Johnnie Taylor/Clarence Carter/Latimore | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Johnnie Taylor/Clarence Carter/Latimore 

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JOHNNIE TAYLOR/CLARENCE CARTER/LATIMORE

Though you wouldn't know it from listening to Chicago radio, Johnnie Taylor's hit 1996 single, "Last Two Dollars" (Malaco), rejuvenated the soul-blues scene from here to Mississippi. A gambling blues rife with sly social commentary and slick synth backing, it also nodded to blues heritage with a few growls that harked back to Howlin' Wolf. Taylor's voice isn't as muscular as it was during his heyday in the 60s and 70s, but he remains a riveting performer, stalking the stage with sinewy grace and digging into his repertoire of over 30 years of blues, soul, and R & B hits with little regard for genre or generation. Opening this big show for him are Clarence Carter and Latimore, both worth showing up early for. Carter's career has taken him from the deep-soul testifying of "Slip Away" to the lugubrious backwoods bathos of "Patches," but these days he seems content as a jubilantly profane toastmaster, indulging in R-rated boasting that ranges from witty ("Strokin'") to a little forced ("I'm Not Just Good, I'm the Best"). His body language is stolid, to put it charitably, but his deep-chested baritone is one of the most expressive voices in modern blues. Latimore (or Benny Latimore to the detail oriented) has slipped a little in his recent output, suffering from unimaginative instrumentation and repetitive lyric themes: his 1996 hit, "Whoop That Thang on Me," sounded like a warm-over of half a dozen of his own boudoir anthems. But he still brings a pleading sensitivity to his machismo that's a welcome relief from the crudity favored by some of his contemporaries. It's been nearly four years since he's played Chicago, so although his sets don't tend to vary much--you can always count on a flamboyant, protracted version of his perennial showstopper, "Let's Straighten It Out"--even Latimore regulars ought to have room by now for another helping of his patented mix of sexual heat and sensitive-guy testimonials. Saturday, 7:30 and 11:30 PM, New Regal Theater, 1645 E. 79th; 773-721-9301 or 312-902-1500. DAVID WHITEIS

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Martin.

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