DVD Review: Bobby Womack, Soul Seduction Supreme

Bobby Womack may not be quite the hugest star R&B ever produced, but his career – now spanning over half a century – as songwriter, singer, guitarist, and soul man, marks him as one of the most important soul performers of all time, and the quintessential soul survivor.

Sam Cooke discovered the gospel group The Womack Brothers when they were kids in 1953. When, encouraged by Cooke, the brothers began to make the move from gospel to R&B, their father threw them out of the house. Recording for Cooke’s label as the Valentinos, the group toured behind James Brown, and later Bobby joined Cooke’s band as a guitarist. Bobby’s big break as a songwriter came during this period (1964), when the Rolling Stones’ recording of his “It’s All Over Now” went to number one on the U.K. charts. (Trivia time: “It’s All Over Now” was also, according to Songfacts.com, the first song Bruce Springsteen ever learned to play on guitar.) Rock and pop fans may also know (or be interested to) that Womack wrote and played guitar on “Trust Me,” from Janis Joplin’s “Pearl” album, and wrote “Across 110th Street,” a song (from the blaxploitation movie of the same name) which was revived as the theme to the hit Quentino Tarantino film Jackie Brown.

Soul Seduction Supreme presents nine songs from a late 1990’s concert at the Town and Country in London. A master showman, Womack plays the crowd, cavorts with his band, cracks jokes and sings his heart out. In between songs, the filmmakers visit him as he travels from gig to gig, fusses about money, relaxes in hotel rooms and in one somewhat bizarre scene, takes a bubble bath. There are also amusing bits where the band members practice and study, showing the joy, the drudgery and the anxiety that come with making music. And Womack’s philosophical but peppery reminiscences and reflections are of interest. But the DVD is primarily devoted to the performance, which is nicely recorded and fun to watch.

I was a little disappointed that it didn’t include Womack’s breakout hit “That’s the Way I Feel About ‘Cha,” but it’s otherwise a good selection of songs from the different stages of his career, from the early “Lookin’ for a Love” (re-recorded in the 70s, it was his only Top Ten hit on the pop charts) and “It’s All Over Now,” through “Woman’s Gotta Have It,” and the later “Love Has Finally Come at Last,” which was originally a duet with Patti LaBelle in the 1980s.

The main drawback is the lack of liner notes. Biographical information and discographies are easy to find on the Internet, but some information about the specifics of the tour and performance recorded here would have been nice. Still, this is a worthwhile DVD to own for fans of Bobby Womack or soul music in general.

[Cross-posted at Blogcritics]