The album I am going to review in this article is by Bobby Womack’s 1984 album The Poet II. The Poet II was the follow up The Poet, which was Womack’s comeback album, which featured a top 10 R&B hit If You Think You’re Lonely Now. Before the release of The Poet Bobby Womack  had been down on his luck. In 1976, his record label United Artists dropped him from their roster, and to make matters worse, he fell out of favor with his traditional R&B fanbase. 

However, this was just the latest problem that Bobby Womack had faced in his musical career. Womack was born in 1944 and started his musical career in his family group The Womack Brothers with his brothers Friendly Jr, Curtis,  Harry and Cecil touring the gospel circuit. The Womack Brothers were following in their father’s footsteps. However, an encounter with Sam Cooke saw The Womack Brothers sign to Cooke’s own label SAR Records and renamed The Valentinos and began a career in secular music, turning their back on the less lucrative gospel circuit. The Valentinos had chart success with the song Lookin’ For A Love and It’s All Over Now. Bobby Womack wrote It’s All Over Now, and he was fortunate that The Rolling Stones went on to record the track, and it reached number one in the UK charts. All went well with The Valentinos until Cooke’s untimely death. After Cooke died, they moved to Chess Records and recorded for them, but ultimately The Valentinos career ground to halt and they split up.

After The Valentinos split, Womack became a session musician, working with various artists, including Joe Tex, Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin and George Benson. Solo success alluded Womack until 1968, when he recorded It’s Gonna Rain and More Than I Can Stand. However, Womack was writing songs for other artists successfully at that time including Wilson Pickett. 

Womack signed to Minit Records in 1968, where he released Fly Me To the Moon, It’s Gonna Rain and More Than I Can Stand. It was when Womack joined United Artists in 1971 that his career started to take off. His first album on Unite Artists was Communication, and the track That’s the Way I Feel About Cha gave Womack his first top forty single in the US. His follow up album Understanding, featured one of Bobby Womack’s best known songs, Harry Hippie. The song Harry Hippie was based on Womack’s brother and went on to sell over one million copies, gaining him a gold disc. Understanding also featured A Woman’s Gotta Have It, which gave Womack his first number one R&B hit.

In 1974, Womack re-released The Valentinos song Lookin’ For A Love, and it became a top ten hit in the US. Up until he was released by United Artists in 1976, Womack continued to released singles and albums. However, tastes change, and possibly, Womack’s sound failed to evolve with musical tastes, and he suddenly found himself without a record contract, until the release of 1981’s The Poet.

On Womack’s 1984 album The Poet II there are only nine tracks on the album. The first track is Love Has Finally Come At Last, and on this track Patti Labelle is a guest vocalist. This track has a gentle start, with Labelle gently singing, then in comes Bobby Womack, shortly to be joined again by Labelle, this time singing louder, her voice going into a call and response with Womack. This is a song about finding love after a long time looking for it, and Womack and Labelle are a great match, their voices compliment each other’s, both have a great vocal range, and really do the song justice. However, it would be unfair not to mention Fernando Harkless’ stunning saxophone solo on this track. Overall this is a great way to start the album.

The second track, It Takes A Lot of Strength To Say Goodbye, sees Womack singing a slow song, one with lyrics that have a strong narrative. Womack sings this song well, and after about a minute, the backing vocalists, sing softly, complimenting vocals gentle vocal. Shortly afterwards, Patti Labelle joins Womack, and she goes on to almost steal the show. Her vocal is loud and strong, and she sings the song with passion and feeling. Labelle’s vocal almost overpowers Womack’s, and she sings above him, almost taking the lead vocal on the track, yet this does not detract from the track.

Through the Eyes Of A Child starts with a piano and bass, then Womack half speak and half sings the introduction. Then he goes on to sing some wonderful lyrics. On this track he is accompanied by a crack band of musicians and backing vocalists. The backing vocalists include The Valentinos, Patti Labelle and The Waters. Together, they make this a great track with, joyous and hopeful lyrics and  a wonderful soulful sound.

The next track Surprise, Surprise to me, reminds me of vintage Bobby Womack. This track could have come from one of early albums, Communication or Understanding. Surprise, Surprise has a totally different sound and feel to the three previous songs. It is a slower track, with less going on. There are no big vocal solos on this track. For example, Labelle’s vocal is not present on this track. Here, Womack sings slowly, the musicians play much quieter and this works well. This is the best of the four opening track. Maybe this is because I enjoy Womack’s older stuff so much.

Tryin’ To Get Over You sees Bobby Womack ups the pace in this track. This is one of the best tracks on the album. Once again, this track sees Womack show a return to his previous best. He seems to find a confidence on this track that was lacking in the first two tracks. Maybe that is why Labelle plays such a big part on these tracks. This track though, is vintage Womack, here he rolls back the years, and it is like 1972 again.

On the next track Tell Me Why, the track begins with a long instrumental introduction. Once the track gets going, Womack sings the lyrics well, his band perform this quicker track with aplomb and the backing vocalists compliment Womack and his band well. Overall, I like this track, it is a “feel-good track”, one that would be good on the dance-floor, and when you hear it, it immediately makes you want to dance.

Who’s Fooling Who is another track with a funky feel to it. The tempo is quicker than on previous tracks. On Who’s Fooling Who, the lyrics are worth listening carefully to, as they tell a story, and have an element of humor in them. This is a good track, but once again some of the sounds on the track have not dated well. However, Womack’s vocal, the band’s performance and the glorious backing vocals are the good points of the track.

The penultimate track on The Poet II, is I Wish I Had Someone To Go Home To. The track has a spoken introduction, with Womack raspy voice adding impact. Once the track gets going Womack sings some lovely lyrics beautifully. This is easily the best song on this album. Once again, there are elements of Womack’s earlier work on this track, and it is songs like this that he sings best. 

The final track is American Dream. The track begins with a sample from the famous “I Have A Dream” speech by Dr Martin Luther King, and then Womack goes on to sing some meaningful and thoughtful lyrics. At the time this record was released, the use of a spoken word sample was quite a new and brave thing to do. In my opinion the use of the sample at the start and end of the song make this track. If the sample was not used, this track would not be as good as it is.

That is the story of Bobby Womack’s 1984 album The Poet II. This is an album that I have enjoyed listening to since its release, and even though some of the sounds on  a couple of tracks sound somewhat it still sounds good twenty-seven years on. In my opinion this is an album that is worth buying, there are some great tracks on it, and the album features some great singing by Womack, super musicians and stunning backing vocals. The standard of songwriting on the album is good too. However, if you do buy this album I am sure that this will be just the first of many Bobby Womack album’s you will go on to buy, and I can tell you this, you will have plenty of other great albums to choose from. Standout Tracks: Love Has Finally Come At Last, Surprise, Surprise and Tryin’ To Get Over You.


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