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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bobby Womack: Lookin' For A Love Again


1) Lookin' For A Love; 2) I Don't Wanna Be Hurt By Ya Love Again; 3) Doing It My Way; 4) Let It Hang Out; 5) Point Of No Return; 6) You're Welcome, Stop On By; 7) You're Messing Up A Good Thing; 8) Don't Let Me Down; 9) Copper Kettle; 10) There's One Thing That Beats Failing.

It is not exactly clear why Bobby decided to re-record his decade-old Valentinos hit, ʽLookin' For A Loveʼ, for the lead single off his new album, not to mention using its title for the entire LP. One might have easily taken this for a sign of stagnation — even despite the fact that Bobby did come up with a bunch of original compositions this time; none of them, apparently, could be re­garded as commercially viable, and indeed, while ʽLookin' For A Loveʼ still managed to hit No. 1 on the R&B charts, its follow-up, the «soft-funk» dance number ʽYou're Welcome, Stop On Byʼ, was a relative flop in comparison.

The essence of ʽLookin' For A Loveʼ, which used to be indeed one of the finest mergers of R&B and doo-wop in the early 1960s, is preserved quite caringly, but the arrangement has been up­graded to include an intrusive synthesizer lead that makes the revision as dated to its epoch as the original; so you have yourself a choice of preference here, depending on whether you prefer ge­neric Sixties production (crisp, but poorly-recorded sound) or generic Seventies (well-recorded, but somewhat sterile and stuffy in comparison). In any case, revisiting past successes is always a bad omen for the artist, and it does not help that the remaining nine songs all pale, one way or another, next to the opening vigorous punch of the title track.

Bobby still retains enough strength to come up with another unpredictable reinvention — this time, he is experimenting with the old folk standard ʽCopper Kettleʼ, but even though the new ar­rangement, envisaged as a lush blend of country and R&B, with a slow bass groove and slide guitars, is properly creative, it all ends up losing the song's original essence and turning it into just another soulful declaration of... well, whatever can be soulfully declared. Reinvention keeps the juices flowing alright, but everything has got to have reasonable limits: you can't do that much with yer basic campfire tune without depriving it of its basic sense (for an example of a reasonable reinvention, check out Dylan's version on Self Portrait).

Other than that, you've got your regular proto-disco dance fun (ʽLet It Hang Outʼ, with some fa­bulously ecstatic guitar soloing), your regular R&B ballads (ʽI Don't Wanna Be Hurt Againʼ), your regular slow soul-burning ballads (ʽDoing It My Wayʼ), and so on. As usual, it all sounds good, and Bobby's singing is formally impeccable, but there is a strong impression that he is not trying all that much, running on auto-pilot and milking that old «strong feeling» vibe instead of looking for interesting chord sequences or startling vocal flourishes. As a result, everything is even, smooth, and modestly classy, but the distinct lack of individual highlights means only one thing: the man is finally caught in a rut. Consequently, I cannot recommend this record for «fans of R&B» in general — only for fans of Bobby in particular, since, at the very least, there are no attempts here to change at the expense of his own identity.

Check "Lookin' For A Love Again" (CD) on Amazon

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