Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"Soul Serenade"

Duane Allman & King Curtis
The first version of "Soul Serenade" I ever heard was Duane Allman paying tribute to his great, fallen friend, King Curtis, in the middle of an epic "You Don't Love Me" recorded at A&R Studios radio broadcast (brought to you by 7-up). I absolutely loved the song, it was nearly perfect in the same way "Little Martha" is a perfect song - it is achingly sweet, yet relatively simple. It could go on forever and no one would complain.

Although "Soul Serenade" isn't as well known as other soul ballads, it has been covered plenty and adapted to genres as diverse as reggae and jazz. Aretha Franklin included a short and soulful version of the song on I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You, which is natural since King Curtis did a lot of horn arrangements for her and his band opened for her on tour (both released live albums from the same set of epic Fillmore West shows). Since the song was first recorded by Gloria Lynne, "Soul Serenade" has been covered by Lou Rawls, Willie Mitchell, Hank Crawford, David Sanborn, Quincy Jones, Ronnie Earl, the Funky Butt Brass Band, and just about everyone who has every picked up a saxophone. Even King Curtis himself released at least 3 versions of the tune.

The song came full-circle for me when Derek Trucks Band named an entire album after the song, kicking the album off with what is essentially a tease of the song. Derek eventually featured a full work out of the tune in his live sets. The Allman Brothers would honor Duane and King Curtis with the song at least 4 or 5 times in the last decade - at the Beacon Theatre with King Curtis' band, The Kingpins, in 2006 and 2009; and in the middle of "You Don't Love Me" at Peach Fest as well as their final show last October.

I had been noodling on Duane's short and sweet version for years, and adapted it to slide (just as Derek had done to amazing effect). I made it the next song in this acoustic project. I dropped the key down to E to give myself enough neck room to start low and bring the song to a high crescendo - you need at least 2 or 3 octaves. It still didn't really feel like enough room, but I really couldn't go any lower without making it too heavy (it is typically in A flat or thereabouts). This made the song a little more slinky than the typically brighter versions, so I tried to play that up a little.

I wanted to include an intro, as Duane Allman did when he seamlessly transitioned into the song in the middle of the "You Don't Love Me" jam, and as Derek Trucks has done since. I was also inspired by some of Dickey Betts' instrumentals which feature extended intros. I decided to open with my tricone and piano, but I didn't want to get too self-indulgent, so I tried to keep it within the theme of the song and relatively short.

It was the most work I've done on actually arranging a song. My previous tracks are pretty straight forward adaptations. I also wanted to keep it pretty loose, which is difficult when you are creating structure and playing every instrument track one at a time.

Anyways, I present "Soul Serenade"