By Alistair Seaton
June 21, 2013
It’s amazing to think that in 1972 an album featuring both George Harrison and Eric Clapton would be turned down by a record label. That’s exactly what happened to Bobby Whitlock’s debut. Even when it was finally picked up by ABC Dunhill it failed to make an impact and seemed destined to remain in obscurity. Having played with Delany & Bonnie and on Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, Whitlock went on to play an integral on the Clapton-led Derek & the Dominos, before making his self-titled debut. This reissue, on Light In The Attic imprint Future Days, packages up that first album along with his second, Raw Velvet.
The quality of the songs themselves can’t have been the reason the debut was turned down (apparently the label had a “different vision”). In fact any number of them could have sat comfortably on last year’s excellent Country Funk compilation (also put out by Light In The Attic), which described itself as encompassing “the elation of gospel with the sexual thrust of the blues, country hoedown harmony with inner city grit.” That pretty much sums up these records too.
They are very much of their time featuring that early 1970s organic stew of slide guitar, Hammond organ and soulful backing singing. As such, it’s easy to make comparisons with Leon Russell and The Allman Brothers, as well as Creedence Clearwater Revival (especially on the rowdier first side of Raw Velvet) – and anyone looking for the template followed by The Black Crowes need look no further than the excellent cover of ‘Hello L.A., Bye Bye Birmingham’.
Gospel, country and Memphis soul are all covered, rubbing shoulders with slower songs, which provide respite from the fiery intent of the more upbeat tracks. However, even slower numbers – like ‘The Scenery Has Slowly Changed’ with its ‘Dear Prudence’ guitars – tend to build into glorious climaxes as his voice lets loose. In the end it’s that voice that justifies the reissue of these records and raises them above just their curiosity value. Whitlock’s soulful gospel voice carries real weight, and these records deserve to be heard.