Hank Crawford

Low Flame High Heat

by Ben Varkentine


So much, you see, depends on when you listen. I went to a Christmas party last night, for my “day job”, which is actually usually a night job, but in any case: the job I have to do because writing does not yet pay the bills.

The night passed like most parties do for me, a certain inability to really relax (not aided by the fact that, as I drink rarely and was driving home I remained, arguably, the soberest person there), an odd longing glance at three or four cute girls, the mental leash that too often keeps us from doing or saying the things we wish we could. So this shouldn’t be a total sob story, there was also laughter and professions of friendship, always appreciated. But I left and got home, as parties often leave me, strangely depressed.

cover art

Hank Crawford

Low Flame High Heat

(Label M)

Hank Crawford’s Low Flame High Heat compilation was a fine album to listen to the next morning. I had found Crawford’s sound a little too harsh the first three or so times I’d listened to it; but I’d not yet found the groove I needed to write about it. But in that post-party mood, the ballads and blues made good sense. Alto saxophonist Crawford, who was a backing musician for B.B. King and did horn arrangements for Ray Charles, has the sound of a sympathetic friend, smiling at you after you have told him something that you would rather have told no one else, and that perhaps elicited a few tears in the telling. on these songs from the 1960s. Classic players like David “Fathead” Newman join him, playing in close, warm formations under Crawford’s solos. These don’t dance (don’t ask them), they tell the story. If Phil Spector’s trademark was a wall of sound, then I submit Crawford’s is a wall of emotion. Especially if you Don’t Get Around Much Anymore but you want to tell someone to Save Your Love For Me after Two Years Of Torture in the Danger Zone.

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