listening booth: various artists, “i believe to my soul”

Written by Music


Various Artists – I Believe to My Soul (2005)
purchase this album

I’ve done it with increasing regularity this year, but I always feel a little uneasy when I buy music from Starbucks. I’m not sure why; it isn’t like I think they’re the Evil Coffee Empire or anything — well, no, I guess I know they are, maybe it’s just that I don’t care — and although I have no use whatsoever for an acoustic version of Jagged Little Pill, they often feature music from artists who, in my opinion, genuinely deserve the exposure. And, in many cases, artists who don’t really get much exposure anywhere else. It’s a win-win deal all around, really, so I don’t know what my problem is. Maybe it’s just that I feel like a total square buying music from the world’s biggest coffee shop.

What I’m trying to tell you is that when I picked up I Believe to My Soul, even though I should have known much better, I had fairly low expectations. I’m ashamed to admit this, and here’s why:

Billy Preston. Mavis Staples. Allen Toussaint. Irma Thomas. Ann Peebles.

These are the five Southern soul legends who perform the music that makes up Believe, either solo or in combination. Oh yeah, and did I mention that Joe Henry produces? And that a big chunk of the proceeds go toward Katrina relief?

So I poured myself a whiskey & Coke tonight (quickly becoming the permanent Official Jefitoblog Drink), set about making dinner, and turned on Believe, and let me tell you, people: it’s great. I mean, four, maybe four-and-a-half stars great, bordering on (and possibly even venturing over into) magical territory. Great performers, great songs, flawless performances, sympathetic production. There is literally nothing else you could ask for.

Strictly speaking, this is not a Starbucks production. Rhino seems to be the main force behind the album, with assistance from worksong and Hear Music. This probably means nothing to you other than that the album should be readily available at any retail music outlet with its head not in its ass. Because I’m such a nice guy, I’ll even give you three free reasons to go out and get a copy: Billy Preston doing “Both Ways” (download), Ann Peebles doing “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” (download), and Allen Toussaint’s lovely “We Are One” (download).