Jose Feliciano: That The Spirit Needs/ Memphis Menu/ Compartments

12th April 2015

Title: That The Spirit Needs/ Memphis Menu/ Compartments
Label: BGO

A victim of congenital glaucoma leaving him permanently blind at birth, Puerto Rican, Feliciano, overcame his disability with some gusto to become one of the most important Latin-born artists in pop. A fixture in Greenwich Village lead to a contract with RCA in 1962 and an appearance at New York’s Gerde’s Folk City, then the Newport Jazz Festival. He started his recording career with a 1964 ‘fun’ single Everybody Do the Click but then issued his flamenco-flavored debut LP The Voice and Guitar of Jose Feliciano.

He rejected his then current style to return to his Spanish roots which lead to a super reading of the Doors’ Light My Fire and then a cover of Tommy Tucker’s Hi-Heel Sneakers.

By the time the three albums, featured here, where issued, Feliciano had lost that hit-making capacity to settle into a respected performer. That The Spirit Needs (1971) is notable for the high percentage of self-penned songs except for two Elton John songs and a single James Taylor cover from which he gained inspiration for his own works. This album also saw a protest edge to his work, witness Come Down Jesus.

Memphis Menu (1972) was one his best albums of the 70s, blending American rock and country but with a soulful delivery. Feliciano’s delivery of his own song, Where is my Woman, is both heart-wrenching and intense. Co-produced by Booker T. & The MG’s man, Steve Cropper, the original issue didn’t sell well but that was mainly due to poor RCA promotion.

Compartments (1973) saw the return of Cropper to the production chair but also the co-operation of artists such as Bill Withers, Leon Russell, Ken Loggins and Jim Messina. The style is a progression from Memphis Menu, broadening the style and adding funky vibes from the Toussaint-penned Yes We Can Can but also a free spirited rocking, self-penned I’m Leavin’.

A great value for money package over two CDs, this trio of lesser known LPs is well worth investigating for any fan or, indeed, anyone interested in soft rock/folk rock of the period.