Bobby Womack – 1970 – My Prescription
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Generally blackballed by the music industry following his marriage to Sam Cooke’s widow in the mid-60s, Bobby Womack slowly rebuilt his reputation via a series of hit songs he’d written for Wilson Pickett. Securing a solo record deal Womack released this, his 2nd solo album, in 1970. Although it repeated the commercial failure of his debut, Fly Me To The Moon, it strengthened his sound, which finally hit pay dirt on his 3rd album, Communication. My Prescription opens on its highest note, “How I Miss You Baby“. It’s a textbook example of a soul ballad. It starts out with a gentle lament and the tension builds as the song continues. By its end, Womack’s voice is wailing and drowning amidst a sea of horns, a siren organ and sweeping strings. The vocal hook is catchy enough, but even more insidious is the rumbling pulsation of the bass working in concert with those sorrowful horns.
Like the opening track, “More Than I Can Stand” and “It’s Gonna Rain” continue the soul balladry and are original compositions by Womack. “More Than I Can Stand” would later be reprised to stunning effect on Womack’s live album released later in the year and “It’s Gonna Rain” actually gets to be quite punchy. Both excellent.
This is an album heavy on the ballads and light on uptempo tunes. The quality of the songs never ever dips below good, but the best of the rest are “I Can’t Take It Like A Man“, the bouncy “I’m Gonna Forget About You” and the string-laden “Thank You“. In fact, this album would represent the apex of Womack’s use of orchestral sounds. As the 70s dragged on, he would delve into bluesier and then funkier and then more “discoier” music.
For my money, though, this stands second only to Understanding in Womack’s 70s catalogue.
A1 How I Miss You Baby 3:13
A2 More Than I Can Stand 2:53
A3 It’s Gonna Rain 2:20
A4 Everyone’s Gone to the Moon 2:38
A5 I Can’t Take It Like a Man 2:51
A6 I Left My Heart in San Francisco 2:22
B1 Arkansas State Prison 2:56
B2 I’m Gonna Forget About You 2:27
B3 Don’t Look Back 2:47
B4 Tried and Convicted 2:42
B5 Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words)2:09
B6 Thank You 4:00
Almost as perfect as his debut album, “My Prescription” keeps the sound firmly in a Southern Soul bag, adding some touches of pop and rock to the mix.
“How I Miss You Baby” is the persistently kickin’ mid-tempo ballad kicking it all off. Bobby lets loose another one of his full-throttled vocals on here, with brilliant, greasy horns accentuating every downbeat. Similar in mood and tempo, “More Than I Can Stand” is even better; an autobiographical account of the romantic troubles Womack was going through at the time (he was still married to Sam Cooke’s widow in 1970).
Real nitty-gritty country church soul stompin’ comes with “It’s Gonna Rain“, a thundering groove monster layered in horns and soppin’ in the ravenous purs of a Hammond organ. Briefly switching to pop with an inspired rendition of Jonathan King’s “Everybody’s Gone to the Moon“, Womack turns in another mid-tempo soul wailer with the devastating “I Can’t Take It Like a Man“.
As he had done with “Fly Me to the Moon” (a track re-released on this album), Bobby jazzes up “I Left My Heart In San Francisco“, speeding up the groove and perking it up with his own inimitable, funky guitar chops, after which he launches into the hardest funkin’ jam here with the raw, lazily struttin’ vamp “Arkansas State Prison”. Featuring both old-time country slide guitar riffing and that ‘pick axe and shovel’ beat first heard on Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang”, the lyrics are pretty brutal, dealing with in-jail murder, hound dogs, shady guards and a successful escape.
Again paying hommage to his mentor Sam Cooke, Womack then takes on “I’m Gonna Forget About You“, turning it into a deliciously struttin’, horn-infested groove, featuring a preposterously funky outro. He also considerably ‘spices up’ the Temptations’ “Don’t Look Back“, adding more blaring horns and his own crackeling guitar riffs.
In all, a fantastic album that should have received far more recognition than it did the first time of its release. Southern Soul at its finest.