Good Time Bobby Powell
"Have A Good Time" (Bobby Powell)
Bobby Powell, Whit 729, 1968
I ran across this record going through a box of 45’s I’ve been holding to clean up and listen to. I’ve got to do that more often. “Have A Good Time”, by Baton Rouge’s greatest soul man, Bobby Powell, is the flip side of the churchy deep soul ballad, “I Care”, from 1968 on Lionel Whitfield’s Whit label. As far as I can tell, neither one of these songs has appeared on CD as yet. I know they’re not on Westside’s fine Powell retrospective, Into My Own Thing (highly, I mean, highly, recommended!).
To my mind and ear, there are scant few soul singers whose vocal quality and abilities approach those of New Orleans’ treasure, the late, Johnny Adams; but Bobby Powell, Adam’s junior by just two years, is certainly his equal.* There is a deceptive ease to their styles that belies their great dynamics and range, which both can move through with a smooth fluidity, seeming not to break a sweat. Unbelievably, neither singer ever moved into the soul mainstream, though Adams is much more well-known than Powell, mainly due to his many Rounder CDs recorded later in life.
“Have A Good Time” is a perfect weekender, light but groovin’. Although I think most of Powell’s Whit material was recorded in Baton Rogue, this tune has a decidedly New Orleans feel to it, especially the funky drum shuffle, which would have sounded at home on many a popeye-style record from the Crescent City earlier in the decade. Add to that a great bass line with horn accents and the thing works itself out as the cool dance tune it was meant to be. I have yet to find any musician information on the Whit sessions, although I am sure that’s Powell on piano. And speaking of range, just listen to his playful falsetto as he takes on the solo late in the song, approximating a soprano sax.
Although I just can’t seem to find the time to get together a discography for Bobby Powell, I can tell you that he recorded some 15 singles for Whit between 1966 and 1971 (as the label's primary artist), plus a release on Jewell in 1967. Still working with Whitfield as producer, he moved on to the Excello label, recording at least 5 singles and an LP between 1972 and 1974. In the later 1970’s, he was on Senator Jones’ Hep’ Me label, which released about a half dozen of his singles. The AIM label has recently re-issued most of these sides on their Louisiana Soul CD. As was the case with many records Jones produced, the instrumental backing on those tunes can sometimes sound generic and uninspired, even though the vocal performances are good.
But Bobby Powell’s Whit and Excello catalogues are his strong suit, with deep soul, upbeat soul, and funk being well-represented. It's been too long since I last posted on this amazing singer. So, if you haven’t yet gotten around to discovering Mr. Powell or hearing more of what the has to offer, what are you waiting for? Have a good time!
*NOTE: You can hear some other selections by Bobby Powell and Johnny Adams at the Soul Club site. Artists are listed by first name there, so just scroll down to the Bobby’s and/or Johnny’s on the particular page.
Also, you can see Bobby Powell perform on Volume 3 of The!!! Beat, from Bear Family's excellent DVD series on that short-lived 1960's Nashville TV show.