2017 –Orleans Records
Reissue Date : Nov. 24, 2017
Originally Released : 1996
By Phillip Smith; Dec 23, 2017
Alfred Charles Merrick (Nov. 14, 1942 - Mar. 12, 2010), also known as the “President of Soul” Rockie Charles was a Louisiana-born singer/songwriter who was a backing vocalist for the likes of Percy Sledge, Little Johnny Taylor, and Otis Redding in the late Sixties. He cut his first single “Mr Rickashay” in 1967 and recorded a few more singles on the Soulgate label a little later. Due to a slowing demand for blues and soul artists in the Seventies, Rockie switched careers and became a tug boat captain. Then in the mid- Nineties, he placed an advertisement in a New Orleans entertainment directory looking for music work. That drew the attention of Carlo Ditta, producer for Orleans Records, which then led to the development of Born For You, his debut solo LP, which was recorded in 1995-1996. With Rockie handling the guitar and vocals, his rhythm section was comprised of bassists Jerry Pekinto and John Bonvillian Jr., organists Rick Allen and Wayne Lohr, and drummer Tony D’Alessandro.
Ushering in the album, title-track “Born For You” showcases Rockie’s smooth vocal stylings and his bright guitar performance which are masterfully highlighted by rich swirly organ music and accented with delightful blasts of brass. From the first listen, the song brings to mind the early sounds of Otis Redding and the early Sixties soul music from Stax. Rockie sings his southern soul ballad “Old Black Joel” with heartfelt emotion. This fabulous and amazing track features the heavenly backing voices of Karlene Arena, and Rhea Kahler. I love the funky infectious hook in the twangy “Festus Believes in Justice” and the high notes Rockie serves up in “I Just Called to Wish You a Merry Christmas”. His vocals are suave and charismatic. There are not many holiday songs as soulful as this one. The bluesy “There is a Rainbow Hangin’ Over My Shoulder” brilliantly escorts the album to a beautiful and poignant close.
Each and every listen to Born For You brings a great deal of joy to my music-loving ears. This album is true gem.
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