James & Bobby Purify – 1967 – James & Bobby Purify
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In the mid- to late ’60s, the Florida-bred soul duo James & Bobby Purify were frequently compared to another dynamic R&B act of the day, Sam & Dave, which is easy to understand given how often they covered Sam & Dave’s tunes (and how James & Bobby’s producer, Papa Don Schroeder, sought to emulate the sound of the Stax Records house band on his sessions, often with admirable accuracy).
Though they both featured a pair of talented soul singers who worked well together, stylistically, James & Bobby Purify were a decisively different proposition; the Purifys (who were cousins, not brothers as was commonly believed) rarely indulged in the vigorous call-and-response that was Sam & Dave’s trademark, instead delivering smooth but passionate harmonies and trading verses with less grit but just as much heart. (There was also a touch of East Coast cool in their vocals that leavened the Southern flavor of the production.)
A1 Wish You Didn’t Have To Go 2:15
A2 So Many Reasons 2:37
A3 Knock On Wood 2:35
A4 I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now) 3:00
A5 Hitch Hike 2:16
A6 I’ve Got Everything I Need (I’ve Got You)2:43
B1 I’m Your Puppet 2:59
B2 You Left The Water Running 2:40
B3 A Change Is Gonna Come 3:29
B4 Blame Me (Don’t Blame My Heart) 3:38
B5 You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down 2:34
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming
James & Bobby Purify scored their first hit with 1966’s “I’m Your Puppet“, a Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham tune that spoke of a vulnerability that most soul men would not abide, and while they never charted as high again, during their tenure at Bell Records they managed to cut two albums and a handful of strong non-LP singles. Their full output for the label is collected on I’m Your Puppet: The Complete Bell Recordings 1966-1969, which concisely summarizes the ups and downs of their time at the label.
Their two Bell albums (1967’s James & Bobby Purify and 1968’s The Pure Sound of the Purifys) were like many albums of the era that featured two or three singles and were filled out with plenty of covers of hits of the day. It’s honestly impressive how well James & Bobby fare with numbers like “Knock on Wood“, “You Left the Water Running” and “A Change Is Gonna Come” given how strongly they are associated with others, but that means there are few songs here that feel decisively theirs.
Many of the non-LP tunes feel more rewarding, if only because James & Bobby get to bring their own personality to “I Was Born to Lose Out“, “Last Piece of Love” and “We’re Finally Gonna Make It“, where they strike a fine balance between polish and passion. While this collection only follows James & Bobby Purify up to the end of their stint with Bell Records in 1969, Bob Fisher’s liner notes offer a solid history of the group that charts their later incarnations on Casablanca and Mercury, and it’s a good read despite a handful of grammatical errors. James & Bobby Purify made a big name for themselves despite scoring only one Top Ten hit, and I’m Your Puppet: The Complete Bell Recordings 1966-1969brings their best and best-known music together, and it’s a good investment for vintage soul fans.