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Produced by James Brown in an attempt to resuscitate Hank Ballard’s waning commercial fortunes, You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down remains a minor soul classic — Brown’s admiration for Ballardgalvanizes each and every groove, and his inimitably funky arrangements fit the singer’s gritty vocals like a glove.
While “Thrill on the Hill” and “Woman Is Man’s Best Friend” nod to the muscular R&B of Ballard’s early hits with the Midnighters, You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down primarily serves to establish his credentials as a modern soul stylist — a cover of Freddie Scott’s “Are You Lonely for Me, Baby” is a particularly effective showcase for Ballard’s rough-edged vocals, while “How You Gonna Get Respect” and “Come on Wit’ It” prove his easy mastery of blistering, J.B.’s-type funk.
A superb, sadly under-recognized recording.
A1 How You Gonna Get Respect (Part 1)2:47
A2 Teardrops On Your Letter 3:02
A3 You’re So Sexy 2:41
A4 Funky Soul Train 2:31
A5 Slip Away 2:57
A6 Which Way Should I Turn 3:39
B1 With Your Sweet Lovin’ Self 2:52
B2 Are You Lonely For Me Baby 3:10
B3 Thrill On The Hill 2:55
B4 Woman Is Man’s Best Friend 2:40
B5 Unwind Yourself 2:20
B6 Come On With It 2:45
Plus bonus cd tracks
In the late ’60s, Hank Ballard of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters fame, was in something of a rut. Scoring HUGE in the late ’50s and early ’60s with scorching, sassy R&B vamps such as “Work With Me Annie“, “Annie Had a Baby“, “Sexy Ways” and “Let’s Go Let’s Go Let’s Go“, the man’s main claim to fame after that was that he brought James Brown to the attention of King Records.
Brown ‘repaid’ the favor when Ballard hit hard times. And while his career never really revived, the revitalized, funky sounds of the new Hank Ballard did give him another two R&B hits (“How You Gonna Get Respect” and “From the Love Side“), and also gave us one longplayer that’s been in demand within soul and funk circles ever since it appeared in 1969.
‘You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down’, produced by James Brown and featuring The Daps providing the instrumentation, is a great collection of soulful funk sides that Ballard cut while under the wing of the Godfather.
The ruthless funk monster “How You Gonna Get Respect (If You Haven’t Cut Your Process Yet)“, sporting James Brown’s “Licking Stick” groove, is here, a ferocious self-pride anthem that went to No. 15 on the R&B charts in ’69.
There’s more of that J.B.-styled hard socking fonk with the non-charting single, divinely struttin’ “With Your Sweet Lovin’ Self“; the naughty, romping “You’re So Sexy” and the stupendously rocking “Woman Is a Man’s Best Friend“.
Ballard displays his Southern Soul roots here as well, churning out finger poppin’ versions of Clarence Carter’s “Slip Away” and Freddie Scott’s “Are You Lonely for Me“, and getting in that deep, deep soulful wailin’ bag on the ballads “Teardrops on Your Letter” and “Which Way Should I Turn“.
Finally, there’s a whole bunch of that Midnighters’ vibe goin’ on on the sassy R&B stompers “Thrill on the Hill“, “Unwind Yourself” and “Come in Wit It“.
Hank Ballard & The Midnighters – Sexy Ways: The Best Of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters
Over the course of 20 tracks, the best of Ballard’s singles for Federal and King, including one cut with the Royals, are unveiled; and years later his music still sounds exuberant, salacious, impassioned, and irresistible — among the best ’50s R&B has to offer. It’s a bit of a shock to hear what a carnal punch this music still packs, decades after it was recorded. It’s not just the clear sexuality of “Work With Me Annie”; “Sexy Ways”; “Annie’s Aunt Fannie”; or “Look at Little Sister;” (the latter effectively cut by Stevie Ray Vaughan); but even “The Twist” is charged and vibrant with sensuality, something Chubby Checker’s bland remake ignored. There is an undercurrent throughout these dance songs — and it’s irresistible — but what is more stunning is the consistently brilliant songwriting, and perhaps the impassioned performances.
Either way, this is brilliant, timeless music, transcending the pigeonhole of great ’50s R&B to stand among some of the great pop music of the 20th century .
Buy the AlbumHank Ballard – 1969 – You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down