More than one man has worn the moniker “Bobby Purify” since the southern soul duo James and Bobby Purify – best known for its smash hit “I’m Your Puppet” – began its career in the mid-1960s. Though singer-guitarist Ben Moore wasn’t on board at the start, he’s been Bobby Purify for the past three and a half decades, and has now come out of retirement with an excellent new CD under the Bobby Purify name.
Produced by Dan Penn, the set consists of original songs composed mostly by the team of Penn, Carson Whitsett and Hoy “Bucky” Lindsey, laid down by Muscle Shoals luminaries including keyboardist Spooner Oldham and guitarist Jimmie Johnson, and sung with tender, good-natured soulfulness by Moore, who’s lost none of his smoky vocal lustre and gift for lyrical interpretation. From the gospel organ at the start of the title track to the Al Green-style “Things Happen” and the achy defiance of the Moore-penned “What’s Old To You,” the CD proves that old-style soul music lives on beyond the realm of nostalgia.
Purify and the writing team are adept at love ballads (“Forever Changed”) and social commentary (“Nobody’s Home”). The funkified “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” and the heartbreaker “Hate To See You Go” are also solid. And “The Pond” is a hilarious dog-eat-dog tale that reminds me of something Leon Russell might have come up with.
This CD is an enjoyable listen through and through, with plenty of well-crafted “songs of experience” and the rich, warm, classically soulful vocals you’d expect from Bobby Purify, who belongs in the pantheon of great southern soul singers. I’ll let Jerry Wexler (from his liner notes) have the last word: “Mr. Purify, along with his gospel and blues qualities, has that touch of the South and that pinch of country that puts him in the great lineage of the down-home r&b singers from below the Mason-Dixon line: the Arthur Alexanders, the Joe Simons, the Percy Sledges, the Clarence Carters – and yes, dare I say it, the Otis Reddings.”
NOTE: While the many comebacks, reissues and new soul music releases of the past couple of years may not constitute a full-fledged soul revival, they make it clear that the music is still here and ain’t goin’ nowhere. And that’s more than fine by me. The following are links to my recent articles on some other notable examples:
And allow me to plug the the upcoming SOUL OF THE BLUES SUMMER FESTIVAL in NYC, July 26-31, 2005, which I have organized with the help of the Downstate NY Blues Association. Readers in the area, please come by – I’d love to meet you.