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‘Rebirth of Soul’ review: Syleena Johnson’s tribute to her dad

Syleena Johnson's

Syleena Johnson's "Rebirth of Soul." Credit: Shanachie

SYLEENA JOHNSON

“Rebirth of Soul”

BOTTOM LINE Bridging generations with her love of soul music.

When Syleena Johnson decided to make an old-school soul album, she didn’t have to look far for the perfect collaborator, her dad.

Syl Johnson is a blues and soul singer, best known for his work in the ’60s where he sang about the underlying issues of the civil rights movement. His influence is seen throughout Syleena’s new album, “Rebirth of Soul” (Shanachie), especially in the production and arrangements that make it sound like an undiscovered record from the ’70s.

It should be no surprise that Syleena does the most with her dad’s 1969 hit “Is It Because I’m Black?” While Syl’s version is poignant and pointedly accusatory, Syleena’s version is defiant, even challenging when she sings, “Something is holding me back. Is it because I’m black?”

She also holds her own as she tackles Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” and Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind,” using her R&B skills to give them both a tougher feel, while letting loose a bit more on Jackie Wilson’s “Lonely Teardrops.”

With “Rebirth of Soul,” Syleena Johnson sets herself apart from her R&B contemporaries by tapping into the soul that her dad helped create.

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