Solomon Burke produced one of his best full-length album with Don't Give Up on Me
. It's easy to give some credit to the album's star songwriters, who include Burke fans Tom Waits
, Elvis Costello
, Van Morrison
, Brian Wilson
, and Bob Dylan
. But really it's the quality of the songs and Burke himself, one of the most versatile and charismatic singers around, that make this album so special.
The 11 songs range from the lazy, seductive plea of the title track and the gravelly gospel of "Diamond in Your Mind" to the country-soul of "Other Side of the Coin" and the civil-rights-era urgency of "None of Us Are Free." Joe Henry's production is suitably subdued, and the instrumentation--generally guitar, bass, drums, organ, and piano--is sympathetic throughout. And if you doubt that Burke is the real star in a room crowded with those folks, consider this: the two slightest tracks here were written by Wilson and Costello, while one of the best, the album-closing "Sit This One Out," was written by someone named Pick Purnell. A great album not fixed in the past or fully of this decade, Don't Give Up is a crowning achievement of an R&B pioneer who has returned to reclaim his self-bestowed title from the '60s: "The King of Rock and Soul." --Keith Moerer