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It certainly has been a long time coming but September 22, 2017 will finally see the release of Get What You Deserve, the mesmerizing new album from legendary vocalist Sweet Pea Atkinson. A jovial blend of Blues, R&B, Soul, Funk and more, Get What You Deserve will be released on Blue Note Records.
Get What You Deserve includes seven tracks produced by the great modern bluesman Keb’ Mo’ and three produced by Don Was. It was Was who signed Atkinson to a label deal, in the veteran producer’s still fairly fresh capacity as chief of Blue Note. “It’s not hyperbolic for me to tell you that one of the great honors of my life has been to work with Sweet Pea,” says Was. “One of the beautiful things about being the president of Blue Note Records is that you can give a nod to something that just touches you deeply inside-even if it flies in the face of fashion.” But, Was adds, “it was Keb’ Mo’ who really dug in with Sweet Pea and turned that nod into something brilliant.”
The real featured guests on the album are ghosts, though: all the funk, soul, blues, and R&B greats to whom Atkinson is paying implicit homage, if hardly emulating. “I love blues — Johnnie Taylor and Johnny Guitar Watson and Bobby Blue Bland,” he says. This album’s “Last Two Dollars” is a song Taylor recorded late in his life, in 1996. Far better known is Bland’s 1974 hit “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City.” Then there’s the smoother influence from Motown and other purveyors of the vocal group sound. “I’m a singer like Paul Williams of the Temptations and Marvin Junior of the Dells,” Atkinson says, assessing his own niche as a vocalist. “When Paul Williams came along and started singing ‘Don’t Look Back’ and ‘Just Another Lonely Night’” — the latter a 1965 smash to which Atkinson brings new life on this album — “that’s when I said, ‘I want to sing like them.’ And when Marvin Junior did ‘Stay in My Corner,’ man, I ain’t heard nobody sing a song like that before in my life. That man can hold a note for so long, I go, ‘Damn, breathe, man!’ Marvin Junior, it’s hard to sing like. Paul Williams is a little easier.”
While Keb’ Mo’ did all the initial production for the album, Was wrapped it up by getting Atkinson to sing two Freddie Scott hits, “Are You Lonely for Me Baby” (which was also a hit in the ‘60s as a duet by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas) and “Am I Grooving You.” The producer was inspired by driving around with Keith Richards and hearing his tape of Scott songs, the latter of which was covered in the ‘70s on a Ron Wood solo album that Richards played on. Was had his reasons for steering Atkinson in this direction. “Keb’ Mo’ did an amazing job of manifesting Sweet Pea’s vision,” says Was. “and Sweet Pea envisions himself as a lover and a soul crooner…which is all well and good!” he laughs. “But I think part of his greatness is as a belter, so we just cut a couple more songs to really show off that side. His voice is so unique – you don’t have to AutoTune Sweet Pea, and there’s really no point in punching in words here and there. He’s never going to sing it the same way twice, ever. There’s nobody else around like him.”