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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bobby Womack: My Prescription


1) How I Miss You Baby; 2) More Than I Can Stand; 3) It's Gonna Rain; 4) Everyone's Gone To The Moon; 5) I Can't Take It Like A Man; 6) I Left My Heart In San Francisco; 7) Arkansas State Prison; 8) I'm Gonna Forget About You; 9) Don't Look Back; 10) Tried And Convicted; 11) Thank You.

Pretty much the exact same formula here as on Fly Me To The Moon — not particularly sur­prising, seeing as how it was produced by the same producer, released on the same record label, and probably (I am not completely sure here) played by the same backing band, while the songs, evenly divided between covers and originals, cover the same soul/funk territory and work the same kinds of grooves. Thus, although the lead single, ʽHow I Miss You Babyʼ, fared decently on the R&B charts, on the whole, all three singles and the LP in general sold significantly less than Fly Me To The Moon — in 1969, I guess even R&B audiences expected innovation, and Bobby was much less interested in innovating here than in «solidifying».

But in retrospect, My Prescription holds up just as proudly as its predecessor. It is difficult to praise these tunes to high heaven, yet, on the other hand, it is just as hard to find any problems with them. I mean, if you just want to write a soulful song about missing your baby and you have no other ambitions, ʽHow I Miss You Babyʼ will show you the right way to sew together electric guitars, organs, brass, strings, and a yearning wail — nothing exceptional about it, just setting a humble goal and fulfilling it 100%. The same applies to everything else.

If there is one thing about these songs that makes them stand out, it is Bobby's own guitar parts: as a confident player believing in the importance of his instrument, he makes sure that the guitar is always heard loud and clear and never gets lost behind the fanfares. Considering also that the bass parts for the songs are consistently inventive, I wouldn't actually mind hearing ʽMore Than I Can Standʼ, ʽIt's Gonna Rainʼ and the other songs without that many overdubs — Bobby's funky riffs and the fretboard-roaming basslines create enough excitement between each other.

On the arranging front, Womack continues the practice of reinventing classics, turning ʽI Left My Heart In San Franciscoʼ into a charmingly tight slice of fast-groovin' funk-pop with jazzy over­tones à la George Benson (with whom Bobby spent some time working earlier that year), while his mentor Sam Cooke's ʽI'm Gonna Forget About Youʼ is, on the contrary, slowed down and turned into something that does not bear the slightest resemblance to the original — the original was «decisive, but melancholic», whereas Bobby throws in some wound-up righteous anger, playing the ball-of-fire to Sam's wall-of-ice. He is being more merciful to Jonathan King's starry-eyed, sentimentally-ironic pop hit ʽEveryone's Gone To The Moonʼ, keeping both the sentimen­tality and the irony, but substituting Southern soul for Britsy folk-pop, and the substitution works without a hitch, probably even better this time than on ʽCalifornia Dreamin'ʼ.

Ultimately, though, the album's one highlight probably got to be ʽArkansas State Prisonʼ, an ori­ginal in every sense of the word — the way Bobby integrates bluesy slide guitar licks and strange, deeply mixed, ominously atmospheric blasts of strings worthy of a Paul Buckmaster into an ove­rall R&B arrangement shows that the man was perfectly capable of pushing forward boundaries if he really put his mind to it. The lyrics, a daring tale of a prison break, were quite edgy for their time, too, but it is the musical meld that still holds up in an interesting way, not the social mes­sage. If Sam Cooke was first and foremost a wizard of vocal melodies, then Bobby was a master of guitar/voice grooves, but both of them saw their primary mission as entertainment, not solu­tion of the world's problems, although that, too, could occupy their minds from time to time. Anyway, My Prescription on the whole is not there to save the universe, but to give you a bit of a good time, and for that, it earns its thumbs up without any problems.

Check "My Prescription" (CD) on Amazon

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