayes' and David Porter's "Little Bluebird." He simply tells them to pick it up because they've been dragging all night. "Who's Making Love," his smash 1968 hit, is here as a full-blown audience participation number, and works to stunning effect. Cuts like "I Don't Wanna Lose You," "Hello Sundown," and "Stop Doggin' Me" simply come off like the lost funky soul Holy Grail that they are. The sound is impeccable, as the music was recorded for possible inclusion in the film — he tells the crew to get their stuff out of his way at one point. This one cannot be recommended enough.


Born: May 05, 1938 in Crawfordsville, AR

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Young gospel phenom, gritty Stax/Volt soulster, lady-killing balladeer, chart-topping disco king, Southern soul-blues stalwart -- Johnnie Taylor somehow always managed to adapt to the times, and he parlayed that versatility into a recording career that lasted nearly four decades. Nicknamed the "Philosopher of Soul" during his Stax days, that version of Taylor is best remembered for his 1968 R&B chart-topping smash "Who's Making Love," but far and away his biggest success was 1976's across-the-board...
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Johnnie Taylor - Live At the Summit Club, Johnnie Taylor
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