Daddy B. Nice's #71 ranked Southern Soul Artist
August 11, 2013:
--Daddy B. Nice
About Chuck Roberson
Chuck Roberson was born in the late 1940's in Augusta, Georgia and moved with his family to Florida, where he spent his formative years. He began his professional career in the 70's, issuing a series of singles on small regional labels in the South.
Song's Transcendent Moment
"It's been so long
CHUCK ROBERSON: For Real This Time (CDS) Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy.Chuck Roberson's For Real This Time is an excellent outing that will please his core audience. CDS Records continues and even improves on its all "live-instrument" style, with its spare, respectful homage to sixties and early-seventies, vintage-soul arrangements. Special mention has to go to guitarist Mike Gallaher, who practically steals the album, and--to a lesser extent--the restrained horn section of Quinton Ware and Mike McDaniel.
Chuck is in good vocal form--engaging, friendly and well-balanced. But you do finish the CD knowing he still hasn't recorded a song that would convert anyone to Southern Soul. He still hasn't had a bona fide "Southern Soul hit."
Most artists of Chuck's stature and longevity have a signature tune that thrust them into the public eye: Theodis Ealey's "Stand Up In It," Carl Marshall's "Good Loving Will Make You Cry," Mel Waiters' "Hole In The Wall."
And yet, even allowing for the slippery nature of that term "Southern Soul hit," it's safe to say Chuck Roberson has never had one. He's acquired his reputation through a journeyman's consistency, a little "smoke and mirrors," and a professional tenacity that illustrates the old Benjamin Disraeli axiom: "The secret of success is constancy of purpose."
The best and most hummable cuts on For Real This Time are "I Want You To Rock Me," "At The Hideaway" (with a great guitar lick) and "A Change Is Gonna Come." "The Lollipop Man Can" and "Show Me What You're Working With" deserve special mention.
CDS's Dylann DeAnna has taken upon himself a kind of personal crusade to reprise and rejuvenate the careers of Southern Soul's second-rank performers--witness the recent Barbara Carr album, Savvy Woman--and For Real This Time follows the same formula, matching pristine background around a tried and true vocalist.
All but one of the songs are done in the usual mid-tempo, Roberson style: nice-guy, easy-going, don't-ruffle-any-feathers. However, Chuck's version of "A Change Is Gonna Come" is an eye-opener. It's obviously performed as a "tribute" song, but in imitating the more operatic Cooke style Roberson achieves a range and an intensity seldom if ever before hinted at.
It raises the question of why Roberson has never ventured beyond the emotionally-even, middle-of-the-road vocal stylings that have been his bread and butter over the years. A recent press release from his label provides some insight, advertising the CD as "Chuck Roberson and that Old School sound. . . Chuck has made an album for all those who still love the old-school Tyrone Davis sound."
The thing is, if you're imitating or emulating Tyrone Davis (as opposed to, say, Sam Cooke), you're walking a very fine line--let's call it a Bing Crosby kind of casualness--which even Tyrone the Master frequently slipped from during his prolific recording career. That was why quality material was so crucial to Davis, who ransacked every Southern Soul hit within sight and covered it.
But for Chuck Roberson, who is not the singer Tyrone Davis was, to walk that tightrope-fine line verges on mediocrity more often than not. Good clean fun, mind you, but light fun.
The mostly-admirable "At The Hideaway" is an example. The guitar on the well-put-together composition is better than the vocal. Chuck's vocal is just middling, nothing to write home about. And Chuck seems to be content with that--and pretty much always has.
That's why Chuck's rendition of Sam Cooke (which sounds live) is such a revelation. On "A Change Is Gonna Come" Chuck sings better than he does on any of "his" songs. Is it because he's trying to imitate Sam Cooke? His voice is sweeter and more emotional. Why does he put so much more feeling--and so many more vocal nuances--into this song as opposed to his own?
It makes you wonder if Chuck wasn't born to imitate--and do it really well. And it's as if now that Johnnie Taylor (not to mention Tyrone Davis) is dead, Chuck no longer has a really great artist to imitate--that is, to make him excel.
In the meantime, Roberson's music yearns to join that upper echelon of the music, and that monumental single--that "holy grail" of a Southern Soul hit song--still beckons. Chuck is getting up in years--I'd guess somewhere in the early-sixties about now--but don't count him out. Stranger things have happened.
