BOBBY WOMACK-THE POET.
BOBBY WOMACK-THE POET.
In a previous article I wrote about Bobby Womack, I mentioned how The Poet was a comeback album for him. Things had started to go wrong for him in 1976, when he was dropped by his record label United Artists. His music was no longer is popular, it had failed to keep up with the quick changing musical times. By now disco was popular, and Bobby’s unique brand of soul music wasn’t as popular. Even his loyal fans seemed to desert him. After being dropped by United Artists, his next two albums never even made the US Billboard 200. Pieces, released in 1977 stalled at number 205, and 1979’s Roads of Life at number 206. However, his luck would change in 1981. Recorded during 1980 and 1981, The Poet was released on Beverley Glen Records, and was produced by Bobby himself. When it was released, Bobby Womack was back in favor. His old fans loved the album, and a new generation of fans suddenly discovered one of the legends of soul music. The Poet reached number twenty-nine in the Billboard 200 and number one in the R&B charts. It was quite a change from 1976, when he was dropped by United Artists. Now previously, I wrote about the follow-up to The Poet, The Poet II, which is a great album, but today, I’m going to tell you about the album that relaunched a soul legend’s career, The Poet.
The Poet begins with So Many Sides of You which bursts into life with rhythm section, percussion and guitar combining quickly before Bobby sings. When he sings, his voice is loud, strong and at times, joyous. He’s accompanied by backing vocalists, who combine soulfully in unison. Later, a piano plays, while an electric guitar plays a solo, as Bobby hollers and roars his way through the track. It’s a passionate, charismatic performance from one of soul music’s survivors, made all the better by the addition of the backing vocalists and a really full, quick arrangement. This was a perfect track to open his comeback album.
Lay Your Lovin’ On Me is another quicker track, which begins with drums playing, then backing vocalists sing, accompanied by a piano which is played beautifully throughout the track. Then, Bobby enters, and goes on to produce one of his best vocals on the album. Strong yet melodic and joyous, but full of character and charisma he sings, often accompanied by the backing vocalists and handclaps. Behind him, there’s a really quick, funky and accurate bass line, guitars and drums combine. The arrangement is quick, full it’s is a great sounding track. Everyone sounds as if they’re having a great time. Bobby’s vocal is joyous and powerful vocal, and he’s accompanied by brilliant backing vocalists who help make this sound like one soulful party you wish you’d been at.
Bobby decides to slow things down with Secrets. It opens with the backing vocalists singing melodically, almost sweetly, accompanied by guitars, rhythm section and keyboards playing. After a lengthy introduction, Bobby sings, his voice soaring high, while behind him the bass plays some funky licks, accompanied by drums. Like the previous tracks, Bobby’s accompanied by the backing vocalists throughout the track. Later in the track, his voice veers between a stronger, growling style, to a looser, high soaring vocal. Regardless which style he uses, his voice is laden in emotion and feeling. Here the arrangement, is slower, a sprinkling of funk courtesy of the rhythm section, sweet, melodic backing vocals thanks to various Womacks, namely Friendly, Curtis, Cecil and Bobby Womack, assisted by The Waters. Together, with a powerful, charismatic vocal from Bobby, Secrets is another great sounding track.
Bobby wrote or cowrote nine of the songs on this album. One he wrote himself is Just My Imagination, which he sings much slower, yet with power and feeling. Drums, rhythm section, keyboards and a harp courtesy of jazz legend Dorothy Ashby opens the track. When Bobby sings, his voice is clear, strong and laden in emotion. Here, the lyrics seem to mean something to Bobby as he sings them. He’s looking back, thinking about his life, things that have happened, people he’s met, one lady in particular. While he’s singing, one of the best arrangements on The Poet emerges. This is thanks to a bass producing a tight funky sound, keyboards sweeping in and out of the track , drums keeping the time and some great guitar playing. It’s a great arrangement that’s melodic, full of rhythms, melodies and hooks. Combined with Bobby’s strong emotional vocal, Just My Imagination is easily one of album’s best tracks.
