Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Solomon Burke: The Very Best of Solomon Burke [Rhino, 1998]
From Jerry Wexler to Peter Guralnick and beyond, the authorities who consider this minor hitmaker (five top 40s, none after 1965) the greatest soul singer or something like it delight in his eye for the main chance. Hawking food on tour buses, skipping the playback of his label debut so he can get back to his snow-shoveling concession, he proves soul is as much show business as sincerity or gospel truth. But maybe it's not so great that he can turn his talent "on and off so easily, seemingly at will." Maybe the readiness with which the man would sing country or preach pop bespeaks a detachment from music as a calling. These mostly New York-recorded songs, all crafted with Atlantic's staunch commitment to bottom and hook, rarely create the illusion of necessity. Smooth and commanding, hustling his blarney with humor and grit, he risks remaining just out of reach of your two willing ears. A-