King Curtis, Instant Soul: The Legendary King Curtis, Razor & Tie #RE2054. 23 Tracks. Compilation Released 1994. Available from Razor & Tie 1-800-443-3555 and in better stores everywhere.
Overall Rating: **** 1/2 out of ***** (The best pieces from one of the best players).

Wow! I had only heard a few tracks from King Curtis, the Fort Worth tenor saxophonist when I decided to take the plunge on this CD. As a session man, his "yakety sax" is famous in R&B and early Rock 'n' Roll tracks. As a session man though, always popping up in the recordings of others, I'd passed up getting his recordings.

This compilation album, released in 1994, shows that King Curtis is more than a yakety sax man. His versatility ranges from a big band style, soul, and rock 'n' roll to stuff verging on funk.

His best stuff is, interestingly, the mellow pieces of soul on this album, "This is Soul" and "Soul Serenade."

"Let it Be" is a soulful gospel-tinged track that almost suggests that it was the way the song was meant to be. The style perhaps anticipates Kenny G, but this work makes Kenny G's seem even more insipid. If anything, King Curtis' "Let it Be" is too short.

That is perhaps the problem with several tracks on this album. Just when King Curtis and his side men (including Duane Allman and many more) seem to get cookin' someone pulls the plug on their session and fades the track down. Some tracks seem like they could go on forever, and just fade out instead ("Soul Serenade," is an example).

Still, wow! Variety is the name of the game on this album. King Curtis shows he can play it all. He's no sax virtuoso, but he has the knack, and shows it on these tracks. The hits are here, including "Spanish Harlem," "Ode to Billy Joe," "Memphis Soul Stew," and "I Was Made to Love Her." But the other tracks are not simply filler. This is good stuff all around. Excellent liner notes by Collin Escott round out a nice package. If you are looking for a good representative album for one of America's best-known and best-loved sax session men, my guess is that this is it.


Overall rating: **** 1/2
0 *'s Peeyew!
* Makes a good coaster.
** Fair attempt at something resembling music.
*** Certainly to be played more than once.
**** Will get put on a regular rotation for my CD player.
***** The world would halt if this disk didn't exist.

Review and HTML document Copyright © 1996 Leslie Carl Seiler. All Rights Reserved.

Last modified 16 October 1996. HTML edited 14 September 2003.

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