After cutting a series of singles for the Galaxy and Fantasy labels between 1960 and 1973, including the 1967 Bay Area R&B and pop smash "She's Looking Good" (successfully covered the following year by Wilson Pickett) and the cult classic "Foxy Girls in Oakland," Texas-born, San Francisco-bred singer-songwriter Rodger Collins retired from recording and performing. He did issue one little-noticed hip-hop single in 1987 but otherwise focused on writing tunes, under his Muslim name Hajji Sabrie, for such artists as Buddy Ace, Charles Brown, and Sugar Pie DeSanto. Now, 48 years after making his first record, the Oakland resident has issued his debut CD.
It seems he'd been working in the studio all along during his hiatus, as Through My Eyes contains a killer version of "Mystery Train" featuring guitar solos by Jerry Garcia (who died in 1995) and piano by the recently deceased Merl Saunders. The other dozen songs were written or co-written by the singer and employ a variety of musicians. Drum machines, though imaginatively programmed, fuel many of the tracks, and bluesman Guitar Shorty turns up on three. "Introducing a new musical genre," the booklet cover boldly proclaims. Although an overstatement, Collins' music has always been different — he had, after all, begun his career in the '50s as a teenage black Elvis impersonator on a local country-and-western TV show — and his current sound incorporates elements of rockabilly, blues, soul, country, jazz, and hip-hop.
Collins scats and even yodels on several numbers. Besides "Mystery Train," the program includes three other blues, one featuring the late Oakland pianist Ed Kelly, but Collins is most inventive vocally when playfully riding the syncopated funk grooves of tunes like "In My Wildest Dream" and a remake of "She's Looking Good." (Garden Tree Media)
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