Stand Up is a very different sounding track, to anything that precedes it. It’s sounds as if Bobby Womack has decided to cross funk and disco, and this is the result. What emerges is a catchy and funky track. Drums, keyboards and bass, accompanied by handclaps open the track. After that, Bobby sings, his voice is higher, the tempo quicker. Meanwhile the arrangement, is funky, keyboards, drums and bass leading the track. Percussion and guitars then join in. This track sees the return of the backing vocalists as Bobby gives a charismatic, funky rendition of the lyrics complete with moans, howls and hollers. In the end it’s good track, very different to others on the album. However, as they say, “variety is the spice of life,” and here Bobby proves that perfectly.
After an excursion into nearly disco territory, Bobby decides to slow things way down, and do what he does best, give an emotional, dramtaic and soulful performance on Games. The track begins dramatically, with a piano playing and Bobby ad-libbing. After that, it’s a half-spoken introduction before he sings, and when he does, his voice is full of emotion, backed by a chiming guitar, drums and piano. His voice starts soft and slow, accompanied by the backing vocalists, who harmonize, sing beautifully, soulfully and melodically. Quickly, Bobby’s vocal strengthens, increases in power, and so does the emotion. His vocal soars high, occasionally turning into a growl, but sometimes he whoops and hollers. A saxophone accompanies him briefly, a piano then plays and the backing vocalists too, all adding to the already dramatic and emotionally charged arrangement. By the end of the track, it’s been like a masterclass in soul singing courtesy of Bobby. During the track, his vocal has been a mixture of emotional and powerful, charismatic and soulful, producing one of The Poet’s best track.
If You Think You’re Lonely Now sees Bobby “dedicate this song to all the lovers tonight,” before he goes on to sing about love and loneliness. Here, he doing something he does so well, singing a love song. Behind him guitars chime brightly, drums play dramatically and a piano plays. Bobby meanwhile, goes through his repertoire of vocal styles. One minute he sings softly, the next his voice is a mixture of strength and power, growls, grunts and hollers. He brings the lyrics to life, accompanied throughout, by backing vocalists who sing tight vocal harmonies, sweetly and melodically. The arrangement is a mixture of subtlety and drama, made all the better by some lovely, bright lovely guitar solo playing throughout the track. What makes this such a great track is Bobby’s beguiling and brilliant vocal and the performance of his baking vocalists.
The Poet closes with Where Do We Go From Here? This is another slower track, one with a good arrangement and brilliant performance from Bobby and his backing vocalists. It begins with a funky bass line, chiming guitars, drums and keyboards and a slow, dramatic and charismatic vocal from Bobby. His vocal is accompanied by the arrangement with a piano and guitars playing important parts. The backing vocalists play a huge part in the track’s success, uniting to sing sweet, tight harmonies that rise and fall beautifully. Bobby’s vocal then get stronger, and accompanied by funky bass, he lets loose his trademark growl, before returning to a much softer, restrained vocal style. He then veers between the two styles, all the while accompanied by soulful backing vocalists, whose voices unite in a gospel style. Meanwhile, Bobby slows things down, as if to get his point across, before heading to the finish dramatically, a mixture of soulfulness and rasping growls. As the track ends, you can only admire the passion, and emotion Bobby puts into the song. This was another great song, one brim full of passion and emotion, complete with a sympathetic arrangement and production courtesy of one of soul music’s survivors and legends, Bobby Womack.
In my article on Bobby Womack’s album The Poet II, I mentioned how good an album The Poet is, and having spent some time listening to it, I feel I must change my opinion. The Poet isn’t just a good album, it’s a great album, up there with some of Bobby’s best albums. It’s no wonder that this album was so successful, it features eight great songs, all sung by one of the legends of soul music with boundless amounts of passion and emotion. Each of these songs see Bobby singing as if his career depended upon it. In a way it did, because he’d been dropped by a major label, released two albums that didn’t even trouble the charts and his fans had deserted him. Thankfully, when The Poet was released, it was a huge success, and in the process, relaunched his career. His next album The Poet II saw him build on this success, and the return of Bobby Womack was complete. Both The Poet and The Poet II are great albums from the later period of Bobby’s career. If you’ve never heard them, or are unfamiliar with Bobby’s music, these are two great albums. Should you want to hear his earlier music, Midnight Mover, The Bobby Womack Collection, is a two disc set which features much of his early music. It features some fantastic music, and allows you to hear songs from many of his albums. Standout Tracks Lay Your Lovin’ On Me, Secrets, Just My Imagination and If You Think You’re Lonely Now.
BOBBY WOMACK-THE POET.