Jerry Butler, the Ice Man, slipped into a solo career 25 years years ago by a billing accident. "For Your Precious Love" was recorded by his group, the Impressions, but when the record came out, it was credited to "Jerry Butler and the Impressions." When it took off, so did Butler, but he stayed close enough to the group and its main writer, Curtis Mayfield, not only to have a parcel of hits but also to qualify for the Silver Anniversary tour coming into Consitution Hall on Saturday.
Butler is a classic rhythm'n'blues singer; the suave delivery of songs of love and heartache has been the core of his long solo career. "Ice'n Hot," his latest album, is predictably strongest on ballads and such medium-tempo tunes as "Don't Be Afraid (To Show How You Feel)," "No Love Without Changes" and "No Fair (Falling in Love)." On these cuts, Butler's sensual virility is smooth and sultry, encased in tight and fairly traditional arrangements (rolling bass, strings, subtle backing vocals) tinged with a hint of modernism (mostly the synthesizer accents).
"Ask Me (What You Want)" and "Night Life (in the City)" -- Butler is big on parentheses -- are light-funk workouts that point up the album's only shortcomings: a tendency to recycle cliches in the lyrics and a habit of stretching a song past credibility. Still, it's the package that's diluted, not the man who delivers it. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM JERRY BUTLER -- Ice'n Hot (Fountain FR 2-82-1). THE SHOW BUTLER, MAYFIELD & THE IMPRESSIONS, Saturday at 8 at Constitution Hall.