He’s well-known in and around New Orleans, but as far as a recording career goes, Walter “Wolfman” Washington has had a pretty bumpy go of it. Even figuring out how many albums he’s released is fairly difficult; the discography at his official site, for instance, doesn’t mention Sada at all, and since it probably had a higher market profile than anything else he’s put out, it’s probably safe to assume there are more than a few “lost” Washington recordings out there. This is unfortunate. It’s been said that blues audiences don’t really know what to do with Washington’s music, because it draws from R&B, soul, and jazz just as deeply as it does the blues, and though this is an accurate description of the music, it’s more than a little insulting to blues fans â€” Gatemouth Brown and Taj Mahal have had long and successful careers, after all, and in terms of being disrespectful to genre boundaries, they both beat Washington hands down.
Sada is an early ’90s album from a veteran soul singer, and if you’ve been a fan of this type of music for any length of time, you know what that means â€” it’s much too slick, ghostwriters were involved, and it’s just generally:flawed. Nevertheless, Washington is a performer of such undeniable charisma that even a flawed Wolfman record is worth listening to, and Sada is no exception. The songs, musically speaking, tend to be fairly slight, but this often works in Washington’s favor, because it gives him room to stretch, and contributes to a loose, joyous atmosphere that tugs insistently against the album’s often flat production. Leadoff track “I’ll Be Good” (download) is a fine example: It’s lyrically lazy and musically uninspired, but Washington sells the hell out of it, turning what could have been a rote workout into a charming, horn-frosted soul side.
The rest of the album follows much the same path. It’s a really enjoyable listen, as long as you aren’t waiting for Washington to work up a sweat; he sounds like he’s having fun, and that’s more than enough to carry the day. Some of the outside material is suspect â€” chiefly “Skin Tight,” cowritten by Mrs. David Cassidy (A.K.A. Sue Shifrin) and former My Two Dads star/Cinemax mainstay Greg Evigan â€” but none of it is offensive; in fact, there really isn’t a bad song here. Washington’s own “Girl I Wanna Dance With You” (download) and “Share Your Love” (download) are standouts, along with a cover of Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Nothing Left to Be Desired” (download), and even though the title track (download) edges perilously close to Quiet Storm territory, it’s too pretty for that to matter.
The real shame here is that Washington’s label â€” in this case, Pointblank, a blues-oriented subset of Charisma, itself a Virgin imprint â€” didn’t stick by him. Pointblank released a lot of stuff in ’91, and none of it sold a whole bunch (with the possible exception of John Lee Hooker’s excellent Mr. Lucky), so options were bound to be left on the boardroom floor, but Washington deserved the opportunity to cut another album or four for the label. Get this one used, and make sure you see him play live if you ever get the chance.