When singer/songwriter Bobby Womack died in June 2014, one of the last surviving links to the pre-Soul/R&B era was lost.
Blessed with one of the warmest, most readily-identifiable voices in Soul music, the former Gospel singer and sometime protégé of Sam Cooke duly carved out his reputation with a series of hit albums and singles in the late sixties and early 70s, the first five of which are recollected here in miniaturised form.
It was Womack who co-wrote The Rolling Stones first UK Number One Hit Single, ‘It’s All Over Now’, and Womack would later become a key player on the band’s Dirty Work album of the mid-eighties.
In the 1980s, Womack’s The Poet trilogy established him as one of the finest R&B singer-songwriters of the era, even if personal demons were to beset him. In recent years, Womack restored much of his critical standing via work with The Gorillaz, building up a close professional and personal relationship with Damon Albarn of Blur
Comprising 51 tracks, fourteen of which became hit singles, The Preacher showcases Womack’s early solo career as he emerged from the shadows as a session guitarist to become an internationally recognised artist in his own right.
FLY ME TO THE MOON  – Produced by Chips Moman, Womack’s impressive debut long-player spawned three hit singles from its mix of classy covers (‘Fly Me To The Moon’, ‘Moonlight In Vermont’) and original material. Womack’s soulful rasp on tracks such as ‘I’m A Midnight Mover’, co-written with Wilson Pickett, lends the album a distinctive Stax feel, while ‘California Dreamin’ is a sublime reinterpretation of The Mamas & The Papas’ hit.
MY PRESCRIPTION  – Womack’s follow-up consolidated his position as a rival to contemporary Soul giants Wilson Pickett and Don Covay. Rib-stickingly soulful, not for nothing did My Prescription garner heavy airplay, resulting in five hit singles the biggest of which was ‘How I Miss You Baby’. Whilst Womack’s songwriting skill is never in doubt, he also gives Easy Listening standards such as ‘I Left My Heart In San Francisco a fresh slant.
THE WOMACK LIVE  – As the liner notes enthuse: ‘Bobby held church that night and for all of those present, before they left, I know they felt the spirit moving into their bodies and rocking them with a whole lotta’ soul’. Womack’s first live album includes a smattering of his recent hits (‘The Preacher’, ‘More Than I Can Stand’) alongside covers of contemporary material such as George Harrison’s ‘Something’ and Nilsson’s ‘Everybody’s Talkin’.
COMMUNICATION  – Womack’s breakthrough album made the US R&B Top 10, resulting in his biggest single to date, ‘That’s The Way I Feel About ‘Cha’, and featuring ‘(If You Don’t Want My Love) Give It Back’, a song he would subsequently revisit for the soundtrack to Across 110th Street and again with Rolling Stone Ron Wood. Actress Pam Grier is among the backing vocalists on this eclectic mix of old and new, which includes ‘Yield Not To Temptation’, previously recorded by The Womack Brothers a decade earlier.
UNDERSTANDING  – With an almost identical line-up of musicians to its predecessor and recorded partly in Memphis and at Muscle Shoals, Understanding gave Womack his first US R&B No.1 in the shape of ‘Woman’s Gotta Have It’. ‘Harry Hippie’, inspired by his late brother Harris (but penned by the great lost songwriter Jim Ford), and a cover of Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline (Good Times Never Seemed So Good)’ completed the trio of hit single spin-offs, while ‘I Can Understand It’ became an underground club classic of the pre-Disco era, memorably covered by Brit Pub-Rock Funksters Kokomo.
THE PREACHER is released on Monday, May 25th 2015, beautifully-packaged in an attractive clam-shell box, each album painstakingly remastered from original reel-to-reel mastertapes ‘ provided by Womack himself shortly before his death, complete with informative liner notes from Roger Dopson, and miniaturised versions of the original album artwork.
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