Ol’ Man River

The most famous song from Jerome Kern’s “Show Boat”, and perhaps most famously sung by Paul Robeson, this is another song that crops up on Jeff Beck’s “Truth” – an album that is emerging upon re-listening as rather more than your conventional rock album. Indeed, the interest in folk idioms and musicals, as well as the more conventional rock and blues styles, places this album squarely into the exploratory 1960s and out of the the hard-rock continuum that was to follow, in part heavily influenced by some of the material on this very record.

On “Truth”, “Ol’ Man River” is sung by Rod Stewart, thus giving us an early taste of what would become the staple material in Rod’s “American Songbook” late-career renaissance. His raw blues-rock voice really isn’t that convincing with this type of material, but here he has youth and enthusiasm on his side and the effect is quite charming. He’s helped by an unusual (for rock) arrangement with lots of rolling timpani fills (strong influence of “Sgt. Pepper”-era Ringo here), moody low-register organ, soul-style rhythm guitar and some very restrained and effective blues electric guitar fills by Jeff Beck. It is really a very fine performance. Strong on Corporeality.

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