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Say It Loud! (1968)

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Jimmy Ponder

The title of Say It Loud! is taken from James Brown's anthem "Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud," the R&B/funk classic that Lou Donaldson covers on this album. Instead of providing a thematic and musical touchstone for the rest of the record, the song is an attempt to prove that Donaldson is still on top of musical trends, but the lazy groove he and his band -- trumpeter Blue Mitchell, guitarist Jimmy Ponder, organist Charles Earland, drummer Leo Morris -- work up shows they're not quite comfortable with this contemporary funk. They sound much more at ease with standards like "Summertime" and "Caravan," which give them a chance to stretch out, even if they are arranged like commercially oriented soul-jazz. Nevertheless, their simple presence on the album puts the stiffness of Donaldson's groove-oriented soul-jazz in sharper relief. Midnight Creeper was a successful soul-jazz record because the group managed to hit the right tone and groove, but here his group sounds awkward and uneasy. There are a few good moments scattered throughout the album, particularly by Mitchell, but overall, Say It Loud! is one of the weakest records in Donaldson's catalog. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine