Joe Simon – 1969 – Better Than Ever

Killer southern soul album.

The hard-working Joe Simon cut three albums in 1969 (admittedly, this was back in the day when a pop album rarely ran over 35 minutes, but that’s still an impressive amount of material in the space of twelve months), and if Better Than Ever found Simon running a bit short on top-shelf material, as a vocalist he was still hitting his targets dead center. 

A1 Silver Spoons And Coffee Cups 2:57
A2 It’s Hard To Get Along 2:56
A3 In The Ghetto 2:44
A4 I Got A Whole Lot Of Lovin’ 2:28
A5 Wounded Man 2:55
A6 Time And Space 2:43
B1 Straight Down To Heaven 3:45
B2 When 2:17
B3 After The Lights Go Down Low 2:45
B4 San Francisco Is A Lonely Town 3:19
B5 Rainbow Road 3:00

Unfortunately, Simon and his producers weren’t able to scare up any Harlan Howard compositions for this set (which always showed off Simon’s subtle but deeply affecting vocal style to his best advantage), and the album’s take on Mac Davis’ “In the Ghetto” never quite gets into gear, but otherwise Simon’s performances range from strong to stellar on this set, and the production shows a touch more polish than on Simon’s earlier sessions which mirrors the strength of his voice without overpowering it.

Straight Down to Heaven“, “Wounded Man” and ” “Silver Spoons and Coffee Cups” are outstanding examples of Southern soul at its most beautifully sorrowful, “When” is a topical “peace and brotherhood” number which has worn better than most, and “Rainbow Road” (written by Dan Penn and Donnie Fritts) is a simply masterful example of Simon making the most of a thick slice of country soul (even if Arthur Alexander’s later recording topped it).

Not quite top-shelf Joe Simon, Better Than Ever is still good enough to please anyone who loves Southern soul at its best.