REVIEW - Bob Baldwin – Presents Betcha By Golly Wow – The Songs of Thom Bell – Peak Records (**2 out of 5 STARS)
Once again the guitarist, Paul Brown in this case, is the highlight on the next track, the Spinners #2, 1976 classic, ‘The Rubberband Man.’ The interplay between the players, Baldwin, Whiteside and Brown, works better here. Baldwin also takes a fresh approach on the tune. I didn’t even recognise the song at first, which was cool, but Brown’s guitar is the true let-your-hair-down juice in the song.
I liked Vivian Green’s vocal work on the Delfonics, 1968 hit, ‘La La Means I Love You.’ This was Bell’s first really big hit and it reached #4 on the Billboard charts. Without hearing the original(even though I have) and the countless top-shelf covers I would still easily graduated this interpretation beyond a garden variety thanks to Green’s elegant voice.
‘Gonna Be Sweeter,’ was inspired by the Thom Bell groove but it sounds more like Bob Baldwin and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a cool, catchy standout on the project.
Will Downing handle’s the 1973 Stylistics hit, ‘Break Up To Make Up’ with, his usual, great passionate care. I’ve always looked at Downing’s level of believability to be his true strength. Even more than that big voice itself, it’s the confidence and understanding that lures me in.
Two of my favorite sax players, Paul Taylor and Marion Meadows are front and center on, ‘You're As Right As Rain’ and ‘I'll Be Around,’ respectively. Both understated tunes, however have a certain cut-and-dried feel. Let’s just say I wanted to like them.
The weakest part of the album is Toni Redd’s vocals on the Stylistics big hit ‘Betcha By Golly Wow.’ She clearly over-sings the song almost ad nauseum. Even the best albums can have a few missteps but including this take made me scratch my head.
I liked Baldwin’s tribute to Michael Jackson (“Never Can Say Goodbye”) in 2010 and have been a fan for years. He’s certainly plugged in but this tribute album is much too borderline background music. It’s easy to see that Baldwin put a lot of work into it but in the end it’s much more bologna than filet mignon. – by John Beaudin
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