Jerry Butler – 1968 – The Ice Man Cometh
Review by Soulmakossa
Rip, posting & additional info’s by Nikos
A trailblazing album in more ways than one. It was the first full-length LP produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, whose Philadelphia International Records dominated Black music for much of the ’70s. And it was the first time that R&B production techniques reached a level of refinement and sophistication capable of augmenting one of soul music’s all-time silkiest voices.
This was Jerry “The Ice Man” Butler’s most commercially and artistically successful work, reaching #2 on the Soul Album chart and #29 pop. It produced the hit singles, “Never Give You Up“, “Hey, Western Union Man“, “Lost“, “Only the Srong Survive” and “Are You Happy?” These are not just radio-friendly songs but first-rate productions and performances that could only have come out of Philadelphia.
“The Ice Man Cometh” also features some excellent album tracks, most notably “I Stop By Heaven.” To the best of my knowledge, this sublime ballad has never turned up on any prominent Jerry Butler anthology. This alone makes the album worth owning, but there’s also “Can’t Forget About You Baby,” “How Can I Get in Touch With You,” “Just Because I Really Love You,” “(Strange) I Still Love You,” and “Go Away, Find Yourself.” Nothing on this 11-track set is short of outstanding.
When Elvis recorded “Suspicious Minds,” I’ll bet he was emulating Jerry Butler.
A1 Hey Western Union Man 2:37
A2 Can’t Forget About You, Baby 2:36
A3 Only the Strong Survive 2:35
A4 How Can I Get in Touch With You 2:26
A5 Just Because I Really Love You 2:37
A6 Lost 2:35
B1 Never Give You Up 2:56
B2 Are You Happy 2:40
B3 (Strange) I Still Love You 2:50
B4 Go Away – Find Yourself 2:52
B5 I Stop by Heaven 3:20
Although mostly recorded in Philadelphia, this album by soul troubadour Jerry Butler is in the Chicago Soul vein all the way; it’s too hard and gritty to be called ‘Philly’ – which wouldn’t surface as a genre until the early ’70s – despite the beautiful arrangements and sometimes huge orchestration.
Teaming up with future hitmakers Gamble and Huff, Butler cut his finest LP in 1968 with ‘The Iceman Cometh’. Veering between uptempo soul nuggets and truly magnificent, haunting ballads, many a contemporary R&B artist found inspiration in it and plenty of its tunes were covered well into the ’70s.
One of Butler’s best loved cuts, the bouncy, mid-tempo romper “Hey Western Union Man” became nothing short of a standard and the same can be said for the gently cruising gospelfide rockin’ soul beater “Only the Strong Survive“, one of the centrepieces on Elvis Presley’s comeback album ‘From Elvis In Memphis’.
Speaking of Memphis, the horn heavy “Can’t Forget About You, Baby” smacks of that big brassy Stax sound. A ferocious floorshaker, drenched in the sweet, purring vibe of the Hammond organ and embellished with the right amount of strings. Butler’s pleading, warm voice is at its best here, especially on the chorus. Decidedly more Windy City is the breezy, mellow “How Can I Get in Touch With You“, with its warm jazzy guitar, vibes and swirling violins.
And then there’s that deliciously groovy, laidback ballad “Just Because I Really Love You“, where the horns stretch out in suspense and the piano sounds dark and ominous. That same spooky atmosphere hangs around the brassy intro to “Lost“, a shufflin’, brooding piece sporting a crashing back beat, which works its way up to an anthemic, jubilant chorus.
Another soon-to-become evergreen appears in the guise of the slow burning “Never Give You Up“, a brilliant pop-soul confection covered by everyone from The Jacksons to Isaac Hayes. Equally snappy is the soft, despondent lament “Are You Happy”, with more subtle orchestration and another heart wrenching vocal.
Up next are two superb, dark, intensely sad ballads: the ghostly “(Strange) I Still Love You“, with its ethereal backing vocals, churchy organ and weeping strings, and the truly goosebump inducing “Go Away – Find Yourself“, an unbelievably touching, sweet rendering, majestically orchestrated.
Butler ends this magnificent longplayer on a more upbeat note, as he swoons, croons and wails his way through the country soul gem “I Stop By Heaven“.