CALVIN RICHARDSON: The Facts Of Life (Label: Shanachie)

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Ever since he made his solo debut in 1999 with ‘Country Boy’, people have compared Calvin Richardson with the great Bobby Womack. Indeed that album featured a Womack cover (‘I Wish He Didn’t Trust Me’) and on subsequent Richardson long players the shadow of Womack was always there. Now, the man dubbed ‘The Prince Of Soul’ has gone the whole hog and recorded a full album of Bobby W. songs, by way, I’m sure, of a tribute to the Soul Poet and what a great, true soul set he’s created! The whole thing (11 tracks) was recorded in just a few days using a live band and because of that there’s an energy and freshness about everything. Richardson has treated the songs with huge respect, faithfully trying to recreate the magical Womack sound – right down to the rapping which precedes things like ‘You’re Welcome Stop On By’ and ‘Woman’s Gotta Have It’. Both those two songs are, of course Womack classics and other well-known items number ‘Across 110th Street’, ‘Harry Hippy’, ‘That’s The Way I Feel About ‘Cha’ and ‘I Can Understand It’. But Richardson has dug deeply into the Womack vault and included some songs that aren’t quite so well-known. Of those, ‘Daylight’ (recently revived by Kelly Rowland) is a delight while ‘American Dream’ takes on renewed poignancy with Obama and his optimism now firmly ensconced in the White House. Personal highspot amongst many is ‘Love Has Finally Come At Last’ – it’s a duet, of course… here with the remarkable Ann Nesby reprising the Patti Labelle parts. It couldn’t surpass the original – but it’s almost as good as. Which, naturally, draws the question – why bother? Why recreate the Womack sound when there are so many Womack albums so readily available? Well, it’s simple. Richardson isn’t Bobby Womack and though on first listen the voice is similar, repeated listens will reveal marked differences. Richardson’s voice is lighter, more tuneful; it’s much less gritty and certainly a whole lot less world-weary than Womack’s growl. Accordingly, Richardson’s covers offer a new perspective to the Womack masterpieces and, hopefully, will turn a whole new generation on to BW and encourage them to investigate his back catalogue. In the meantime, I’m more than delighted that Calvin Richardson has indulged his passion. Great songs (and these are all that) deserve to be heard and though I don’t know if Bobby’s heard them yet, I do know he’ll be glad of the royalties … and that’s not a bad thing.
(BB) 4/5