Monday, June 23, 2008
Fabulous, simply fabulous soul jazz instrumentals, with an equally fantastic line-up of Chess staff musicians. Bassist Richard Evans produced for Marlena Shaw, Ramsey Lewis, Brother Jack Mc Duff, Odell Brown and many other Chess/Cadet artists. From 1966 to 1971 the Soulful Strings made six or seven LPs. The Soulful Strings were in fact the Chess house band; Lennie Druss (flute, woodwinds) Charles Stepney (organ/vibes), Phil Upchurch (guitar), Cleveland Eaton (bass) Bobby Christian/Billy Wooten (vibes).
The centerpiece of the record is the first song--"Burning Spear"-- which is by far Richard Evans best known composition. Since he recorded it with the Soulful Strings it was covered by Jimmy Smith, Joe Pass, S.O.U.L., Salsoul Orchestra, and then again by Evans during the disco era when it was a hit all over again. Opening with the sounds of the kalimba (a frequent ingredient in Evans productions of the era), the tune is soon stated by Lennie Druss’ flute, followed immediately by a pounding drum beat, which never lets up. ‘Burning Spear’ really is a Druss feature (proving once again that aside from Evans himself, Druss really was one of the biggest parts of the sound of the Soulful Strings) and the sections of the song where the vibes are playing in unison with the flute are excellent. The cut also features a great guitar solo by Phil Upchurch.