So by now it's likely that you're aware of the prodigious producer/composer/arranger David Axelrod, who worked on a score of classic albums for Capitol from the mid-60s to the early 70s, and then released some great stuff under his own name, all of which is begrudgingly making its way back into print despite the opposition of the fat cats. If you are, you're likely also aware of his work with Lou Rawls, the greatest soul singer post-Sam Cooke. If you've never heard the music of either man then you're in for a treat.
"You're Good For Me" is the pinnacle of their creative relationship. By 1968 Axelrod and Rawls (along with arranger/conductor H.B. Barnum) had partnered on 5 albums, and everyone in the studio, in front of and behind the glass, is at the top of their game here. The band is tight and soulful while still maintaining a loose elegance. The strings and backup vocals are gorgeously lush and perfectly controlled. Mr. Rawls is essentially perfect, and the album, almost operatic in scope, coheres thematically and musically in a way rare for music in general, and ultra-rare in soul music. There is silk and there is grit, oboes and breakbeats. Take a listen; it's good for you.
[Original Liner Notes]
J.S. Bach didn't compose classics . . . they became as time rolled by.
L. Rawls became just a few years back - "LIVE!" . . . and he keeps on coming with a sound that applies to yesterday, speaks for today and promises tomorrow.
H.B. Barnum doesn't arrange and conduct backings for all eternity . . . it just so happens that they are.
D. Axelrod doesn't produce classic albums . . . time bestows that adjective (and it doesn't take long).
"Ol' Man River" found a 20th Century spokesman in young soul-singer Rawls. And that's how time keeps pace with the river . . . that's how a man called Rawls came to be the sundial of time and the vocal reflection of every river's timeless stone secrets. That's what these moments of refracted sound are all about - from Bach (and after) to Rawls (and before).
When it rolls upriver, it's about the eternal second of time when a thousand hearts in a thousand shirts proclaim to a thousand shirts in a thousand blouses that "You're Good For Me" and whisper in their daydreams "Baby I Could Be So Good At Lovin' You" . . . when "I Want To Hear It From You" moves the transient senses to a longing state of doubt.
(singer Lou Rawls echoes the heart's pulse . . . arranger-conductor H.B. Barnum provides the sympathetic horns of joy, strings of anguish and winds of blue which come from a lovin' man . . . producer David Axelrod oversees that it comes out living)
When it rolls downriver, time's eternity remains but the heart is outdistanced by the soul. It's the is of "Life Time" which takes you to "the highest mountain then brings you back down to earth" . . . way high from the "I'm Satisfied" satisfaction of painless good-times to the rung-out "Down Here on the Found" crimes from the time-beaten soul. It's "Ol' Man River" rolling North to South . . . there's the along-the-way ups-and-downs that sooner or even faster just empty into the Gulf and wait for one more ride.
(singer Lou Rawls whispers, bellows and talks plainly from a south-side soul that sings first-hand . . . arranger-conductor H.B. Barnum provides the flourishing horns of momentary triumph and the somber taps of defeat, the winds of searching and the gospel voices of hope . . . producer David Axelrod oversees that it all fits together and comes off real)
J.S. Bach - He said it for yesterday's eternity.
L. Rawls - Just as Bach counterpointed messages of meaning and beauty into imposing Masses and Passions, so it is today that Lou Rawls (with Barnum and Axelrod) counterbalances the naked ups-and-downs of passionate hearts and aching souls . . . so it is that Lou Rawls segues his vocal reflections into a shatteringly eloquent soul-suite of "Life Time," "Life Time Monologue" and "Ol' Man River," along with other songs that say.
(and that's how it is . . . it's just a matter of time and the "river of being" that is eternity)