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A great voice coupled to great music

Portrait of the Blues
Portrait of the Blues
By Lou Rawls

Manhattan Records: 1993

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This review first appeared in the April 9, 1993 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

Lou Rawls has just about the smoothest voice on the face of the planet. But for much of his career, that beautiful voice has been matched with glorified Muzak, leaving listeners to wonder "What if ..."

"Portrait of the Blues," Rawls' third blues-oriented album for Manhattan Records (a Capitol imprint), is a sophisticated blues outing, and one of Rawls' most rewarding records to date. He's joined on various cuts by artists of the stature of Joe Williams, Lionel Hampton, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy and Hank Crawford. His backing band includes standout musicians Richard Tee and Steve Khan. And the arrangements are rich without being overly lush, maintaining enough of an edge to give these blues classics a grittiness. And those songs include such can't-miss classics as "I Just Want to Make Love to You," "Save Your Love for Me," "Baby What You Want Me to Do" and Louis Jordan's "Saturday Night Fish Fry," which sounds here as if it were commissioned specifically for Rawls.

With this third installment in his late-career exploration of the blues, we now know what it would sound like if Lou Rawls would just record some music worthy of his pipes.