16 November 2005

james carr - "i'll put it to you" (from the my soul is satisfied : the rest of james carr lp, available for purchase here.)

in brief : b-side to 1971 atlantic single, the only one he recorded for the label. yet another instance of "what could have been" where the mercurial and supremely gifted james carr is concerned.

ten years ago, i'd have wondered, when it came to "the dark end of the street," how many different artists would be adduced before james carr's name would be mentioned. (he had the first hit version of the song, going top 10 r&b in february 1967.) now, it seems as if even lesser-known songs like "pouring water on a drowning man" have become standards. so well has his re-establishment in the canon been going that, last year, kent released an odds & sods collection, the rest of james carr.

that set features his sole single for atlantic records in 1971, of which "i'll put it to you" was the b-side. if someone knows why he only recorded one single for atlantic, i'd love to know; clearly, it's not down to the quality of the material or of his voice. like the joe tex and mable john tracks posted earlier this week, the producers of atlantic throw a wall of horns behind carr. i don't know what it is exactly--perhaps it's that the timbre of brass matches the soul singer's voice so well, but God damn, it sounds so good. i mean, i have no idea what it means to "put it" to someone--listen and you'll know it's not sexual--but it sure sounds like the ideal way to do right by someone.

what impresses most is, quite simply, the pristine nature of the recording; the band is ace and the production is top-notch. it's regrettable that carr never met w/ such sympathetic conditions again, although w/ the recent reclamation jobs on solomon burke, howard tate, and bettye lavette, it may not yet be too late. but, for those who are familiar w/ carr's sad story, the talent has never been the thing in question.

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