419. Syl Johnson – “The Complete Syl Johnson On Hi Records”

On Valentines Night 2009 I tagged along to a gig by a man I’d embarrassingly never heard of.

All I knew was that he was some soul/funk demi-god. 72-year Syl Johnson was an astounding bundle of energy, playing tracks I’d never clicked were in his back catalogue and raising the bar for the physical state I’d like to be in late 2043. The gig was good enough to crack my top 5 for the year.

The next day I jumped online and purchased this double-disc set. It’s actually four entire albums from 1973-79 plus a raft of bonus tracks.  At 44 tunes in total, that’s great value.

This is a great mix of soul (a la Al Green), with occasionals forays into Brown-ish Funk.

Johnson’s voice has that ability to sound like he’s on the edge of tears, coupled with the roughness necessary to get down and dirty and growl out a command.

The musicianship is superb, especially the horns, and the arrangements are such that many standards become his own.

Now Syl didn’t look quite this good in 2010, but he sounded almost this fresh:

And while I’m bombarding you with vids, here’s the best cover ever of Syl’s cover (it was originally an Al Green track):

File under: Don’t be a dill, embrace Syl


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