Blues Bytes

Surprise

November 2006

an amazon.com associate

 

Roy Young
Memphis
Tommy Boy Records

Roy Young

Boy, was this a surprise! I really didn't know what to expect from Roy Young on his CD, Memphis. Here's a Jamaican born singer that was discovered while performing in Tel Aviv, Israel, and it was decided to bring him to Memphis to record with the legendary Willie Mitchell in his Royal Studios. What came out of this unusual partnership was a quite personal and unique recording. Though it has a Memphis soul sound, it is much, much more.

It is hard to compare Young's gravely voice to anyone else, but to me it was sort of Tom Waits meets Wilson Pickett with a touch of Solomon Burke.

Some of the tracks are sensational, such as the opening track, "Don't Call It Love," with some nice B3 organ, piano, and strings, great Gil Askey (of Motown fame) arrangements, and a few Pickett shrieks to make things interesting.

Track two, "So Strange," has such familiar names as Lester Snell on piano, Leroy Hodges on bass, Preston Shannon on guitar and the great Jackie Jackson on background vocals. It's Sunday and by now I am thoroughly into this disc, thoughts of football a thing of the past, and I am ready for more Young (that's Roy not Vince).

Track three, "Everybody Hurts," bowls me over. It is the closest to pure Memphis soul, with Young's weathered voice revealing the apparent hurt he has experienced in his life. It is a classic interpretation of this great R.E.M. song and a version that should be accessible to any listener. Whew, I'm floored.

"Half Past July" has a touch of his Jamaican influence. A quite abstract "The Age of Sadness," a poetry reading with a great rhythmic groove, will be more difficult for some, but after a few listens, I was enthralled by the arrangement and his Al Green inflections. There's a fabulous ballad, "Beautiful," which will have those deep soul fans out there raising their hands.

The final track, "Bring In The Dawn," is just Young's soulful voice with only a melancholy solo piano. It is a fitting conclusion to this incredible release.

For a reviewer that listens to so many new releases that all have a similar programmed copycat sound, it is refreshing to come across a session with real musicians and 'spare no expense' production. It is the way great records used to be made by producers like Willie Mitchell, Jerry Ragavoy and Rick Hall. Quality always shines through.

I urge you to check out his web site --- www.royyoung.net --- to experience both visually and musically this great new talent before us. You decide.

--- Alan Shutro

 

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