(The Right Stuff/Capitol)
First Appeared at The Music Box, January 2000, Volume 7, #
Written by John Metzger
No matter how you cut it, Bobby Womack is a legend, and his influence is very much a part of the rock, r&b, soul, and hip-hop music of the past several decades. It's All Over Now may be his most identifiable song these days, particularly to an audience familiar with either the Rolling Stones or the Grateful Dead's renditions. Nevertheless, Womack has achieved plenty of acclaim on his own accord, scoring eight Top Ten R&B hits over the course of his career.
Womack's recently released Greatest Hits collection compiles nineteen songs that were plucked from his lifework and squeezed onto a single disc. As such, the album offers an excellent glimpse into the songwriter and his music.
Inherent throughout all of Womack's funky rhythms and graceful melodies is a deep-rooted spirituality that draws straight from his heart and history. His father was a deeply religious man who had carefully guided Womack and his four brothers through their early foray into the business. They were performing as the Womack Brothers when they caught the eye of Sam Cooke. After signing with his label, they changed their name to the Valentinos and crossed over into the R&B market, scoring their first hit with the infectious Lookin' for a Love.
Womack's father was none too pleased with the group's change in direction. In the end though, Womack never truly left gospel completely behind. Though his lyrics were often about relationships, his vocal stylings have always been heavily steeped in religious and spiritual music. The most self-evident of these, of course, is The Preacher/More than I Can Stand, which was selected from his 1970 album The Womack Live. In addition to the obviousness of the title, this version finds Womack delving into an expanded sermon before launching into the song. This is perhaps the clearest example of the pervasiveness of gospel in his music. However, once seen, it's hard to miss it in his other songs as well because it's truly the ground upon which he builds his vocalizations.
Unfortunately not all of the songs on Greatest Hits really show Womack at his best. A cover of Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline is no doubt included due to the popularity of the song and the success Womack had with it. Yet it falls far short of Womack's other material at the time. Likewise, newer compositions like Ain't Nothin' Like the Lovin' We Got and Save the Children remain largely forgettable.
However, these are the exceptions rather than the rule. Due to the sizable room available on a single compact disc, it's almost expected that a greatest hits album will contain a few throwaways, and fortunately this set is better than most. It affords the listener a thorough glimpse into the world of Bobby Womack by offering a delightful batch of songs from a music industry legend.
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1999 The Music Box