Rockie Charles, “Born For You” (Orleans Records)

rockiecharles“Wow, who is that?” was the reaction of many on first hearing Rockie Charles’ 1996 disc Born For You. The album, which is being re-released on CD and vinyl as well as being made available as a download, sounded way old-school soul yet so uniquely fresh. Word soon went around that the voice, the guitar and these special songs were the product of a man called Rockie Charles, a tugboat captain who was also building a boat in the backyard of his home in Algiers. Carlo Ditta, a hip and observant record producer and owner of the Orleans Records label, apparently spotted an advertisement that Charles “The President of Soul” had placed in an entertainment directory in the hopes of landing some gigs. Ditta wisely took the bait, a move that revitalized Charles’ then rather inactive music career and introduced his talents to a flock of soon-to-be new fans.

From Charles’ first guitar riff on the title cut, it’s evident that here’s a musician with a different approach. That he’s backed on the album of all self-penned material by the organ of either Rick Allen or Wayne Lohr adds a distinctive touch to Charles’ singular style. The thing about Charles as a singer is that he not only hits the high notes, it’s the way he hits them.

On some tunes, Charles fronts a small combo, as on “Festis Believe in Justice,” that includes Fred Koella on the lap steel guitar. Now there’s an instrument not often heard on soul records. A full band complete with horns and background vocalists kicks in for the uptempo “I Need Your Love So Bad, I’m About to Loose My Mind.”

Born For You stands as a rarity as each tune on the album, written and delivered by the great Rockie Charles, is a killer.