Original released on LP Atlantic 8125 (mono)
(US, May 1966)
The charismatic Alabama-bred soulman's first album was naturally built around the peerless and classic "When a Man Loves a Woman", the first Southern Soul track that became a No. 1 Pop hit. It remains among the most beloved, anthemic explanations of love's impact and travails ever written or performed. Had Sledge never made another song, he would still deserve kudos just for that one. But he continued to score with more simple, heartfelt, unsophisticated stories about disappointment, pain, rejection, and perseverance. So, what about the rest of the LP? One knows that "When a Man Loves a Woman" is a hard act to follow, and the rare heights achieved by that particular tune is not attained elsewhere, here. That's not to say the remainder is subpar, 'filler' or by-the-numbers soul. Quite the contrary. "My Adorable One", another quintessential Sledge-belter, has a charm all its own. The delicate vocal amidst the raw grit of the Muscle Shoals backing band is amazing. Covered by numerous performers since, Sledge's spin still is the definitive version. Percy righteously gets down on the pumped-up, blazing beater "Put a Little Lovin' on Me" and the hard socking thumper "You're Pouring Water on a Drowning Man" (also recorded by James Carr) demonstrating the man was at much at ease with more up-tempo material.
Nonetheless, Sledge soars on those delicous country-soul dirges, producing a sound uniquely nurtured by the fertile ground of upper-Alabama; the waltzy "Love Me All the Way" and especially "When She Touches Me (Nothing Else Matters)" are perfect vehicles for Sledge's gruffy pipes, the latter immersed in Spooner Oldham's incessant Hammond. Soul songwriter Dan Penn (who also co-wrote "The Dark End of the Street" for James Carr and was a prolific session guitarist around the FAME studios in Muscle Shoals) delivers two tailor-made, low-down ballads with "You Fooled Me" - featuring great piano work and subdued horns - and the philosophical "Success" - where the brassy goodness is more upfront. "Thief in the Night" is a nice, rumblin' slab of stompin' soul which finds the middleground between the slow and more fastpaced tunes here. Percy goes all the way, though, on the slightly bossa-nova romp "Love Me Like You Mean It", probably the hardest tune on the LP. For good measure, a great if slightly 'poppy' version of "Love Makes the World Go Round" rounds out Percy's second brilliant full-lenght album. (in RateYourMusic)