Label: Q Division
Released: April 29, 2008
Last month, I drove to a funeral in another state. Funerals, especially funerals for a man who sort of became my surrogate father when my own dad was 2,000 miles away, aren’t usually enjoyable experiences, so I made sure to pack the car full of fun music. I threw a couple of classic soul albums into the pile, because few people understand life the way good soul artists do.
Eli “Paperboy” Reed and The True Loves went on that trip with me, and I’ve got to tell you, they helped to keep my perspective focused on the parts of life that matter.
Like most classic soul songs, the tracks on Roll With You focus almost entirely on love, lost love, lost love due to cheating, rediscovering lost love, redisovering cheating, and so on. And like most classic soul songs, the mood is buoyant despite the heartbreak that drives all the songs.
Now, you might argue that, being as Roll With You came out in 2008, the album doesn’t qualify as classic soul. But you’d be wrong. Eli and his band cherry pick the finest elements of 1960’s R&B, and they put it together in an album that is solid from start to finish. There’s absolutely nothing ground-breaking here, but it’s great to hear new songs in this style. The excitement of hearing Roll With You must be similar to how people felt in the ’60s when they heard a new Wilson Pickett or Aretha Franklin or Otis Redding or Sam Cooke record.
If this had come out in 1968, it would’ve been rightly dismissed as derivative and redundant. If it had come out in 1978, it would’ve been ignored for being old-people music. But in 2008, the act of writing 11 new songs — nearly all of which are on par with the greatest Motown and Atlantic tunes — and recording them is bold in its own way. It’s a statement that the past is never dead, and we can’t ever lose sight of our history, no matter how far into the future we move.
If you’re curious about my rating categories, read the description.