All very well for us. But Percy Sledge seemed stuck in that "Man loves a woman" moment - forever frozen singing one song. In a way this is fair. Almost everything he sings is about reaching for love he can't have, often at the expense of his dignity.
Sledge never wrote his own songs - he was no Marvin Gaye - but he sang like nobody else did, and chose perfect melodic vehicles for his powerful, foghorn-blue, Alabama vocals. Although his focus was on soul and country style he also made a few forays into funk, blues and old rock.
Then, after a greatest hits or three, he seemed to vanish. Until now. Sledge is back, older, even fatter, and still with that weird smile (which keeps making it on to the cover against all odds and conventional ideas of good taste) and wearing bling so out of date your grandfather might consider it old-fashioned.
Any good? Well surprisingly, Shining Through the Rain is wonderful. At first play, everything from the production (by the book soul style stuff) to the song choices (adventurous melody? forget it!) to the lyrics (they aren't bad but I wouldn't quote a line) seems so tame that you wonder what all the fuss is about. But gradually, the pure sincere force of Percy Sledge's performance makes moments that seemed tacky and dull at first, begin to glow.
Shining Through the Rain's stylised, restrained hues are splashed with moments of great beauty - a surprising melodic shift, or a perfect modulation. Its elegance is the product of plain, sad sounds, as Percy Sledge relentlessly gives the art of interpretation its dignity back. He breathes new life into old songs by great writers or gives life to gems that may never have been recorded. Like "Lonely Violin" - a sentimental, epic piano ballad penned by Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees.
Make no mistake, the tear jerking sentimentality that gives "Lonely Violin" its bite is not the exception on this album, it's the golden rule. But by the end of the album, no matter how hard-hearted you may be, you may long to take Percy Sledge in your arms and give him a big hug. Not because he's famous and you're a groupie, but because this vulnerable guy saying such lonely things has a sometimes heart rending effect.
- Jean Barker
WHAT OTHER CRITICS SAID
Shining Through the Rain shows that sixty-two-year-old Percy Sledge can still locate the emotional essence of a song, as he did so unforgettably on "When a Man Loves a Woman," his 1966 debut single.- Bud Scoppa for Rolling Stone
Although the gravely power of veteran soul crooner's voice has faded a little since his '60s success, leaving him sounding a little like Zucchero, he's lost none of his class. - Nils van der Linden for iAfrica.com
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