Al "Coffee" McDaniel,
Sole Music
(CPA, 2010)

There will never be any doubt that Al "Coffee" McDaniel has an overwhelming level and range of talent. This much is solidified by his most recent album, Sole Music. The one thing that is drawn to question is his understanding of how an album should run from start to finish. While each song brings its own unique flavor to the album, the pacing is all over the place. The CD is almost entirely constructed of covers of world-renowned artists, including Ray Charles, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Burt Bacharach, Otis Redding, Barry White and Billy Paul. As intriguing as this list is, the order of the covers make little to no sense.

While the album opens on tremendous versions of "I've Got a Woman" and "Papa Got a Brand New Bag," the next three tracks are painfully slow. Though they are in fact terrific songs in themselves and work great as three consecutive tracks, they are a complete change of pace from James Brown. Just the idea of going from James Brown to Barry White in under 10 minutes is preposterous; almost on par with going from the Dead Kennedys to Pete Seeger. Not to mention the Brown song is the fastest song on the album and is followed by McDaniel's sole original piece, the slowest song on offer.

These odd arrangement choices aside, Sole Music offers one of the best compilation of covers in memory. Very few artists can get away with covering either James Brown or Barry White, much less covering both on the same album. Throw in Michael Jackson and Burt Bacharach, and McDaniel has quite the resume building.

With a voice to make the ladies crumble and guitar skills to earn the respect of the men, "Coffee" demonstrates he has an enormous repertoire to work with. McDaniel does his best to pick some of the hardest artists in history to cover, and does a knockout job of almost all of them. "Keep on Doing It" is one of the few let-downs on the album, though the job he does on Redding's "Mr. Pitiful" is enough to redeem himself a thousand times over.

Definitely one of the most interesting albums I have heard in a long time, Sole Music has the material to be an all-time classic.

music review by
Bryan Frantz

2 April 2011

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