Bobby Womack is understood to me today as being an enormous soul survivor. Both literally and figuratively. This Cleveland Ohio native came up in the same state would produce so many funk luminaries in the 1970’s. Particularly in Dayton. He started in his family gospel band The Womack Brothers,which included his famous brother Cecil. Once they were discovered by Sam Cooke and became his backup band,Sam changed their name to the Valentinos. He bought them to LA with him,and re-focused them from gospel toward pop flavored soul. Following Sam Cooke’s death,Womack worked as a session musician for Ray Charles for the next four years-having disbanded the Valentinos.
Having worked at Chip Moman’s American Sound Studios,famous for launch the late 60’s comeback of Elvis Presley,Womack found himself doing session work for Aretha Franklin on her major 60’s breakout albums. During this time Womack began to work on a solo album of his own. The rhythm section involved on his debut were bassist Mike Leech,organist Bobby Emmons,drummer Gene Chrisman,pianist Bobby Woods and a fellow guitar player in Reggie Young. His solo debut was the 1967 release Fly Me To The Moon. It’s title song was a doo-wop styled version of the Frank Sinatra hit. The song that moves me most off this album however was called “Lillie Mae”.
The song is heavy on the rhythm. The drum is playing a fast shuffle with the rhythm guitar chugging away with equal rhythmic energy. On each chorus and refrain,the horn section either burst out or sustain themselves melodically-depending on the chords of the given part of the song. On the refrain the organ comes in,again playing a very strong sustain. On the end of the songs second refrain,the organ transitions into the chorus with a big,up scaling psychedelic explosion of sound. The song concludes with the refrain of the song repeating as it fades out-having the organ play hi hat like percussive accents on the very last moments of it.
My very first reaction to hearing this song was that it sounded very similar to Elvis’s song “A Little Less Conversation”. That isn’t at all surprising as that was also recorded with Chip Moman’s production. And came out the same year as this. As it stands,this song is a quick tempo’d example at countrified funky soul at it’s finest. The guitar very much picks up on JB’s use of the instrument at the time as a fully involved rhythmic element to the drums in the song. It also includes the instrumental sustains used on Memphis/Stax soul records at the time. So right at the very time the funk was getting ready to burst out into a genre all it’s own,Bobby Womack was playing his part in the entire funk process.
Filed under 1960's, Bobby Womack, Cecil Womack, Chip Moman, country/soul, Elvis Presley, funky soul, guitar, Sam Cooke, The Valentinoes, Uncategorized
“Welcome to a new weekly segment of my own here on Andresmusictalk! For the first posting of this particular segment, I wanted to offer some clarification on why this exists. My blogging partner Henrique Hopkins suggested to me that because my music reviews on Amazon.com give such a well rounded and detailed take on different musical albums,it would be a good idea to post them here in a blog format to bring extra attention to them. Not only did I feel this is a good idea to help inspire other Amazon reviewers to give themselves permission to give more well rounded discourse in their reviews,but will also give me a chance to showcase new music in that funk,soul and jazz vein that is making significant contributions to creative and cultural futurism. This blog will generally appear every Saturday-perhaps a New Music Tuesday edition might appear on Wednesday’s on occasion. Anyhow enjoy this new feature. Thank you!”
It was only a couple of weeks ago that I discovered Aloe Blacc’s previous album to this Good Things on sale at Bull Moose,the local record store in my neck of the woods. Wondered why an album already several years old would’ve been on sale at this particular point. When I looked up the Orange County native with the apparently Panamanian back round,I discovered an unusually multi talented artist. Unusual in the sense that,aside from being a singer/songwriter and pianist but also a trumpet player. Quite unusual to hear of anyone today in the soul/funk spectrum who would be able to recognize that two seemingly disparate sounding musical instruments would both contribute nicely to a one-man band rhythm section. Not only that but before his current signing to Interscope Records,Blacc was involved in a musical collective strongly pushing pro immigration causes. That humanistic element really got my ears braced for what I’d hear when I listened to this album.
“The Man” starts out the album,a wonderfully dynamic wall of sound type soul type anthem of empowerment that brings to mind a contemporary black man’s interpretation of the E-Street Band style arena rock ‘n soul sound-filled with gospel infused spirit and energy. This musical concept returns with even stronger results on “Here Today”. The Pharrell Williams produced “Love Is The Answer” is my personal favorite here-a cleanly played and lean bass/guitar driven dance/funk arrangement that pleads eloquently for caring over cynicism in today’s world with Blacc’s deep and bluesy Gil Scott-Heron like vocal style and phrasing. Though not produced by Pharrell “Can You Do This” evokes a Dap-Tone-like 60’s soul/funk tone similar to what Pharrell is currently doing on some of his songs. A version of his older song “Wake Me Up” is presented here in an acoustic country/folk style. “Chasing” evokes the reverb heavy uptempo gospel inspired Sam Cooke style late 50’s soul while the cinematic “The Hand Is Quicker” and to even more effect “The Hand Is Quicker” have a very deep Southern blues inflected gospel attitude. The album closes with the Memphis style country soul ballad of “Red Velvet Seat” and the almost Philly/Chicago style “sweet funk” groove of the grateful and passionate “Owe It All”.
Overall this is one of the most unconventional and far reaching albums I’ve heard made by a young black man in the new millennium. None of the music here is at all devoted to patronizing anything at all involving contemporary electronic hip-hop/dance style productions that dominates the soul/funk/R&B world of today still. Therefore it is not neo soul either. Nor is it a purely nostalgic retro project of any kind. This is a powerful and diverse album that manages to utilize completely modern musical production techniques and digital sound as a means of communicating what,for all intents and purposes,is something based entirely of the music of the deep Southern funk,soul and especially hard acoustic folksy blues flavors. Most importantly,he utilizes this soulfully rooted instrumental platform as a means to express a number of important lyrical messages-ranging from empowerment to the every changing moods within the ongoing battle of the sexes. His lyrical and melodic construction of his songwriting is strongly indicative of someone who realizes that a modern black male artist can possibly begin to innovate in the soul/funk spectrum without totally embracing the most juvenile elements of the mass market variant of hip-hop. And if this album is any indication,this is definitely an artist that admirers of rootsy soul/funk/blues/jazz will want to keep an eye on in the future!
-Originally written on March 11th,2014