PERCY SLEDGE: When a Man…Sings Like Percy

26th October 2017

Title: The Percy Sledge Way

Label: Bear Family

A pioneer of country soul but known more for his deep soul vocal delivery, Sledge will be forever known for his big soul hit, When a Man Loves a Woman, the source of more karaoke gurning than any other song known to man.

This LP was originally released in 1967, around a year after that hit broke on the music world. It featured 11 songs, covered and made famous by other R&B artists. Sometimes, when collections of cover songs are released in this way by a known talent there’s a revelation, as the singer transforms and then owns these songs, surpassing the original singers in sheer artistry. To be absolutely frank, I don’t think Sledge does that here, with any of the featured songs but, actually, that’s not a negative critique. I don’t deride Sledge in any way when I say that. He may not offer the definitive version of the included songs here but what he does do is ‘Sledgify’ them all. That is, he pushes them all through a Percy Sledge filter that produces a significant and attractive version for each. By that, I mean Sledge reimagines these songs. He offers an alternative viewpoint. So, when Sam Cooke sang You Send Me in his measured, easy going manner, Sledge doesn’t improve upon the song but he does deliver a more impassioned performance, infusing it with tearing emotion. It’s not better. It’s different. Sledge obviously thought hard about each song and wondered if they could seen in a new light. That’s his talent. Sledge the thinking man’s singer.

Meanwhile, Sledge’s backing band is filled with pure class. Spooner Oldham and Jerry Weaver on piano and organ. Eddie Hinton, Jimmy Johnson and Marlin Green on guitars, David Hood on bass and Roger Hawkins on drums. Lordy.