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12 Nov 2016

Bobby Womack "Fly Me To The Moon" 1968 US Soul, Southern Soul






Bobby Womack  "Fly Me To The Moon" 1968 US Soul, Southern Soul
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1968’s Fly Me To The Moon was Womack’s first solo long-player, after a decade of forging a singular path as R&B morphed into soul music, first with the Sam Cooke-sponsored Valentinos, and subsequently as a songwriter and guitarist for the likes of Wilson Pickett. Indeed, the album features Womack’s version of Pickett’s ‘Midnight Mover,’ along with very groovy interpretations of 'California Dreamin’’ (a small hit at the time),’ 'Moonlight In Vermont,’ and the title cut. But it is the singers own superlative material - 'What Is This,’ 'Somebody Special,’ 'Take Me’ - that shines best on this fantastic debut, produced by the estimable Chips Moman at his American Studios facility in Memphis, utilizing one of the finest session crews in southern soul….. 

Bobby Womack, Sam Cooke’s protegé and successful singer/songwriter/guitarist in the Valentinos, went solo in 1968 and traveled down South… DEEP down South, to cut his first album for the New-Orleans based Minit Records - recording most of it in Chips Moman’s studio in Memphis. 

If one didn’t know any better, one would surely believe upon listening to this disc that Womack was signed to either Stax or FAME - it truly is THAT good and THAT Southern… 

Bobby had a penchant for turning even the schmaltziest of tunes into sweat-dripping, raw soul jams. Case in point is “Fly Me to the Moon”, a delicious, mid-tempo and horn-heavy take on the Tony Bennett classic. Womack’s raspy vocal and his inimitable guitar wizardry are spot on from track one… 

“Baby! You Oughta Think It Over” is pure, hard socking Southern Soul, featuring blaring horns, a sturdy, meaty beat and subdued, tasteful strings, while an interpretation of his own “Midnight Mover” is every bit as wild and feisty as Wilson Pickett’s hit version. 

Bobby’s first solo hit, however, would be “What Is This”, an amazing, fast paced, complex soul extravaganza that really puts the emphasis not only on Womack’s incredible, rough and powerful voice, but especially on his talent as a guitarist as well; the chord progressions are exhilarating. 

It’s the anguished ballad “Somebody Special” that knocked me out (five times) upon first listen. Bobby belts, wails, croons and soars on this sad, harrowing tale of unrequitted love. The haunting strings ad to the incredibly tense atmosphere. A masterpiece. 

“Take Me” straddles the middle ground, a fantastic, mid-tempo soul gem that is embellished by some very effective wails on the harmonica. 

Next up is a gorgeously soulful take on the evergreen “Moonlight In Vermont” - really, Bobby’s version is the only one I can dig - while the breathtakingly beautiful and inspiring “Love, the Time Is Now” conjurs up the sound, sentiment and message of Womack’s mentor Sam Cooke’s brilliant “A Change Is Gonna Come”. Listen when Bobby sings the line 'let my people go’, which is immediately followed by a harrowing fill from a weeping harmonica. 

Less political, but equally moving, is “I’m In Love” - this too was a hit for Wilson Pickett in 1968, but when Bobby interprets his own material, there’s just no comparison. Then again, he proved well at ease with other people’s songbook, as demonstrates a latin-esque, hazey spin on the Mamas & the Papas “California Dreamin’”. 

But Womack ends his first, magnificent full-length disc on a steamy, rocking, funky note: Both the strutting “No Money In My Pocket” - which features Bobby overdubbing his own backing vocals and 'sock-it-to-'em’ adlibs - and the frantic beater “Lillie Mae” are superior grooves, totally on par with anything coming from the James Brown school. 

Truly a special album to me, and one I will hold dear probably forever….by..soulmakossa …. 

Womack’s career began singing gospel with his brothers at their father’s church. They were soon discovered by Sam Cooke, moved into secular music and signed to his SAR Records label. Under Cooke’s tutelage they released many singles as The Valentinos, and were successful on the R&B charts. Bobby soon became the group’s lead singer, and his song “It’s All Over Now” became a #1 pop hit in the UK for the Rolling Stones. Around this time he also worked as Cooke’s session guitarist. After Cooke’s death the Valentinos’ careers dwindled, and they disbanded in 1966. During this period Womack stuck mostly to session work, though he also had success as a songwriter, contributing many songs to Wilson Pickett’s repetoire (including “I’m A Midnight Mover” and “I’m In Love”). 
His first solo album came in 1968 on Minit Records, and with it he established his passionate style of soul music. Alongside strong originals (including the aforementioned songs he wrote for Pickett), it had some fantastic cover material, including the brilliant title track, which was a #16 R&B hit. The best-known song has got to be his stunning interpretation of The Mamas & The Papas’ “California Dreamin’”, which he complete re-invented, and got to #20 on the R&B chart with. His own composition “What Is This” also got to #33. 
Though he was doing well on the R&B chart, Womack had yet to break into the the Top 40 of the pop chart, and was still doing better as a songwriter than a singer. Though it is often overlooked in the shadows of his later successes in the 70s, his debut album remains one of his strongest and most interesting…… 

Musicians: 
Reggie Young, guitar 
Gene Chrisman, drums 
Bobby Emmons, organ 
Bobby Woods, piano 
Mike Leech, bass 

Tracklist 
A1 Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words) 2:09 
A2 Baby! You Oughta Think It Over 2:37 
A3 I’m A Midnight Mover 2:02 
A4 What Is This 2:32 
A5 Somebody Special 2:57 
A6 Take Me 2:34 
B1 Moonlight In Vermont 2:33 
B2 Love, The Time Is Now 3:19 
B3 I’m In Love 2:41 
B4 California Dreamin’ 3:32 
B5 No Money In My Pocket 3:05 
B6 Lillie Mae 2:12 

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