The Soul of Whit
"Question" (Price/Logan and Powell/Whitfield)
Bobby Powell, Whit, 1971
Well, no, it really isn’t all that swampy around Baton Rouge, where Bobby Powell is from; but, as I’ve said before, I use the Swamp Side designation as just a figure of speech to identify Louisiana soul or funk not directly related to New Orleans.
As I think you’ll agree after sampling “Question”, Mr. Powell’s obscurity is certainly undeserved. I rank his vocals up there with the Crescent City’s Johnny Adams for seemingly effortless delivery, incredible range, and soul power; and I picked this song to showcase that. Yet Powell, who had some minor hits in the 1960’s, is virtually forgotten today, while the late, great Adams’ flame burns on, maybe due to his late blossoming popularity through his Rounder recordings.
I didn’t really become a big fan of Bobby Powell until I heard his mid-1960’s to early 1970’s sides compiled on the now out of print WESTSIDE CD, Into My Own Thing. Most of those records were done for Lionel Whitfield’s Whit label, based in Baton Rouge; and, while the production values were sometimes less than optimal, the unnamed backing bands and Powell’s performances take many of the tunes to higher ground. Bill Dahl, in his informative, insightful CD notes, mentions that the lyrics to “Question” are based on a 1960 Lloyd Price song of the same name, while the music is totally redone. So, I’ve given two writing teams the credit on this one.
I encourage y’all to hear more Bobby Powell. He also did an LP for Excello in the 1970’s, plus recording later that decade for Hep Me in New Orleans, which is what I first heard. But his hometown work made me realize what a gem this guy was in his prime.
Latebreaking: Monkeyfunk has the flip side of "Question", "Peace Begins Within", posted right now. An inspired choice. Check it out. And, I've got some suggestions for finding Bobby Powell on CD over at Da Big Greasy Guide.