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Solomon Burke

Don't Give Up on Me (Anti/Epitaph)

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About two-thirds through "Fast Train," one of two superb Van Morrison songs on this extraordinary disc, Solomon Burke sings so powerfully, he just about lifts you off your feet. Burke's vivid baritone, never less than inspiring, infuses Morrison's urgent, cautionary tale with that full measure of luminosity available only to the greatest soul singers. At 62, Burke may be singing even better than he did in the '60s: This spare, elegantly textured and imaginatively sequenced album burns with vitality. Burke's protean, deeply persuasive voice is magnificently showcased on songs by the best contemporary writers, including Bob Dylan (the crafty shuffle "Stepchild"), Nick Lowe (the barroom ballad "The Other Side of the Coin"), Elvis Costello (the eccentric, courtly "Judgement"), and Dan Penn (the heartrending title track). The key tune is Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil/Brenda Russell's "None of Us Are Free," an anthem Burke sings with the Blind Boys of Alabama, rocking and rolling our hearts with its beautifully articulated message of liberation. This album breathes; it's profoundly moving, authentic, and contemporary. Don't Give Up on Me isn't a plea, but a command. It's your loss if you don't listen.

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