Arthur Conley: Soul Directions

Conley’s tragedy turned into great soul music

Southern soul singer Arthur Conley is known to most for his perfect celebration, “Sweet Soul Music.” Based on a “Yeah Man” by his vocal inspiration, Sam Cooke, and co-written with his mentor, Otis Redding, the song topped out in 1967 at #2 on both the Hot 100 and R&B charts and became the lasting emblem of the ‘60s soul movement. But like so many true artists that have one defining single, Conley recorded terrific material both before and after the lightning strike. This 1968 album was a bittersweet affair that collected singles and album sides recorded just months after the airplane crash that killed Redding and the Mar-Keys.

Unlike Conley’s earlier hits, which had been waxed at Muscle Shoals, the album was mostly recorded at the same American Studios in Memphis where Elvis would cap his late-60s comeback. Conley wrote half the songs, including the somber memorial “Otis Sleep On,” and collected a pair from Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn. Memphis horns resound in “Funky Street,” “Hear Say” and “People Sure Act Funny,” and Conley draws from both Redding and Cooke in the pleading “This Love of Mine.” Conley saves his most scorching vocal for the Redding written and produced “Love Comes and Goes.” This is a terrific, deeply felt album that should be in the collection of all soul music fans. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

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