BOBBY SHEEN: Anthology 1958-1975 (Label: Ace)

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BOBBY SHEEN: Anthology 1958-1975

Bobby Sheen is one of soul’s great unsung heroes and this lovely 24 track, Ace retrospective is a fitting tribute to his talent – it also goes some way to explaining why he never made the real big time. You see, in a lengthy career, the sweet-voiced Sheen recorded under all kinds of aliases and with a number of different groups and in a number of styles. He was so versatile and easy to work with that for any number of producers he was their first choice to front their work and maybe because of that Bobby failed to establish a strong identity of his own. Whatever, this album is stuffed with tremendous uptown soul and hopefully it might bring the man more recognition, albeit posthumous. The earliest tracks here come from Bobby’s time as lead singer with the Robins and they are a fine example of the transition from doo-wop to harmony soul. From the Robins Bobby moved on to work with Phil Spector where he recorded as Bob B Soxx and the Blue Jeans (chief Blue Jean being, of course, Darlene Love) and their version of ‘Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah’ is rightly a Spector classic. Bobby then won himself a solo contract first with Dimension and then Capitol where he recorded the Northern fave, ‘Dr Love’. By the late 60s, he was on the move again working down in Muscle Shoals and changing his vocal register to a then, more-fashionable lower key. There Bob recorded songs by the likes of Clayton Ivey, Terry Woodford and Phillip Mitchell, whose ‘Something New To Do’ became another Bobby Sheen Northern anthem… and it’s easy to hear why. The track is superb and would stand out on any album. Other great cuts here are the dramatic ‘Sweet Sweet Love’ from 1966 and two previously unissued cuts – ‘Baby, I’ll Come Right Away’ (better known in a Mary Love version, maybe) and a bluesy ‘Don’t Pass Me By’. Sheen eventually made his last solo recordings for the Chelsea label before joining a version of the Coasters for their regular tours. He died of pneumonia in 2000 and now, ten years later , we have, at last, a fitting tribute to his massive talent.
(BB) 4/5