Make Do with What You Got

by: Solomon Burke

One of the great pleasures of Solomon Burke's 2002 "comeback" album, Don't Give Up on Me (Burke never really went away, but this time around folks were paying attention), was the fact it was so unexpected -- instead of trying to replicate the sound and feeling of the records Burke made in the 1960s, producer Joe Henry conjured up a warm but skeletal backdrop which allowed the once and future King of Rock 'n' Soul to dig into the heart of the songs (contributed by the likes of Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, and Brian Wilson) in a manner unlike anything he'd done before. Conversely, the greatest disappointment of Burke's next "big-league" album, 2005's Make Do With What You Got, is that it sounds almost exactly the way you'd expect it to. The spare approach of Don't Give Up on Me has been abandoned in favor of a high-gloss production from Don Was, and Was has set up a bombastic soul session replete with horns, massed keyboards, and big vocal choruses, but while the accompaniment is strong, professional, and occasionally even enthusiastic (where has Ray Parker, Jr. been hiding his razor-sharp guitar skills for the past two decades?), Make Do With What You Got sounds like an overly anxious attempt to re-create the sound of vintage R&B sides that gets the surfaces right but never quite captures the heart and soul of the music. Of course, Was' overly slick production and the less impressive set list does nothing to hold back Solomon Burke -- his performances are typically superb, and he gives this album enough soul power to fuel a small city for a month, even bringing chestnuts like "It Makes No Difference" and "I've Got the Blues" to vivid and passionate life that's thrilling to hear. No one can sing a song quite Solomon Burke, and that's what makes Make Do With What You Got worth a listen; unfortunately, lots of people could have produced these sessions as well if not better than Don Was, and that's this album's Achilles' heel. ~ Mark Deming

Please enable Javascript to view this page competely.