R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

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Soulful Bluebird

21 APR 09 DAVID NATHAN

Johnnie Taylor acquired his nickname, the Soul Philosopher, as a result of the great monologues that were part of his live performances on songs such as "Jody's Got Your Girl And Gone" and "Steal Away," two of the live cuts on Little Bluebird, a collection that focuses mostly on Johnnie's early work at Stax with producers/songwriters Isaac Hayes and David Porter.

Hayes and Porter emphasized the more bluesy aspects of former gospel singer Taylor's soulful vocal style and the result may not have been as popular as his later Stax work (including the classic smash "Who's Making Love"), but was clearly much appreciated by traditional R&B fans of the day. Tunes like the haunting "I Had A Dream" and the brilliant "I Got To Love Somebody's Baby" are perfect examples of this and the latter is considered one of Johnnie's most emotive performances on disc. Cheating was the lyrical focus on much of this material ("Somebody's Sleeping In My Bed," "Outside Love") and Taylor delivered fine performances that rang with authenticity.

While his recorded performances were among the best that Hayes and Porter produced in the mid-'60s, Johnnie was in his element when he was in front of a live audience as is evident when checking out the live cuts on this excellent compilation such as "Stop Doggin' Me." A consistently popular artist throughout the South, Johnnie -- who began his recording career on Sam Cooke's SAR label after replacing Cooke as a member of The Soul Stirrers -- passed away in 2000, leaving behind a great legacy of recordings.

in this playlist.