Lou Rawls has had a long and commercially successful career mostly singing soul, R&B, and pop music. Originally a gospel singer, Rawls' first album as a leader features him performing soulful standards backed by the Les McCann Trio. Few of the songs have been under-recorded through the years, but they sound fresh and lively when sung by Rawls; highlights include "Stormy Monday," "In the Evening," and "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water." Pianist McCann gets a generous amount of solo space, and the reissue has three bonus tracks. This is still Rawls' definitive recording in the jazz idiom, cut before he went on to more lucrative areas.
Les McCann Ltd. in San Francisco: Recorded Live at the Jazz Workshop was recorded in December of 1960 and released in 1961 on the Pacific Jazz label. Backing his piano were bassist Herbie Flowers and drummer Ron Jefferson. The original LP of this date featured seven selections – only about half of the entire gig. This Fresh Sound reissue contains four more tracks, bringing the total to 11.
A killer live set by Les McCann – and one that actually him playing with some horns! The record was cut early in McCann's career, with his Ltd trio that had Herbie Lewis on bass and Ron Jefferson on drums – plus some great guest work by Blue Mitchell on trumpet, Stanley Turrentine on tenor, and Frank Haines on tenor. We can't stress how much these players add a groove to Les' group – as we always enjoy his piano playing, but find most of his trio sets a bit sleepy. Instead, this one grooves like a rare Blue Note – and the tracks are long with plenty of great solo interplay.
One of Philadelphia International's most successful artists through the the '70s. His 1977 LP Unmistakably Lou won him a third Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and contained the R&B Top Ten hit "See You When I Git There"; later that year, he continued his artistic and commercial hot streak with When You Hear Lou, You've Heard It All and "Lady Love." The title track of 1979's Let Me Be Good to You was his last big hit with Philly International, reaching number 11 R&B. The following year, Rawls kicked off what would become a consuming passion for years to come: the Lou Rawls Parade of Stars Telethon, an annual event which eventually raised millions of dollars for the United Negro College Fund.
Lou Rawls had such a long career, his music appealed differently to changing generations. In the 1950s he recorded doo-wop, in the 60s it was jazz, blues and big band swing, then come the 70s it was silky soul as epitomised by Gamble & Huff's. You'll Never Find (Another Love Like Mine) for Philadelphia International Records. Now Is The Time and Close Company, neither previously available on CD, find Lou at the tail end of his soul years ahead of his return to jazzier roots and a record deal with Blue Note.
For many, Les McCann Sings, revealed the pianist as a vocalist with something to say – which does less than justice to McCann’s work here, both vocally and pianistically. Singing with great individuality and warmth, his style combines the direct, emotional, and very communicative with an amazingly florid approach in all kind of moods, but mostly on ballads, as is the case on the lovely It’s Way Past Suppertime.
Still trying to recover from the effects of a devastating 1995 stroke, Les McCann relaxed and put out a playful jazz/funk album with a cast of dozens that in some ways harkens back to some of his Atlantic sides from the 1970s. Unlike his other post-stroke albums, he doesn't play any keyboards here, leaving them in the hands of Ricky Peterson, with an emphasis on the Hammond B3. Rather, McCann is content just to sing and rap – again, a throwback and fallback to records made a quarter-century before. At 66, McCann sounds considerably different – older and a little shakier on the ballads, but still sly and willing. The grooves are OK in a minimally updated '70s funk manner, but the material, coming from a variety of sources, is rather ordinary as a whole.