Personnel: Andre Williams (vocals); Matthew Smith (guitar, trumpet, piano, organ, synthesizer, background vocals); Dave Shettler (synthesizer, drums, drum machine); Jim Diamond (bass guitar); Colleen Burke, Annie R. (background vocals).
Recording information: Ghetto Recorders, Detroit, MI; Hamtramck, MI.
Photographer: Robert Matheu.
Andre Williams may not be the hardest working man in show business, but he could be the most tireless; Life is the third full-length album he's released in 2012, and the eleventh since he returned to active duty in 1998 with the outrageous comeback set Silky. Williams was just shy of 76 years of age when Life hit the streets, making his prolific studio habits all the more remarkable, and if Williams is sounding a little more grounded than he did on Silky or The Black Godfather, he's still a tough, funky, jive talker who can draw some potent, guitar-based funk from the band of Detroit indie stalwarts who back him up. Matthew Smith produced Life, co-wrote most of the songs with Williams, and anchors the backing band (along with Jim Diamond on bass and David Shettler on drums), and the results are lean, greasy, early-'70s-style tunes with a subtle but potent psychedelic undercurrent, and they give Williams an effective backdrop as he declaims on his troubles with women, cash, and animal-haters, as well as singing the praises of high heels (Andre sounds like the most lascivious senior citizen alive as he murmurs his way through "Heels"). Williams also reveals he hasn't forgotten his days as a young R&B shouter on "It's Only You That I Love" (if he has to cheat some of the high notes, the phrasing is just as it should be), and he leads the band through a hard-charging remake of his classic "Shake a Tail Feather" that rocks with a steady roll. And as America deals with a contentious presidential campaign, Williams delivers a rueful but darkly funny bit of political commentary with "Blame It On Obama," in which the embattled head of the executive branch is made to take the fall for everything from troubles on the farm to wives who won't behave. Life is a fair distance from a masterpiece, but from a guy who has been making records for 57 years and will probably be cutting more sessions until the day he dies, it's a solid and entertaining set of R&B that shows this man has more than his share of tales to tell, and can still hold the audience in his hand when he steps up to the mike. Would that we could all sound as cool this far into retirement age. ~ Mark Deming