required listening

CD Review


I’m Your Puppet : The Complete Bell Recordings 1966-1969

Soul Music (UK) SMCR 5185 D (2cd)

Wish You Didn’t Have To Go; So Many Reasons; Knock On Wood; I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now); Hitch Hike; I’ve Got Everything I Need (I’ve Got You); I’m Your Puppet; You Left The Water Running; A Change Is Gonna Come; Blame Me (Don’t Blame My Heart); You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down; Do Unto Me; Everybody Needs Somebody; I Can Remember; I Was Born To Lose Out; Help Yourself (To All Of My Lovin’); Last Piece Of Love; Untie Me; We’re Finally Gonna Make It; I Take What I Want; Hello There; Sixteen Tons; I Don’t Want To Have To Wait; When Something Is Wrong With My Baby; Let Love Come Between Us; Shake A Tail Feather; Soothe Me; Goodness Gracious; I Love You (Most Of All); You Don’t Love Me; I Don’t Know What It Is You Got; Section C; Keep Pushin’ Me; Just Like Old Times; My Adorable One; The Weeper; She Ain’t Gonna Do Right; Somebody Cares

Boasting two original albums, plus ten 45-only sides and six recordings only unearthed by a Sundazed cd in 2002 - now deleted and commanding a hefty sum via the internet - this 2cd set from Soul Music really does represent the definitive collection of the Bell recordings of James & Bobby Purify, ‘brother’ Bobby actually being James’ cousin, Robert Lee Dickey, with whom he had played and sang in the Dotham Sextet.  (For a full history of James & Bobby Purify, see the lengthy feature in ‘In The Basement’ #37.)  The heady days of the sixties were notable for some fine male soul duos, doubtless the most famous and commercially successful being Sam & Dave, but outfits like the Sims Twins, Eddie & Ernie and Maurice & Mac were up there in the quality stakes and so too were the Purifys, as this collection readily testifies.  The eleven tracks that kick off the whole represent their eponymous album, released in 1967 and, of course, contain their signature number, ‘I’m Your Puppet’, the Dan Penn-Spooner Oldham song which, despite going all the way to the top, took a number of recording attempts by various folk, including Penn himself, before morphing into the Papa Don Schroeder-produced lilter that the guys reportedly disliked at the time, believing it to be ‘too pop’ (and, as the pop charts testified, there was, indeed, no denying the pop appeal.)  The follow-up single, ‘Wish You Didn’t Have To Go’, perhaps more ‘traditional‘ to the male soul duo genre, also made it to album number one but immediate subsequent a-sides would be held back for album two, the debut instead being rather top-heavy with covers which, while well performed, suggested the need to rush out something to cash in on the major hit.  With the next three singles helping to adorn album two, cd-one here concludes with the four single a- and b-sides issued later, all of which stalled around the thirty/forty mark r&b, the most successful being ‘Do Unto Me’, a femme-supported item set to a marching beat, while ‘I Can Remember‘ is a compulsive and tender beat ballad, covered in the UK by Billie Davis and ‘Untie Me‘ revives Joe South’s hit number for the Tams.  Over on cd-two and album number two, ‘The Pure Sound Of The Purifys‘ is represented by tracks, ‘I Take What I Want‘ through to ‘You Don’t Love Me‘ as listed above and, as ever, it’s a Papa Don production.  The urge to include covers remains, ‘Shake A Tail Feather‘ and ‘I Take What I Want‘ both being used as 45 a-sides, ditto the pop opus (by the Rubber Band), ‘Let Love Come Between Us‘ which works really well.  One further non-album single is included, ‘I Don’t Know What It Is You Got‘ - a first-rate stomper - coupled with ‘Section C’, on which a then ailing Robert Lee Dickey was replaced by one Buddy Grubbs.  (Dickey’s health was such that he would not return to the duo and the second official Bobby Purify was Ben Moore, another one-time Dotham Sextet member and previously of the duo Ben & Spence.)  The six final tracks on the set are canned items which came to light in 2002, especially fine being Spencer Oldham and Don Schroeder’s ‘Just Like Old Times’, a country-slanted ballad and the swinging, brass-supported ‘Somebody Cares’.

US R&B Chart statistics  (peak positions: BB = ‘Billboard’, CB = ‘Cashbox’)...

Do Unto Me  (Bell 45, 700)  -  BB 38, CB 30

Help Yourself (To All Of My Lovin’)  (Bell 45, 735)  -  BB 31

I Can Remember  (Bell 45, 721)  -  BB 42, CB 23

I Take What I Want  (Bell 45, 680)  -  BB 23, CB 40

I’m Your Puppet  (Bell 45, 648)  -  BB 5, CB 1

Let Love Come Between Us  (Bell 45, 685)  -  BB 18, CB 11

Shake A Tail Feather  (Bell 45, 669)  -  BB 15, CB 9

Untie Me  (Bell 45, 751)  -  BB 47, CB 42

Wish You Didn’t Have To Go  (Bell 45, 660)  -  BB 27, CB 6 /                                                                                                          

review posted 17/06/19