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Willie Hightower is a largely forgotten southern soul singer who had a too few hits and who is too obscure for the magnitude of his talent. This collection of his work by Honest Jons Records should renew interest in this singer who is still performing today.
This is the third in a series: Check out Candi Staton and Bettye Swann in Soul/CD for more great soul music.
Mr. Hightower has an expressive voice that growls, moans, shouts, croons, and overpowers all arrangements. His voice is like that root beer that says ‘stands up to ice cubes? on the can. The most obvious influence is Sam Cooke. A quote in the liner notes describes his voice as ‘Sam Cooke after a night on the tiles.’ To my ears he sounds somewhere between Otis Redding and Sam and Dave.
The tracks with Fame of Muscle Shoals (1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 10) are particularly tasty. Time Has Brought About A Change is an answer song to Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Going To Come. With lyrics like ‘But now I’ve got my pride deep down inside/And no one will ever take it again,? it’s obviously about the civil rights movement. This song, along with Poor Man and If I Had A Hammer, gives a sense of his ability to personalize and express what was going on around him at the time.
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