CD debut for lost '60s soul giant

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Lou Johnson – Sweet Southern Soul

Lou Johnson’s life is a mystery; he retired from a failed music career in 1971, and has since disappeared utterly. But the originator of Bacharach and David standards like “Walk On By” was a fine if thwarted soul man. This first of only two LPs was recorded in 1968 at FAME for Atlantic, and so boasts songwriting and arrangements equal to Sinatra in his prime (Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin man the decks), but Johnson’s voice is still the star. Cutting loose majestically but sparingly with raw rasps and hollers, he’s just as effective on Don Covay’s controlled, conversational lament for love’s casualties, “I Can’t Change”. A 30-minute masterpiece.