Of the great soul singers of the 1960s, Solomon Burke was one of the few whose talent and power to compelled an audience never dimmed with the passage of time; if the larger audience overlooked his music through much of the '70s and '80s, and he wasn't always paired with songwriters or producers who knew what to do with his instrument, Burke himself remained The King of Rock & Soul, an artist whose music spoke powerfully with heart and soul whenever he raised his voice. Burke's mighty voice was finally silenced by his passing in October 2010, but it should come as no great surprise that the last album he finished before his death confirmed he was in full command of his talents right up to the end. What is somewhat surprising are his collaborators on his final project.
When veteran soul behemoth Burke died suddenly last October in an Amsterdam airport, he was there to gig with De Dijk, his Dutch collaborators on the follow-up to last year’s Grammy-nominated triumph Nothing’s Impossible. Hold On Tight‘s horn-spiked blues-rock is outfitted with more raucous textures than its balladic predecessor, yet De Dijk manage to smooth out Burke’s craggy, weathered croak. King Solomon, R.I.P.
After a 55-year career that helped lay the foundations of soul music, it’s an odd quirk that Solomon Burke’s last album comes not backed by a group of old hands or genre regulars, but by an obscure Dutch rock band. Yet following his death last year at the age of 70, Hold on Tight seems like a reasonable terminus for the singer’s oeuvre, representing both his worldwide appeal and an expansion of the positives and negatives that always defined his work. As tired as Burke sounds here, his once-powerful voice weakened by weight gain and health problems, his positive qualities of palpable geniality and warmth remain.