Big Legal Mess Records – 2016
9 tracks; 36 minutes
This album has a great back story. While in the army Robert Finley sang soul and Rn’B in a band but when he returned to civilian life back home in Louisiana he found it impossible to make a living from music, so worked as a carpenter and occasionally performed solo for fun. After stopping work, partly due to failing eyesight, Robert has now produced an album – at age 62! So, a dream come true, but is it any good? Answer is a resounding YES, a deep soul album with Robert’s superb vocals (not dissimilar to another latecomer to the recording scene, Frank Bey) and a first rate band of Memphis musicians. Members of the Bo-Keys are joined by a who’s who of current Memphis players: Howard Grimes, Marc Franklin, Jimbo Mathus (who also produces), Al Gamble, Kirk Smothers, Reba Russell, Harold Thomas, Daunielle Hill. To top things off seven of the nine songs are Robert’s originals.
The album opens with a cover of George Clinton’s “I Just Want To Tell You” which is classic Memphis soul with Robert’s superb vocal supported by backing singers on the chorus, the baying horns and funky backbeat, a terrific start to the album. The title track “Age Don’t Mean A Thing” follows, clearly a heartfelt statement from Robert and a message that we could all heed. Starting with a slow-burn groove and lilting guitar the song celebrates Robert’s ability to belie his age.
Robert then demands “Let Me Be Your Everything” on a catchy number with a latin feel though when the horns come in it can only be a Memphis recording! “It’s Too Late” is a heart-rending ballad with semi-spoken lyrics and “Snake In The Grass” a medium-paced soul tune with the horns adding punch to the chorus as Robert bemoans the presence of a rival in his home – and this one definitely has legs!
David Gates and Bread’s mega-hit from 1970 “Make It With You” is slowed down and transformed into a soul ballad, the guitar and organ supporting Robert’s tender vocal brilliantly, the horns sitting this one out. “Come On” brings the spirit of James Brown into the room, even the 1-2-3 horn flurry at the end of each verse, the backing singers egging Robert on to ever greater efforts, Robert responding with the deeply soulful “You Make Me Want To Dance” which has a wonderful horn arrangement and is another standout track.
The album closes with “Is It Possible To Love 2 People” in which Robert’s ‘happily married man’ also has a family with another woman. The answer to the question is almost certainly ‘No’ but Robert checks it out with his doctor and psychiatrist anyway as the band plays on with another fine horn arrangement. Sadly we never discover the outcome but maybe Robert is holding that back for a second album – with material as good as this I certainly hope so because fans of old school soul music will love this record which comes highly recommended.