Stax Records star William Bell reclaims stake as one of the original soul men

William Bell Photos by Andy Argyrakis

With the distinction of being amongst the first hitmakers for Stax Records in the early 1960s thanks to “You Don’t Miss Your Water” and co-writing the eternal blues rock standard “Born Under A Bad Sign,” William Bell could’ve easily retired and rested comfortably decades ago. Thankfully though, he continued recording and touring fairly steadily ever since, appearing at The White House and Bonnaroo in recent years, getting covered by Carole King and Billy Idol, sampled by Kanye West and singing with Snopp Dogg, all factors in ensuring the singer/songwriter’s cross-generational connection.

Even “Born Under A Bad Sign” got a facelift, meeting somewhere between the crossroads of the Albert King and Cream interpretations, plus the well-persevered vocal passion of the very man who wrote the tune with fellow Stax history maker Booker T. Jones.

William BellAnd even at 76, Bell doesn’t have a hint of retirement in sight, especially now that he’s just released “This Is Where I Live,” his first major label project in four decades that returns to the Stax namesake. Alongside Grammy-winning producer John Leventhal (Rosanne Cash, Marc Cohn, Joan Osborne), his five piece band and background singer, the headliner brought just as many new tunes as golden oldies to the cozy confines of SPACE in Evanston and assured faithful his voice and spirit are both indestructible as he figuratively spit in the face of advancing age with “I Will Take Care Of You.”

While current cuts such as the title track, “Three Of Me,” “Poison In The Well” and “Mississippi-Arkansas Bridge” were definitely bathed in a vintage aura, they were far from merely a retread of yesteryear thanks to the rollicking guitars and stomping percussion that added extra vigor to the rebirth. Even “Born Under A Bad Sign” got a facelift, meeting somewhere between the crossroads of the Albert King and Cream interpretations, plus the well-persevered vocal passion of the very man who wrote the tune with fellow Stax history maker Booker T. Jones.

Despite Bell’s solo artistry never reaching the commercial heights of Jones or fellow label mates Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Isaac Hayes and The Staples Singers, his contributions were nonetheless notable and enduring, particularly “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” “Private Number” and “I Forgot To Be Your Lover.” Those in attendance didn’t need any convincing of his stature, but hopefully this wider platform will give anyone who may have forgotten a chance to rediscover one of the last standing original soul men still on top of their game.


Click here for more William Bell photos from SPACE.

For additional information on William Bell, visit WilliamBell.com.

For a list of upcoming shows at SPACE, visit EvanstonSPACE.com.

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