Bobbie Gentry: Fancy (1970) LP

Bobbie Gentry
Capitol (ST-428)
Producer: Rick Hall
Rating: **** (Recommended)
The title track starts off sounding a bit too much like a sequel to “Ode to Billy Joe,” but soon the song takes on a life all its own and becomes another classic short story by Gentry.  A reading of Bacharach-David’s “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” comes second on the bill, and while Warwick got the big hit from this song, Gentry’s version is the one to end all, and its melancholy fits perfectly after the title track.  The third cut also fits in the progression with our protaginast going back to the South for her “Delta Man.”  The themes also mirror the story of Gentry and the recording of this album.  In 1969, Gentry not only married Mr. Harrah, she also left him.  Then came this record, her first produced by Rick Hall at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.  With the first song, we have the character leaving the Delta, but by the third she’s back where she belongs.

While that opening was hard to follow, Gentry has no problem keeping it interesting and enjoyable.  We certainly didn’t need another version of “Raindrops…” or “Wedding Bell Blues,” but the other hand-me-downs are top-notch, Gentry easily alternating between folk-rock and soul, switching the point of view with Leon Russell’s “Delta Lady” and James Taylor’s “Something in the Way She Moves,” breathing life into Nillson’s “Rainmaker” and returning Rudy Clark’s “If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody” back to the States, offering more than respectable versions of Bettye LaVette’s “He Made a Woman Out of Me” and George Jackson’s “Find ‘Em, Fool ‘Em and Forget ‘Em” (co-written with Rick Hall). Some cuts work better than others, but most work like good-luck charms.  


While some have argued that these songs didn’t really fit Gentry, I’m not sure how they came to that conclusion.  She takes the material and tailors it to fit like a satin dress on a beautifully built lady, one like Bobbie Gentry.  If you don’t like this album, you might as well give it up, take a slow walk on a trestle bridge, chuck yourself over the side when the train comes, jump off or get on board.  Gentry was an American original, captured this country as well as anyone.  Some complain that she shouldn’t have dropped out of the music scene, or should have came back, but I don’t know why anybody would try to tell Gentry what to do.  She obviously knew what she was doing; otherwise she wouldn’t have made albums like this.

— winch

(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)


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