Mono Mondays: Percy Sledge, When a Man Loves a Woman
This week’s Mono Monday release is the debut album from an R&B belter who effectively made his entire career possible with the first song he recorded for his first full-length album, which – given that the album in question was initially released 48 years ago – is a pretty impressive accomplishment by anyone’s standards.
Percy Sledge’s story is one of those that you’d write off as fiction if you didn’t know it was true: he was working as an orderly in an Alabama hospital during the week, touring the southeast with a group called the Esquires Combo on Saturdays and Sundays, when a former patient introduced Sledge to record producer Quin Ivy, which led to an audition and a recording contract with Atlantic Records. The next thing you know, Sledge is in the studio, recording “When a Man Loves a Woman,” crooning along with Spooner Oldham’s unforgettable organ playing behind him.
The remainder of the When a Man Loves a Woman album is pretty unforgettable in its own right, with such other memorable numbers as “Put a Little Lovin’ on Me” and “You’re Pouring Water on a Drowning Man,” the similarly organ-driven “When She Touches Me (Nothing Else Matters),” and a couple of great Dan Penn tunes: “You Fooled Me” and “Success.” Yes, it’s hard to top that opening track…like, to the point where it’s not impossible that you could spin the album and still walk away thinking that it simply doesn’t get any better than “When a Man Loves a Woman.” But if the only Percy Sledge album you’ve ever owned is one of his many best-of compilations, then this is the best of all possible Sledge studio efforts to start with.