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Bob Baldwin – Betcha By Golly Wow: The Songs of Thom Bell

Apr. 18, 2012

On the heels of a marvelous tribute to the late, great Michael Jackson with Never Can Say Good Bye, keyboardist/producer Bob Baldwin marched back into the studio with a handful of gems to pay homage to the living legend Thom Bell, one of the true architects of “The Sound of Philadelphia.” Betcha By Golly Wow: The Songs of Thom Bell showcases classics made famous by the luminaries of that wondrous and great feel-good period, especially for baby boomers.

You’ll have a hard time resisting that drift back in a cloud of euphoric nostalgia as you listen to the crafty versions of tunes originally caressed by The Delfonics, The Spinners, and The Stylistics.  With help from Rippingtons guitarist and founder Russ Freeman on “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)?;” guitarist Paul Brown’s funky wah pedal and Ragan Whiteside’s cool flute on The Spinners’ “Rubberband Man;” vocalist Vivian Green’s adept handling of The Delfonics’ anthem “La La Means I Love You;” vocal master Will Downing and sax icon Gerald Albright on The Stylistics’ “Break Up to Make Up;” the wonderful sax work of Marion Meadows on The Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around” and The Stylistics “People Make the World Round;” Paul Taylor’s sweet soprano sax on “You’re As Right As Rain;” and, on the title track, the ever-sensuous “Betcha By Golly Wow,” vocals by Toni Redd with a fantastic tribute to Phyllis Hyman, all send this project soaring high into the heavens.

There are interpretations that I personally prefer over others, but the entire tribute is a powerful gesture to a man who has placed his distinguishable mark on the very essence of R&B/soul music. The sound he helped to create will always stand alone and as solid as steel. Just as he demonstrated with the Michael Jackson project, Baldwin’s insightful recognition of such an accomplishment speaks volumes about the type of artist he is and what he appreciates as true art. – Ronald Jackson