--Daddy B. Nice
Bargain-Priced For Real This Time CD, MP3's
March 1, 2011: NEW ALBUM ALERT
Bargain-Priced Deep South Southern Soul CD, MP3's
Comparison-Priced Deep South Southern Soul CD
Recommended Singles: "Jamming With The Blues," "Deep South Southern Soul"
See Daddy B. Nice's Top Ten "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles for February 2011
August 11, 2013: Re-Posted from Daddy B. Nice's New CD Reviews:
November 4, 2012: CHUCK ROBERSON: The Devil Made Me Do It (Desert Sounds) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort. Should please old fans and gain new.I suspected this CD would be a winner when I first heard Chuck's new "Chuck Strut" single last summer. The nifty, muted (think MJ's "Billy Jean"), disco rhythm track insinuated itself into Daddy B. Nice's Top Ten "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles in August at:
2. "Chuck Strut"----------Chuck Roberson
This is a new and much better-tempo-ed and more melodic version of the "Chuck Strut" that graced Roberson's 2003 Woman Wants A Freak CD. In fact, Chuck hits this one out of the Southern Soul ball park. Congratulations to Desert Sounds producers/writers Pete Peterson and Eric "Smidi" Smith for helping make it happen.
"Chuck Strut" has a cruising vibe and I can imagine people driving and--yes--even waiting in traffic a little more patiently while listening to this light-hearted Chuck Roberson fare. Chuck is in fine form. He's not out to impress you. He's out to soothe you, to give you a lift, and that he does as well as--and perhaps better than--he's ever done before.
In the microbrewery of contemporary Southern Soul singers, Roberson has always been "lite" and imitative. But on his new album, The Devil Made Me Do It (Desert Sounds, 2012), the downsides of derivation--for example, his uncanny conjuring of Roy C on the album's last cut, "After Our Love Affair"--are outweighed by the joy, wit and skill Roberson takes in surveying the current scene and creating his own portrait.
After "Chuck Strut" the song that practically jumps out of the stereo console is "They Got A Room," an inspired rendition of the single Millie Jackson and Jesse James made popular last year as "Let's Get A Room Somewhere."
Millie Jackson and Jesse James were willing participants in the motel fun in "Let's Get A Room Somewhere." On the other hand, Chuck Roberson's lyrics in "They Got A Room"--from a third person perspective--give the story its own special twists, for instance:
"I went by her mama's place
And she wasn't there,
I said, 'Please don't tell me
She's in a room somewhere.'"
Chuck's version is at least as good, maybe better, with lazy, saucy horns and a rhythm section to grovel for. I drifted off for a few seconds and drifted back and thought I was listening to reggae's premier reggae section, Sly & Robbie.
Eric "Smidi" Smith on programming gets the credit, but it's all tied together by the elaborate and playful fretwork of Stevie J. on guitar.
Stevie J., who plays guitar throughout, contributes country-style inflections to his bluesy runs on Roberson's "Hometown Blues." Halfway through the song, we're treated to a full-blown steel guitar verse that all but turns the song inside-out.
"I'll Take Care Of You" will remind hardcore fans of Bobby Jones' "You Ain't Got No Proof" and/or Ghetto Cowboy's "Staying In Love With You," two other songs with kangaroo-bouncing, background tracks by--coincidentally--Desert Sounds producers Pete Peterson and Eric "Smidi" Smith.
Roberson returns to cover-song mode with less success in "Woman Enough," a redo of the already-classic Karen Wolfe single, "(If You're) Man Enough (To Leave, I'm Woman Enough To Let You Go)." The song doesn't grate--in fact, it's pleasant to hear the melody in Chuck's light and unfettered delivery.
But unlike the Millie Jackson/Jesse James original, which had a desultory air and tempo that Roberson could easily improve upon, Roberson's remake of "Man Enough" suffers when compared to the soulful emotional depth of the Karen Wolfe original.
This tendency to retool published music in a streamlined, sometimes-vanilla style has been Chuck's Achilles heel historically, but with The Devil Made Me Do It he buries those questions under an avalanche of otherwise fine tracks, including "It Should Have Been Me" (featuring the album's well-cast background singers, Levy Marie and Misty Lundey), "Spare Me The Heartache" (a seriously-sung ballad) and the distinctive, mid-tempo" It's Not Over."
But it's "Chuck Strut" that will define this CD for years to come. It's got the Georgio Moroder through Donna Sumner thing going, and Chuck's vocal is (never thought I'd say this) nothing short of amazing. Chuck deserves all the credit in the world. He still believes, and this album is good listening from beginning to end.
Sample or Buy Chuck Roberson's The Devil Made Me Do It CD, MP3's.
If You Liked. . . You'll Love
If you can imagine Chic's "Le Freak" de-disco-fied and transformed into a Southern Soul hit, you'd be pretty close to Chuck Roberson's "Love Freak."
Honorary "B" Side
"I Want You To Rock Me"
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