Bobby Womack – The Poet – ABKCO Records 8789-1 (1981/2021) 180-gram stereo vinyl, 39:38 ****1/2:
(Bobby Womack – guitar, vocals; David T. Walker – guitar; David Shields – bass; Nathan East – bass; James Gadson – drums; Paulinho da Costa – percussion; Eddie Bongo Brown – percussion; Patrick Moten – keyboards; Dale Rsmsey – keyboards Dorothy Ashby – harp; Curtis Womack, Cecil Womack, Friendly Womack, Fernando Harkless – background vocals; Tondalei, Sally Womack, Vincent Womack, Regina Womack – handclaps)
Side One: So Many Sides Of You; Lay Your Lovin’ On Me; Secrets; Just My Imagination; Stand Up
Side Two: Games; If You Think You’re Lonely Now; Where Do We Go From Here
Bobby Womack – The Poet II – ABKCO Records 8790-1 (1984/2021) 180-gram stereo vinyl, 39:52 ****1/2:
(Bobby Womack – guitar, vocals, arrangements; Patti LaBelle – vocals; George Benson – guitar; David T. Walker – guitar; Courtney Sappington – guitar; Robert Palmer – guitar; Fred Johnson – DMX electric drums; James E. Gadson – drums; Paulinho da Costa – percussion; Daniel Shields – bass; Michael Wycoff – keyboards; Denzil “Broadway” Miller – synthesizers; Rusty Hamilton – synthesizers, harmonica; Dorothy Ashby – harp; Kathy Blossom Valentinos, Friendly Womack, Curtis Womack, Cecil Womack, Regina Womack – background vocals; Wilton Felder, Fred Wesley, Thurmon Green, Harry Kim, Sidney Mulgrow, Fernando Harkless – horns; Dave Bloomberg – string arrangements.
Side One: Love Has Finally Come At Last; It Takes A Lot Of Strength To Say Goodbye; Through The Eyes Of A Child; Surprise Surprise; Tryin’ To Get Over You
Side Two: Tell Me Why; Who’s Foolin’ Who; I Wish I Had Someone To Go Home To; American Dream
Despite his Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame credentials, Bobby Womack remained a minor success. In addition to penning songs for rock groups like The Rolling Stones (“It’s All Over Now”), Janis Joplin (“Trust Me”) and doing guitar work in sessions for Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Sly & The Family Stone and Jerry Butler, he never crossed over to mainstream success. As a soul artist, Womack scored hits with “Lookin’ For A Love”, “That’s The Way I Feel About ‘Cha”, “Woman Gotta Have It’ and “Across 110th Street”. It is widely believed that his controversial personal life was a significant impediment to his legacy. ABKCO Records has released two re-mastered 180-gram vinyls (Poet, Poet II) of Bobby Womack original solo material. Here, the listener can experience the sensual grooves of this singer. The Poet opens with hook-filled riffs and studio polish on “So Many Sides Of You”. His growling vocals are framed by smooth backup vocals (courtesy of the Womack family).The early 1980’s disco influence permeates “Lay Your Lovin’ On Me”. In the hands of other singers, the slick arrangements would overpower the vocals, but not with Womack. The depth of feeling is reflected by his unique voice. Much has been made of the singer’s non-musical history, and “Secrets” (with the familiar tempo) attempts to delve into this. His emotive range is reminiscent of Marvin Gaye, but not derivative. The underlying sexuality is always there. In a mellower transition, Womack invokes loss of a friend on “Just My Imagination”. When the instrumentals are over-involved (“Stand Up”), The Poet is not as resonant. His philosophical musing is featured on “Games”. A great sax adds texture to this arrangement. “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” showcases the raw charisma of this performer. Slow funky and romantic wraps things up on “Where Do We Go From Here”.
The soul extravaganza continues on Poet II. The inclusion of the inimitable Patti LaBelle is a nice bonus. On the hypnotic “Love Has Finally Come At Last”, the pair of legends bring soulful essence to ultimate heights with their vocal skills. Their chemistry is palpable on the slow-burning “It Takes A Lot Of Strength To Say Goodbye”. LaBelle’s second verse singing is rousing and the chorus exchanges are brilliant. On “Through The Eyes Of A Child”, both singers capture the visceral influence of soul. George Benson’s guitar is icing on the cake. Womack adopts a relaxed playful vibe on “Surprise, Surprise”. Instrumental hooks are an integral part of his songs and “Tryin’ To Get Over You” is catchy with assorted “dance-era” riffs. Awash in synthesizers, “Tell Me Why” is guaranteed to start a dance party. And the party moves along seamlessly with the house funk of “Who’s Foolin’ Who”. Linda Womack (widow of Sam Cooke and a part of the Womack personal story) co-wrote the closing-time ballad of loneliness, “I Wish I Had Someone To Go Home To”. Here, Womack’s taps into the deep-rooted pain with a near-gospel fervor (including falsetto). Turning to a political message, “American Dream” utilizes fragments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr speeches. to express an aspirational view of the country. In Womack’s vision, love will prevail over troubled times.
ABKCO Records has done an outstanding job in re-mastering The Poet and The Poet II to 180-gram vinyl. The overall mix is lush and balanced. Womack’s fierce vocals are centered and vibrant. This is 1980’s studio production at its finest.
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