I first listened to this disc in my car and thought it was nice, but nothing special. Well, the next listen was in the house, with my full attention, and while it’s what we’ve come to expect from Larry, I did indeed find it special.
The cuts here, for the most part, are as soulful as this type of music gets. Carlton manages to squeeze every drop of feeling one possibly can out of light funk. He starts with a re-make of the classic he did with the Crusaders, “Put It Where You Want It.” Done at a slower pace, it sets up a groove that puts itself right into your body. That, in fact, can be said about much of the album. Who can question Larry’s chops? Last year when I interviewed him for Vintage Guitar, he told me he thought he’d learned to relax a little and play with a little more taste than when he was younger. Some players see that as a sign of being boring. He sees it as maturity. And, the burning fire his playing displays on these cuts proves his point. Bluesy and soulful, this playing burns like a slow fire. His compositions, as always, are catchy. You’ll find yourself humming the melodies that set up his solos. And the covers are nice too. He turns Steve Winwood’s “Roll With It” into a Crusaders-style workout. Nice.
That said, I know albums in this genre try to throw one or two vocal tunes in to possibly hit the radio. Usually, that’s not a problem and it meshes well with the player. But, there’s a version on this CD of the old Eagles tune “I Can’t Tell You Why” that misses the mark. It might be, as my wife says, that I’m just used to Timothy B. Schmitt’s vocal on the original, but this one, featuring Shai on vocals, sounds like a demo. I found it odd that a great player, and one-time producer, like Larry, would let this one slip through. Maybe it’s just me, but it doesn’t seem to fit. The other vocal cut, “I Still Believe” is nice, though. Wendy Moten does the singing as Larry punctuates things with a gospel-inspired, very soulful solo.
Any fan of Carlton will love this album. There’s nothing new here, but what is here is as nice as this kind of music gets.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Apr. ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.