Bobby Womack – 1972 – Understanding
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One of thefinest singers – songwriters in soul music.
Amazing album with 3 songs in R&B top10. Bobby Womack is a soul music allrounder: he can scream (like James), talk deeply to the ladies (like Issac and Barry), he has the Al or Marvin touch when it comes to love songs, the honesty of Sam and Curtis, and the occasional Sly-like urge to wig out.
1 I Can Understand It (6:35)
2 Woman’s Gotta Have It (3:33)
3 And I Love Her (2:44)
4 Got to Get You Back (2:53)
5 Simple Man (5:58)
6 Ruby Dean (3:26)
7 Thing Called Love (3:57)
8 Sweet Caroline (3:13)
9 Harry Hippie (3:51)
Recorded in Memphis in the blackest of soul styles, Bobby “The Preacher” Womack’s Understanding overflows with raw energy and emotion. Blurring the lines between Southern soul, funk, and gospel, the album’s rough edges reflected something fundamental about life in Black America and the need to reach for something higher. Womack had learned well from his idol Sam Cooke that the people wanted to hear about something besides love. In the gritty “Simple Man,” Womack preaches to his brothers and sisters:”Hang on in there…we don’t live on a hill, but we stand just as tall.” At the time he wrote the songs for Understanding, Womack was a man of considerable talents who had too little to show for it in the way of successful solo records. An always in demand studio musician, Womack’s influential guitar playing helped define such eternal classics as Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home,” Wilson Pickett’s “Funky Broadway,” Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools,” and Sly Stone’s “Family Affair.” By 1972, his singing and songwriting had matured to such an extent that only an act of God could have kept him from storming the charts. “Woman’s Gotta Have It,” one of the album’s three Womack originals, shot up to the very top of the R&B charts in that golden funk summer of ’72. This mid-tempo soul-funk ballad starts off with a sensuous bass line straight out of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On? With its simple message about how to keep a woman happy–“You gotta giver her what she wants when she wants it / Where she wants it / And how she wants it”–the song touched a chord with audiences like few other Womack songs ever have. A bubble gum-soul cover of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” was released as the follow up single to “Woman’s Gotta Have It.” While it managed to impressively crack the white-dominated Pop Charts, its mellow B-side “Harry Hippie” was embraced as the “black side” by black radio, driving it into the R&B Top Ten (and, surprisingly, into the Top 40 on the Pop Charts). “I Can Understand It” is the album’s funkiest and most complex track, made with timeless production values: a driving and loudly mixed bass/drum groove, a tight gospel chorus of soul sisters, lush touches of strings, and Womack’s belting vocals and fuzz guitar. While this compelling Womack original never charted, New Birth turned it into a No. 4 R&B hit when the band covered it in 1973. His most consistently satisfying album, Understanding captures Womack at the peak of his powers. This is the one to get.
As compelling as Bobby Womack‘s lacerating baritone may be, it still has that uncanny ability to be an engaging voice. This album has that timeliness appeal. It features the chart-buster in the mid-tempo number “Woman’s Gotta Have It.” It was a number one single on the Billboard R&B charts. In addition to the aforementioned song, Womack also features a host of other granite numbers like “Ruby Dean” and “I Can Understand It.” The latter, penned by Womack , was also covered by New Birth. Both versions are excellent. However, Womack’s version has a soothing effect as it employs a sensuous string arrangement while New Birth’s rendition is rather funky, retaining a spirited horn arrangement. Womack’s version was never a release. “Harry Hippie” is a narrative about his brother and former bandmate Harris Womack. It checked in at number eight. The Ohio native’s unique trait to calm a song with his blistering baritone re-surfaces on “Sweet Caroline,” the album’s third and final release. For a song to be so sweet and gentle, Womack enhances the flavor of this sentimental number with a heartfelt, soulful approach. It slipped into the Top 20 at 16. By all standards, this album is stirring.