Deep Dive: Ben E. King, SEVEN LETTERS
It’s time to take a Deep Dive into the Rhino archives and spotlight an album that you may or may not have heard before, and in this instance, we’re taking a look at – and a listen to – an LP which was easily the most diverse collection of music released by Ben E. King up to that point in his career. Given that it came out in 1965, an era when many R&B artists tended to maintain a signature sound in order to maintain career longevity, it was definitely something special...so, of course, it completely failed to chart.
With production credited to Bert Berns, Jerry Wexler, Lieber and Stoller, and Ahmet Ertegun, plus engineering by the legendary Tom Dowd, you can’t say that SEVEN LETTERS didn’t have pretty much all of the powerhouses behind it. It’s got the string-laden tunes you’d expect from Ben E. King, but beyond that it features a pop ode to a place he’d visited in 1961 (“Jamaica”), a novelty tune (“Si, Senor”), and a number of just straight up soul numbers, including “I’m Standing By,” “In the Middle of the Night,” “It’s All Over,” “River of Tears,” and the title track.
There are those who call SEVEN LETTERS a piece of R&B perfection, and they are in no way wrong to do so, but it failed to catch the ears of radio listeners enough to result in more than a few minor pop hits and a #11 R&B single with the title track. If you’ve never heard the album, you’re missing out, and you should fix the situation right now. Just click play and fall in love.