Arguably the greatest secular exponent of Sam Cooke's wonderful vocal legacy, Rod Harris never had that pure tone that Cooke was blessed with, but he did impart his singing with an aching quality which, combined with the roughness of his timbre, tugs at the heartstrings like no other I know. New York based Harris was a vocal maestro on the ballads - there are several soul fans I know who are more affected by his singing than via any other artist.
He started out singing duets with his brother Jim, and while some of these early R&B efforts are first class, they never really allow his talents full rein. The music is transitional - it both looks back to the 50s combos like Don & Dewey and anticipates the great soul duos like Sam & Dave. Uptempo R & B numbers such as "Baby I'm Coming Home To You" and "Crying Won't Help You Now" are good, and "I'll Be Standing By" with it's "Spanish Harlem" feel rocks along nicely. But as is so often the case it's the doo-wop tinged ballads, particularly the superb Here Is My Heart and "Please Don't Hurt Me" that are the real killers - highly recommended.
Harris had the better set of lungs and went on to a solo career in the 60s cutting some amazing deep soul, helped by the genius of writer/arranger/producer Bert Berns. Harris' tribute to Sam Cooke, his mentor, on Atlantic We Can't Believe You're Gone is, given the subject matter, almost unbearably poignant. I like his beat ballad duet with Pat Lundy "I Realy Love You" very much, especially the rather endearing way Pat refers to him as "Billy" throughout! But deep fans may well prefer his two magnificent Turntable singles That's When I'll Stop Loving You and "Lonely Intruder". These are unmissable examples of his phrasing and approach. And this impeccable run continued with his two Shout 45s. Baby Come Back To Me is a wonderful ballad but Mr Success just may be his best ever release. All these cuts feature some of the Big Apple's finest musicians, including Pretty Purdie and Eric Gale who provides some lovely and carefully judged fills and runs.
- From Sir Shmabling's Deep Soul Heaven Website
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