Sunday, November 27, 2011

November 27: Lou Rawls, "Your Good Thing (Is About To End)"

Artist: Lou Rawls
Song: "Your Good Thing (Is About To End)"
Album: The Way It Was: The Way It Is
Year: 1969

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While there are a number of bands and musicians that have easily perfected their own style of music, it is often those elite performers that are able to excel across a wide range of genres who are held in the most highly revered status.  Whether it is due to their seemingly unending talents on a specific instrument or the way that they can use their own voice, these few performers stand as true legends even as the decades pass and the trends in music change.  Though he can be argued as one of the finest in the history of soul, r&b, jazz, and even pop music, the fact of the matter is that there is no way to easily define the music of Lou Rawls, and that in itself is much of the reason he stands as such a legendary figure in the history of recorded music.  For more than four decades, Rawls brought some of the most raw and highly emotive sound one can find anywhere, and it is the fact that his voice and style seemed to know no boundaries that set him so far apart from his peers.  Whether he was swinging a gritty tale of the streets or delivering a smooth crooning ballad, there is never any mistaking his voice or style, and his extensive catalog is filled with some of the most unforgettable songs in all of music history.  While there are many highlights throughout the career of Lou Rawls, few songs better present all of his strengths than what one can hear on his fantastic 1969 single, "Your Good Thing (Is About To End)."

In many ways, the music that backs all of "Your Good Thing (Is About To End)" is as difficult to define as Rawls' vocals in that they clearly pull from a number of different styles.  As the first notes descend from the record, the piano suggests that this will be a slow, almost jazz-like song, and yet there is almost instantly a tension that is present.  Along with this tension, one can almost "feel" the smoke in the room, and "Your Good Thing (Is About To End)" quickly becomes a very intimate musical experience.  It is the way that the song slowly sways back and forth, completely captivating the listener, before almost overflowing with emotion as the horns build that makes this song stand out from the rest of Lou Rawls' catalog.  There are times when the piano has an almost saloon-style sound, and the quick, repeating guitar riff has an unexpectedly funky groove, adding another influence on the overall musical construction.  In reality, there has simply never been another song that brought the slow-burning, funk-filled soul like what can be experienced on "Your Good Thing (Is About To End)," and yet in some ways, this is slightly less surprising when one notes that the music was arranged by the legendary Isaac Hayes along with David Porter.  Yet it is the way that the musicians execute this interpretation of the song which allows the true genius of the composition to be felt, and it is impossible to not be completely caught up in the amazing mood.

However, while the music all throughout "Your Good Thing (Is About To End)" is fantastic in a way all its own, there is no arguing that it is the uniquely beautiful voice of Lou Rawls that makes this, like each of his songs, beyond the ability of nearly any other performer in history.  Much of the appeal of Lou Rawls comes from the fact that his vocal range seems to truly have no limit, as he is able to seamlessly jump from deep lower notes to the upper registers without ever breaking the mood for flow of the song.  There is a constant power within his singing that is impossible to ignore, and it is this element, combined with the massive amount of emotion that he injects into every phrase which has turned him into the legend that he remains to this day.  All across "Your Good Thing (Is About To End)," Rawls is at his finest, as the powerful cry he brings to every line is able to perfectly match the powerful swinging groove of the music.  The way that Rawls is able to spin the track into a song of warning to his lover, yet seem somehow vulnerable is one of the most amazing aspects of the entire song, and in many ways, once one hears Rawls' performance here, every other soul singer in history is quickly put into perspective.  Whether it is due to the absolutely perfect singing or the superb level of emotion in every word, there is simply no other song in history that can even remotely compare to Lou Rawls on "Your Good Thing (Is About To End)."

Though many are unaware, the Lou Rawls version of "Your Good Thing (Is About To End)" is not the original, and many later recordings would come from a wide range of artists.  The song was originally recorded by Mable John a few years before the Rawls version, and while it had moderate sales, it pales in compassion to the success of Lou Rawls' recording.  Over the decades that have passed since this release, everyone from Bonnie Raitt to The Bar-Kays to Boz Scaggs has re-recorded "Your Good Thing (Is About To End)" in their own way, and yet none have been able to come close to the emotion and sheer musical beauty found on Lou Rawls' rendition.  In many ways, it is the fact that this version is able to retain the gritty side of soul music, yet come off as far smoother and almost more intelligent in sound that sets it apart from other music of the era; and one can easily see this as one of the most important shifts in recording style.  In fact, following Rawls' release of "Your Good Thing (Is About To End)," there were a number of new styles of soul that began to emerge, and one can see almost all of them as taking a large part of their sound from this song, as well as a number of other parts of the Rawls' catalog.  The way that this powerful, yet inviting voice conveys such a strong and wide array of emotions was what made Lou Rawls the icon that he remains to this day, and he rarely sounded better than on his 1969 single, "Your Good Thing (Is About To End)."

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