Man Of My Word

Johnny Adams

Rounder Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


There are some music critics out there that will call Man Of My Word, the final album released by New Orleans soul singer Johnny Adams before his death in 1998, his best work ever. You won't hear me making that claim, however.

The reason I won't make such a statement about an album that is indeed a great effort is because I think it would do the remaining body of Adams's work - which I have to plead complete ignorance about - a grave injustice. So I'd prefer to err on the side of caution until I've had a chance to check out other efforts, and just proclaim Man Of My Word a solid album in its own right.

Adams, who fought back the ravages of cancer to record this album, could well be one of the lost treasures of the soul music world. Demonstrating a golden voice with great control, Adams demonstrates throughout the 13 tracks on this album why he was so well-respected among his peers and "students" - among whom we can count Aaron Neville, who guests on one track.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

What is immediately striking about Adams's vocals is the control he has over the material and the emotion he passes along in each word. On Man Of My Word, it could be argued that Adams sang each song like it was going to be his last - indeed, maybe he realized that this would be his last album, and he wanted to create something special. Whatever the case, it worked; from the opening moments of "Even Now," the listener knows they're in for something special with this album.

With one foot planted in the sphere of the blues and the other in New Orleans soul, Adams and his band (including guitarist Walter "Wolfman" Washington - man, it's been too long since I heard him!) demonstrate almost complete mastery of the material presented to them. Songs like "Going Out Of My Mind Sale", "Up And Down World" and the ironically-titled "This Time I'm Gone For Good" capture the listener's attention from moment one and refuse to let you come up for air.

While the bulk of Man Of My Word is excellent, sometimes I almost wish that there had been a little more interplay between Adams and some of the musicians; I would have liked to have heard a little give-and-take between Adams and, say, the horn section. Also, while it's an interesting picture to put Adams and Neville on the same song on "Never Alone", in this particular case, Adams shows up the man he calls "son" - no disrespect meant towards Neville, but he is out of his league when in the presence of one of the masters. This final track could have been left off without hurting the overall picture.

Man Of My Word is a solid testimonial to the musician that Adams was, and is a fitting legacy to leave behind. Pity that it would take his death to open some people's eyes to just how talented he was - and now that he's gone, we realize just how big the void they left is.

Rating: B+

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Rounder Records, and is used for informational purposes only.