Vernon Garrett
Half Past the Blues
Ichiban D2-24908-2
Vernon Garrett is a soul shouter in the O.V. Wright mold who complements his exuberant vocalizing with energetic grooves, producing an enjoyable album of upswing rhythm and blues. The Muscle Shoals Horns and League of Decency Horns (Ichiban's house band of late) provide the punch and drive for this Memphis-flavored pastiche.

Among the 10 tracks, standouts include "You Bought Your Ticket (Take a Ride)," whose vocal harmonies and slide-propelled tempo bring to mind the Southern-flavored rock of '70s era Clapton/Delaney & Bonnie collaborations. Lots of bass-plunking funk, an obligatory ode to innuendo, "Dill Pickle and a Peppermint Stick" (no need to overtax your imagination) and seamless horn arrangements round out the set. He is perhaps most effective when the tempo slows down for a rare ballad such as "Something is Worrying My Baby," which he shapes into a more personalized and distinctive expression.

While Vernon Garrett clearly has vocal talent to spare, this album left me largely unmoved and uninterested. The source of this disappointment can be traced to the often trite and at best undistinguished songwriting, a flaw that plagues much of the current "soul" output. Where are today's "Tenderness," or "Love and Happiness," or "A Change Is Gonna Come" or "When a Man Loves a Woman"? This problem is compounded by the sameness of arrangements, production, musicians, etc. that tends to now define a label's sound. While the same could be said of the great studios of the past like Stax and Hi, the artistry and in particular the songwriting they were blessed with left us some timeless music. Twenty years from now, I doubt the same will be said of the present material.

-- Jack Oudiz

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Boulder, CO, USA.