Johnnie Taylor

A bible thumper, a blues belter, an R&B shouter, a smooth lounge-lizard crooner, Johnnie Taylor played his many roles with gusto. He served up his sanctified soul from his mid-fifties gospel beginnings all the way through 1976’s “Disco Lady,” yet his long career was rife with contradictions. Idolizing singers Sam Cooke and R. H. Harris, Taylor succeeded them in the Soul Stirrers—and was subsequently thrown out for drug offenses. He claimed another similarly named singer’s hit, bluesman Little Johnny Taylor’s “Part Time Love,” when the other Taylor couldn’t get on the road. And despite a string of his own successes, he never became a household name. Taylor, who spent his last three decades as a Dallas resident, had the voice, the looks, and even the producers. His tendencies to cozy up to less than great material held him back, yet hearing his music sequentially on this three- CD retrospective, Taylor soars on both the ordinary and extraordinary. When he stepped up to the microphone, he gave it his all, and at his best, there was no one better.

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