Picks and Pans Review: After Dark

updated 09/08/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/08/1986 01:00AM

Johnny Adams

If you want an idea of what Johnny Adams' velvety tenor voice sounds like, recall the late Sam Cooke's performance on his 1957 hit, You Send Me. A pop-soul singer with an open-toned, natural style that invites comparison to Cooke and Nat Cole, Adams, 54, has played in clubs around New Orleans for the past 25 years. Among his favorites is Snug Harbor, where he still regularly rocks the house down with pianist Ellis Marsalis, father of trumpeter Wynton and saxophonist Branford Marsalis. This LP, Adams' second national release, could bring the former gospel singer the wider audience he deserves. His voice ranges from low-pitched moans and growls to piercing falsetto scat licks, which he uses to great effect on the brooding blues I Don't Know You by Mac "Dr. John" Rebennack and Doc Pomus. Adams' most explicitly gospel-derived tune in this set is the Dan Penn-Chips Moman cut, Do Right Woman—Do Right Man, a 1967 hit for Aretha. If it weren't for Do Right's secular lyrics, you'd think Adams was trying to conjure up the Holy Ghost at a Saturday night revival meeting. The rest of the LP is straight-ahead, road-house blues and bouncy R&B, as in Dancing Man and Missing You. After Dark is part of Rounder Records' enterprising Modern New Orleans Masters Series, which includes Irma "the Soul Queen of New Orleans" Thomas, saxophonist Alvin "Red" Tyler, the late James Booker (Dr. John's barrel-house piano-playing colleague) and the rambunctious Dirty Dozen Brass Band. (Rounder)

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