There’s something about Joe Simon’s rich, burnished voice that sounds as smooth as a glass of 12-year-old bourbon, and feels just as appropriate on a sad and lonely day. In some respects, Joe Simoncould be called the Roy Orbison of soul music, there’s a naturally sorrowful tone in Simon’s voice that shines clearly through even the most upbeat material, and both singers had obviously learned more than a little from the sounds of classic country.
The Chokin’ Kind, the first of three albums Joe Simon would crank out in 1969, features three tunes written by the great C&W tunesmith Harlan Howard, and all three (especially the title cut) serve as superb examples of the clear if little-examined kinship between soul and country, inspiring truly stellar performances from Simon. Much of the rest of the album is padded out with covers, and while one might imagine it would take a brave man to cover Otis Redding, Glen Campbell, and the Five Satins on the same LP, Simon brings his own style and personality to each song, no matter how familiar they may be in other contexts. Like many soul long-players of the 1960s, The Chokin’ Kind is more a collection of songs that a unified work, but the consistent strength of Simon’s performances makes it fine listen from start to finish.
A1 Baby, Don’t Be Looking In My Mind 2:42
A2 Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay 2:47
A3 Little Green Apples 3:12
A4 Lonely Man 2:44
A5 The Chokin’ Kind 2:38
B1 Yours Love 3:03
B2 Help Yourself (To All My Lovin’) 2:21
B3 Wichita Lineman 3:18
B4 Don’t Let Me Lose The Feeling 2:19
B5 I’m Too Far Gone To Turn Around 2:28
B6 In The Still Of The Night (I’ll Remember) 2:44
His plaintive baritone equally conversant with R&B and country phrasing, Joe Simon married the two genres with startling success during the late ’60s, adapting Nashville material to the soul sound and repeatedly coming up a winner. Simon began recording in the Bay Area, but a switch in recording sites (first to Muscle Shoals for Vee-Jay and then to Nashville, upon signing with disc jockey John Richbourg’s Sound Stage 7 label in 1966) heightened his national appeal.
With easy access to prime country-oriented material, Simon soon found his true calling, scoring major hits with “Nine Pound Steel“, “(You Keep Me) Hangin’ On“, and the number one R&B smash “The Chokin’ Kind“, penned by Music Row tunesmith Harlan Howard, spent 12 weeks in the charts, and had sold one million copies by June 16, 1969. In addition, Simon was given a Grammy Award in 1970 for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.
Still dabbling in country covers after switching to the Spring imprint in 1970, Simon was even more successful when assigned to Philadelphia wizards Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who produced the moody “Drowning in the Sea of Love” the next year. The team scored a #3 R&B hit in 1971 with “Drowning in the Sea of Love” and a #1 R&B hit in the summer of 1972 with “Power of Love“. Both songs reached #11 on the Hot 100. “Drowning in the Sea of Love” sold over 1.5 million copies and the RIAA on January 6, 1972 gave a gold disc. “Power of Love”, written by Gamble, Huff and Simon was Simon’s third million seller, and the R.I.A.A. awarded gold disc status on August 29, 1972.
Simon continued to release R&B hits with “Pool of Bad Luck“, “Trouble in My Home“, “Step By Step“, “I Need You, You Need Me“, “Music in My Bones“, “Carry Me“, and 1975’s “Get Down, Get Down (Get on the Floor)“, which gave Simon his third #1 R&B hit, and also a #8 Hot 100 hit. Simon’s success escalated with his writing/producing the theme tune for the film, Cleopatra Jones in 1973.
In the late 1970s/early 1980s, Simon decided to remove his tenor/bass-baritone voice from the secular music world and devote it and other parts of his life to Christianity. Simon began evangelist preaching in Flossmoor, Illinois. In 1983, he produced the album Lay My Burden Down for former Davis Sisters second lead Jackie Verdell. Simon released a gospel album titled This Story Must Be Told in the late 1990s.
In 1999 Simon was inducted as a Pioneer Award honoree by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. Joss Stone covered “The Chokin’ Kind” on her 2003 album, The Soul Sessions.
Simon has had a number of his songs sampled by other artists, including OutKast, who sampled “Before the Night is Over” in their hit “So Fresh, So Clean” and Lil’ Kim, who sampled Simon’s “It Be’s That Way Sometimes” in “Magic Stick”, featuring 50 Cent. Memphis Bleek sampled Simon’s “Trace Your Love” for the track “Alright” on his 2005 534 album.