A life in the blues often means grinding out the same old shuffles and 12-bar ballads year after year, and many artists thrive in this milieu. But when the soulful singer Johnnie Taylor left the gospel of the Soul Stirrers for the secular music world he never stopped refining his sound to fit the times. In the '60s his singing had the virtuous sweetness of his mentor Sam Cooke, who produced Taylor's first lay releases. Taylor's 60's Stax Records are deep R&B; signed to Columbia in the 70's, he took to the dance music craze with the blues-ified "Disco Lady," which was a No.#1 hit on both the R&B and pop charts. The '80s and '90s found Taylor back at home with folks like Z. Z. Hill and Bobby Blue Bland, reviving the blues in the South with a smoother sound geared toward the aging blues audiences of the '60s. All of these phases are captured in the three-CD box set Johnnie Taylor Lifetime, a wonderful retrospective that illustrates how many hues can be shaded into the blues. From the testifying on "The Love of God" through the humorous R&B hit "Who's Making Love" all the way to a very contemporary take on how gambling has affected poor people, "Last Two Dollars," Taylor sings in the moment. His perspective is that of a black man married to his southern roots, for better or worse. This is perhaps why Taylor never made it as big as Al Green, Sam Cooke, or Otis Redding. He had the voice and charisma of these stars, but his commitment never wandered far from home. As Lifetime documents, this remarkably consistent singer spent four decades (mainly) on the fringes of the big time, but he was always deep in the hearts of his fans.