Johnny Adams - South Side of Soul Street
For years I only knew Johnny Adams by his epic version of ‘Release Me’, one of the great ballad records to come out of New Orleans. Known as the ‘Tan Canary’, Adams took the country classic and added a deep soulfulness – and a generous helping of vocal filigree – and came within a hairs breadth of “over the topness’. If I had to compare it to another record I’d point to Joe Hinton’s recording of Willie Nelson’s ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’, in which Mr. Hinton scales the cliffs of Mt. Falsetto with an equal amount of daring. ‘Release Me’ is without doubt a great record, but I never heard anything else by Adams (though his reputation certainly preceded him), and assumed he was strictly a ballad specialist. So I’m surfing the web and happen upon a playlist by some funk collector and right in the middle of what looks like a hard hitting set is this record, ‘South Side of Soul Street’ by one Johnny Adams. I was intrigued, and on that basis started to track down a copy. When the tell-tale 7x7 cardboard missile shot out of my mailbox, and the platter was nestled securely on the old GP3, I was more than pleasantly surprised. ‘South Side of Soul Street’ is a funky groover (borrowing some structure from ‘Funky Broadway’) with a great arrangement – dig those doubled flutes – and an aggressive vocal by Mr. Adams. The lyrics are pretty run of the mill funk 45 boilerplate about a groovy crowd that gets together in a funky place where things are banging all night long, but Adams manages to breathe some life into things with a vocal that more than keeps up with the band. As for who may be playing on the record, deeper folk than I will have to bring the knowledge. Info on the label seems to indicate that the session was recorded in Florida and that the tune was written and arranged by someone named RJ Benninghoff , who as far as I can tell was also responsible for at least two LP’s of “Classical Rock” on the SSS Intl. label (I’ve seen pictures and frankly I’d be afraid to listen to them…). Either way, he’s also credited with the funky arrangement herein, so he can’t have been all bad.