A new label, a new project, a new beginning...While Baldwin seems to have the hard core smooth jazz fan base essentially sewn up, here we have an offering of some of the greatest Philly roots sounds ever recorded. The last smooth jazz artist to attempt a Philly remake was Larry Carlton and his released stiffed faster than "hope and change."
I decided to go ahead and take Betcha By Golly Wow for a test drive and was pleasantly surprised at the way she handled. To start there are no a.m. radio cuts less than three minutes to kill the mood of what is a rock solid release. Unlike Carlton whose "guests" included some of the world's better studio musicians you have never hear of, Baldwin enlists the aid of Gerald Albright, Paul Brown, Russ Freeman and Marion Meadows. Call it New Urban Jazz, Chill or any other slightly prententious tag if thats what makes you sleep better at night but the bottom line is that the longer this disc spins the better it gets. "The Rubberman Band" is a bright and breezy funk with attitude to spare but while the melody goes through a slight re-harm there is still the original integrity of the intended work simply brought up to speed. As a smooth jazz fan, well...I am not. "Betcha By Gollow Wow" could convert the most ardent pseudo intellectual that associates the sub genre with easy listening light. With the release kicking off with the classic "Didn't I Blow Your Mind" there is a marvelous groove that is set up and seems to develop naturally. Nothing is forced or dies a natural death of self indulgence in post production. "I'll Be Around" which features Marion Meadows is another litmus test that the release passes with flying colors.
Betcha By Golly Wow: The Music of Thom Bell reinvents the classic Philly soul sound for a new generation. Does Baldwin reinvent the musical wheel here? No...He does not have to. What Baldwin does is take a good thing in the iconic soul sound of Philly and then add some more modern technological advances to simply make a good thing better. Unlike Larry Carlton playing the Sounds of Philadelphia, Baldwin scores his finest work to date here. A release with an extended shelf life and massive cross over potential.
Tracks: Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time; The Rubberband Man; La La Means I Love You; Gonna Be Sweeter; Break Up To Make Up; You're Right As Rain; I'll Be Around; Bell & Creed; Betcha By Golly Wow; People Make The World Go Round.
Personnel: Bob Baldwin: piano, vocals, bass, drums, percussion; Ragan Whiteside: flutes, Preston Glass: horn arrangement, keyboards, loops, horns, clavinet; Paul Brown: guitars; Dennis Johnson: drums; Russ Freeman: guitars; Vivian Green: lead vocals; Gemia Burns: backing vocals; Gerald Albright: lead vocals; Buddy Williams: alto saxophone; Anothony Jackson: drums; B.J. Nelson: bass; Paulette McWilliams, Audrey Wheeler, Craig Deery, Curtis King, Vaneese Thomas: backing vocals; Paul Taylor: soprano saxophone; Marion Meadows: soprano saxophone; Tony Lewis: drums; Toni Redd: vocals; Bob Francheschini: saxophones; Chembo Corniel: percussion.