It’s difficult to start a review of any Andre Williams release without referencing the incredible survival story the man went through. Williams started his career with a top ten single in 1956 (“Bacon Fat”) before finding success behind the scenes as a writer/producer/performer for Chess, Motown, Duke and Peacock records (including co-writing “Shake a Tail Feather”). This is a man who’s rubbed shoulders with Barry Gordy, Stevie Wonder, B.B. King and other notable dignitaries, but when he was asked to produce an album for Ike Turner in the early 70s, things took an unfortunate turn for the worst. Ike’s cocaine addition was bad enough that even those within close proximity could develop a habit and when Andre returned home after an eighteen month stint with Mr. Turner, he arrived with a nasty addiction himself.
By the 80s, his coke habit was bad enough to force him into a career of begging on the streets of Chicago, leaving his prior accomplishments as nothing more than a distant memory.
By the mid-90s, Andre got his demons under enough control to make a return to music. Since then, he’s managed to release more albums than he did in his first 30 years of performing. Curiously, most of these releases featured Williams paired with a veritable “who’s who” of garage rock young’ens, supporting him as he examined his inner naughty with titles like “Pussy Stank,” “Looking Down At You, Looking Up At Me,” and “Whip The Booty.” This phase surely brought a smile to Redd Foxx, the man that gave him the nickname “Mr. Rhythm,” but for most, it probably brought a collective “Eeww!” as the product of a dirty old man finding his muse again, with a little help from Viagra.
Aphrodisiac, thankfully, tones down the sexy and tries to bring back the groove. To help achieve this, Williams teams up with The Diplomats of Solid Sound, a collective of Iowa music veterans with a penchant for Booker T & The MG-styled rhythm and blues. The results are what you would expect from a band of white guys from Iowa that have a Hammond Organ at their disposal.
The laid-back soul provides Andre with an opportunity to get a little lazy himself. From the ridiculous “I Don’t Need Mary (Juana)” to a misguided Diplomats-penned rap “Uptown Hustle,” Aphrodisiac sounds like more time was spent on developing the idea of this release than on the actual songs; it clocks in at under thirty minutes and that includes an uninspired instrumental.
Andre’s always had a fairly limited vocal range, adapting a sing/speak style that would actually benefit from his recent soul foray. But until he can muster the necessary passion required for writing top notch soul songs and pair them with a credible band to sell them, it sounds like Williams is content with resting on his movie script history and coasting through his late-period redemption.