Supernatural Soul

Ben E. King

Cleopatra, 2022

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Last time I checked, Ben E. King had passed away in 2015. So, when word came out about Supernatural Soul, a new album from King (with selected special guests), one question came to mind:


There is no doubt that King is a seminal figure in the world of rock music, having been the lead singer of the Drifters and amassing a successful solo career. Songs like “Save The Last Dance For Me,” “Spanish Harlem” and “Stand By Me” have rightfully arisen to the upper echelons of music history.

But to hear versions of these songs recorded decades after the definitive versions were released has the feel of a cash grab, especially coming seven years after King’s death at the age of 76. At its mildest, it seems like someone holding on to past memories—and, if that were the case, one could almost forgive King for doing an album such as this.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Of the 11 songs on the disc, four feature special guest musicians. Of these, bassist Bootsy Collins seems to be the best fit, performing on “Supernatural Thing, Pt. 1” (both in vocal and instrumental format). His bass work is immediately recognizable, yet he doesn’t try to put it to the forefront, which is a wise use of restraint. Even the instrumental version allows Collins’s bass to simply become part of the mix.

But one has to wonder why we needed not one, but two, new versions of “Stand By Me” (though, in all fairness, it’s more than likely the same recorded version, with one featuring additional vocals from Bette Smith and guitar work from Ronnie Earl). My father always taught me to let sleeping dogs lie; these add absolutely nothing to the indelible legacy of the original version. The same can be said for the new recording of “Spanish Harlem,” featuring Rafael Riqueri. And why we needed a five-minute medley of hits from The Drifters, I’m at a loss to explain.

Is Supernatural Soul painful to listen to? I wouldn’t go that far. But it hardly captures King at the prime of his career, and while some songs like “Seven Letters” and “Do It In The Name Of Love” are pleasant enough to have playing in the background, one has to question whether King had anything left creatively in the gas tank by the time this was recorded. (My digital review copy contained no supporting information on these tracks… and methinks it says something when the record label doesn’t even have anything listed about this album on their own website—at least, not as of September 9, 2022.)

I don’t mean to malign King or the legacy he left behind in the world of pop/rock music. But Supernatural Soul, while inoffensive to the ears, is hardly a necessary addition to his discography. Dear Lord, let the poor man rest in peace.

Rating: C-

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