When critics began raving about Burke’s comeback album, more than a few fools in the crowd asked "Solomon who?" But without Burke there would be no soul music–he was a preacher and Gospel singer before he crossed over to the secular stage, and his early sides for Atlantic Records were as influential as those of Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin in establishing the genre. He was a major influence on Mick Jagger’s vocal style, and The Stones performed and recorded many of his hits including "Cry to Me" and "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love," which is nothing short of a sexualized Baptist church service. He was also one of the first soul singers to cut country tunes, years before the Ray Charles hit "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music." Some may think soul music obsolete, but it’s remained vital in the south for decades, and as Burke’s return proves, soul music will never sound dated as long as hearts love and break. When producer Joe Henry told people he was working with Burke, songwriters lined up to give the man good material, resulting in this stunning collection. Burke’s vocal power is undiminished, and he still performs with a trademark restraint that takes every emotion to a deeper physical and higher spiritual level. His years in the church give Tom Waits’ "Diamond in Your Mind," Brian Wilson’s "Soul Searchin’," Van Morrison’s "Only A Dream" and Bob Dylan’s "Stepchild" a consecrated power that’s been missing in popular music for a long time.
See the rest of our 20 Signs of Life in 2002.