Soul Ballads Review – Airline 2015

Former BS&T warbler reconnects with his roots to bring righteous roughness to spiritual perennials.

Soul_BalladsIn our days of shallow R&B, it takes an old-school rhythm-and-blues belter to fathom the depths of a silky melody with a vigorous message, and David Clayton-Thomas with his Jericho pipes is a perfect man to dig in and deliver. Arranged and produced by another ex-BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS alumnus, keyboardist Lou Pomanti, who also plays here, these are the songs that the singer performed back in the day and that made David the artist he is, and now Clayton-Thomas’ personality shines through the classics.

Mellifluous and imposing on “When A Man Loves A Woman” yet not lachrymose, the veteran finds a fresh layer of sensuality in “I’ve Been Lovin’ You Too Long” and, with an audible smile, inhabits the countrified “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay,” his respect to the originals never getting in the way of a genuine feeling. David might be prone to a croon on the strings-drenched “Ruby” or “Midnight Train To Georgia,” but his graceful almost-roar gives an edge to romantic pieces such as the jazzed-up “Sunny” and those infused with social awareness, like “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Bringing the weight of age and experience to these hopeful pleas and filling “People Get Ready” with a rare sincerity, the singer, elevated by a gospel choir, taps into timelessness, while embracing the intimacy and emotional uplift of “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby” and turning “You Really Got A Hold On Me” into glorious blues.

So yes, the album’s title seems generic until a realization comes that the singer returned the real meaning of “soul” to it. Which is a great achievement.

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