William Bell

Comin' Back for More

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Despite the appropriate title, Comin' Back for More is not merely a comeback album for William Bell; it is arguably the artistic and commercial peak of his entire career. During the 1960s, Bell was perhaps best-known as a songwriter, although his recorded tenure at Stax yielded several minor R&B hits, most notably the Top Ten "I Forgot to Be Your Lover," which later became a slightly retitled pop hit for Billy Idol. After switching to Mercury in the mid-'70s, Bell seemed to re-emerge out of nowhere with Comin' Back for More. The single "Tryin' to Love Two" became his only R&B chart-topper as well as his lone Top Ten pop success. Although 1970s R&B was overflowing with odes to infidelity (i.e., Billy Paul's "Me and Mrs. Jones"), "Tryin' to Love Two" was one of the few promiscuous songs to address the consequences beyond getting caught and ending up alone. Besides the additional strain on his time and finances, Bell reveals the psychological cost of fooling around when he bemoans: "It started out had lots of fun/But now it's got me on the run/This jumping in and out of bed/Keeps messing with my head." Shifting seamlessly from ominous bass and staccato guitar to the sweet sounds of muted horns and female background vocals, "Tryin' to Love Two" is a perfect marriage of music and lyrics. "Relax" is nearly as good, combining an irresistible rhythm (patterned after Archie Bell & the Drells' "Tighten Up") with a loving supplication designed to ease the mind of his virginal sweetheart. Bell's emotional sincerity transforms the potentially smarmy seduction into a reassuringly romantic entreaty. More evidence of Bell's artistic maturity surfaces on the spiritually profound update of his 1962 single "You Don't Miss Your Water," which features the inspirational saxophone of Eli Fountain. The somber resignation of "Just Another Way to Feel" also benefits greatly from Fountain's extended soloing, and all of the musicians assembled by Bell and co-producer/arranger Paul Mitchell contribute uniformly excellent performances throughout the album. If the serviceable remake of Smokey Robinson's "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" seems like an anticlimactic finale, it's probably due to the high quality of the preceding originals. It's not easy to upstage a legendary songwriter like Robinson, yet Bell accomplishes that unlikely feat in welcome fashion on Comin' Back for More.

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