Larry Carlton Plays The Sound of Philadelphia: A Tribute to Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff
Album Review: Larry Carlton
Plays the Sounds of Philadelphia: A Tribute to Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff
By Brian Soergel
Legendary guitarist Larry Carlton can play whatever he wants now, and boy is he taking advantage of it. Since breaking free of record labels and creating his own, Carlton has released one CD that was a reworking of the best of his solo work. It was modern and fresh. He also offered a CD with Japanese guitarist Tak Matsumoto, which was good enough to win a Grammy recently.
Carlton’s latest is a tribute project to the great songwriting team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff that should score with both contemporary jazz and R&B fans. The CD is a pleasant surprise considering Carlton has performed in hundreds of session dates with pop stars like the Partridge Family, rock bands like Steely Dan, and folk-rock staples like Joni Mitchell. Philadelphia sessions didn’t come into the mix, but you’d never know from this amazing CD, which was produced by Billy Terrell.
Gamble and Huff generated more than 100 gold and platinum records and more than 70 No. 1 hits back in the day. Some of the biggest are here. “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love,” “You Make Me Feel Brand New” and “I’ll Be Around” are smooth affairs—Carlton was a member of the contemporary jazz superband Fourplay after all—but charges back with some blues lick and a harder edge with “Backstabbers.” Even better is “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” which retains the feel of the song but subs in Carlton’s raw, rock-styled guitar sound. Super fresh.
Veteran vocalist Bill LaBounty velvety vocal chops highlight bluesy “Drownin’ in the Sea of Love” and “Only the Strong Survive,” and background vocals are provided on several tracks by the sterling duo of Carla Benson and Charlene Hathaway.
There’s a top-notch supporting cast, lead by Paul Shaffer on organ, Tony DeSare on piano, Tommy Byrnes on guitar, Christopher Li’Nard Jackson on bass, Andrea Valentine on drums and Max Douthit on sax.
Wait, there’s more. This is a two-CD collection. The second disc, a DVD, looks at the making of the CD. It features some history on the original Sounds of Philadelphia, interviews with Huff and Gamble, as well as Carlton explaining some of the tracks.
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