Calvin Richardson - Facts of Life: The Soul of Bobby Womack (Advance Review) (2009)

Calvin Richardson
Calvin_Richardson-facts110.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

Calvin Richardson has heard it his whole musical life. The gruff-voiced Carolina-bred singer has lived with the comparisons to old school soul masters Sam Cooke and, to an even greater extent, Bobby Womack.  But rather than shy away from those clear musical influences, he has embraced them, covering Womack's "I Wish He Didn't Trust Me So Much" on his sadly overlooked first album, Country Boy, and modeling his biggest hit, 2004's "Keep On Pushing," after Womack's conversational style.  So it is natural -- maybe even inspired -- that Richardson's fourth album, Facts of Life: The Soul of Bobby Womack is an unadulterated tribute to Womack, one of the most criminally underappreciated artists of the past four decades. 

Calvin Richardson has heard it his whole musical life. The gruff-voiced Carolina-bred singer has lived with the comparisons to old school soul masters Sam Cooke and, to an even greater extent, Bobby Womack.  But rather than shy away from those clear musical influences, he has embraced them, covering Womack's "I Wish He Didn't Trust Me So Much" on his sadly overlooked first album, Country Boy, and modeling his biggest hit, 2004's "Keep On Pushing," after Womack's conversational style.  So it is natural -- maybe even inspired -- that Richardson's fourth album, Facts of Life: The Soul of Bobby Womack is an unadulterated tribute to Womack, one of the most criminally underappreciated artists of the past four decades. 

Womack began as a Gospel singer, but by the 60s joined his brothers in the legendary vocal group the Valentinos.  But it was his 70s discography, an incredible collection of dozens of gutsy, intelligent songs, ranging from the loping "Harry Hippie" to the irresistible "Woman's Got To Have It," that made him a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. His fourth musical life, as an urban adult contemporary singer in the 80s, beginning with the indie smash "If You Think You're Lonely Now" through to his haunting tale of temptation, "I Wish He Didn't Trust Me So Much," put him in even rarer company.  But despite his almost singular role as the bridge from 50s Gospel to 80s adult soul, Womack is often overlooked in discussions of the most influential artists of his time. 

It is with this backdrop that Richardson tries to right a wrong, bringing Womack's incredible history to a generation of twenty- and thirty-somethings who love Anthony Hamilton and Leela James but may not know the history that made their success possible.  And Richardson largely stays true to that history, replicating the arrangements (and even the spoken word introductions) of Womack's seminal original cuts with crisp, modern recording techniques that make the tracks absolutely pop from the speakers.  And CR is in fine voice as usual, hinting at Womack's raspy, weather-worn originals, but not slaving to them.  Instead, he gives a distinctly more Southern gentlemanly feel in his takes on "That's the Way I Feel About 'Cha," "Love Has Finally Come At Last" (with Ann Nesby), "You're Welcome" and "I'm Through Trying to Prove My Love To You."  Equally up to the task is producer Tres Gilbert, who keeps the foundation simple and authentic, letting Richardson and backing singers Artia E. Lockett, Latonya G. Givens and Tony Hightower take center stage.

All that being said, it would be unfair to the original versions of these songs to say that Richardson improves upon them.  He doesn't, but he also doesn't wither by comparison. The student has done the master proud, and has accomplished what he appears to have set out to do: he has created an extremely enjoyable, well performed album that provides a new generation with a glimpse of the body of work of one of the most gifted artists of the prior generation. Those young'ens should be rightfully blown away by Facts of Life and should follow up their purchase of this fine disc by grabbing Communication, The Poet and a few other original Bobby Womack releases.    Recommended.

By Chris Rizik

Album release date is August 25, 2009

 

Leave a comment!