Latimore – A Taste Of Me: Great American Songs
Essential Media Group
11 songs – 52 minutes
An enduring legend in the entertainment industry, Latimore has always bridged R&B and the blues despite making his name as a soul superstar. And he continues that magic as he puts his personal touch on this laid-back collection of tunes culled from his own archives as well as the Great American songbook.
Born Benjamin Latimore in Charleton, Tenn., he drew his earliest influences from country, blues and the gospel he sang in his Baptist church choir. His first paying gigs came in Nashville, where he was a member of Louis Brooks’ Hilltoppers. And he toured nationally with Joe Henderson before moving to Miami.
Now based out of the Tampa area, the silky smooth baritone worked as a keyboard player with several South Florida bands before stepping into the studio as a front man himself in the early ‘70s for the Dade label. One of those units was fronted by future producer Steve Alaimo, the blue-eyed soul singer who recorded for Chess’ Checker subsidiary and whose ensemble served as the house band at the famed Eden Roc Hotel at the height of the beach movie era.
Latimore rose to prominence after recording a version of T-Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday” in 1973 for the Glades imprint, but became household name a year later with the release of “Let’s Straighten It Out.” That tune climbed to No. 1 on the R&B charts and other hits followed, but he continued to be a presence in the studio for Glades’ fast rising parent label, TK, backing on the 88s a lineup that eventually included Betty Wright, Gwen McCrae, Blowfly and Anita Ward, among others.
Much like his contemporary, Barry White, Latimore’s songs from that era became the background sound for an entire generation of lovers around the globe. Today, at 78 and with about 30 albums to his credit on labels that include Malaco, Brittney and LatStone, Latimore remains as physically imposing and popular in concert as ever.
A 2017 inductee into the Blues Hall Of Fame, he puts his own spin on some timeless classics here, including nine covers and two originals, in a package that’s targeted for an audience that values romance no matter what your age. He’s backed by an all-star lineup of sessions musicians, including Ish Ledesma on guitar, Dorian Reyes on drums, Eric England on bass, Douglas Carter on keyboards and Vincent Broomfield on sax, contributing keys on only one number himself.
The project was produced by Ledesma, whose credits include work with ABBA and Miami Sound Machine, with assists from Alaimo, who’s worked with Sam & Dave and Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes in addition to serving as host and co-producer of Dick Clark’s Where The Action Is 1960s TV show, and Ron and Howard Albert, the brother team behind Miami’s legendary Criteria Studios, which has produced more than 250 gold and platinum recordings.
First released in 1959 as a bolero by Los Panchos and a hit for Eydie Gorme in 1964, “A Taste Of Me (Sabor A Mi)” opens the action. A brief intro from the band sets the slow-and-smoky mood before Latimore’s familiar voice enters the action, mellow and, as always, slightly behind the beat. That song flows effortlessly into a mellow take on the Etta James standard “At Last” before an equally smooth and inviting version of the Blood Sweat & Tears/Al Kooper classic, “I’ll Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know.”
Penned by Buddy Johnson and a hit for his sister Ella in 1945, “Since I Fell For You” is up next and gets a thoroughly modern makeover before Latimore picks up the tempo slightly for Billy Preston’s “You Are So Beautiful” and then a little more for Dinah Washington’s “What A Difference A Day Makes.”
No Latimore album would be complete without at least a couple of his own compositions, and this one doesn’t disappoint with a cover of one of his early Glades numbers, “Dig A Little Deeper,” before another delightful version of “Let’s Straighten It Out.” Ray Noble’s 1934 hit, “The Very Thought Of You,” and Julie London’s “Cry Me A River” follow before “Smile,” a song Charlie Chaplin composed for his 1936 movie, Modern Times, brings this disc to a close
Available through iTunes, Amazon and other retailers, A Taste Of Me is a CD full of ballads delivered in a pleasant style that’s hard to categorize. But it’s a welcome addition to the collection of any blues lover who’d like to sit back, relax after a long day and mellow out with a warm companion and a good glass of wine. Like the wine, Latimore keeps getting better with age.