Dobie Gray

Drift Away

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Some six years before Dobie Gray laid down his debut long-player Drift Away, the vocalist had established himself as a seeming 'one-hit wonder' with "The 'In' Crowd," scoring additional attention with "See You at the 'Go-Go'" and "Out on the Floor." While the latter pair barely made an impact on the charts Stateside, both were considered classics throughout Europe -- especially among fans within the U.K.'s Northern Soul community. Gray additionally tried his hand at acting, resulting in participation in the Los Angeles cast of Hair and as becoming a member of a jazz-rock outfit called Pollution. A fortuitous collaborative partnership with Mentor Williams -- brother of noted composer/musician/actor Paul Williams -- led to a deal with Decca/MCA and ultimately to a Mentor Williams' tune that would become Gray's signature, "Drift Away," which also soared into the Top Five of the Pop survey in March of 1973, giving Decca their final Gold single prior to the label's collapse into their MCA Records parent company. The entire effort reflects the same insouciant vibe of the familiar title track with Gray's Nashville-based backing band featuring Williams (guitar), Mike Leech (bass), Reggie Young (guitar), Troy Seals (guitar), David Briggs (keyboards) and Kenny Malone (drums) with Weldon Myrick (pedal steel guitar) and Buddy Spicher (fiddle) augmenting the lineup. Williams, Seals and Jennings provide a wide array of material, ranging from the driving "The Time I Loved You the Most," "Rockin' Chair" and the swampified funk-blues of "Lay Back" to the stunningly poignant acoustic ballad "We Had It All." "Sweet Lovin' Woman" is another refined love song with a slightly countrified lilt that is perfectly matched to Gray's sensual expressiveness, clearly pointing in the direction that Gray's subsequent endeavors would take. [In 2004, a remastered version of Drift Away was included along with the other half-dozen LPs Gray recorded during the 1970s on Hip-O Select's four-disc The Complete Dobie Gray (1969-1979) box set.]

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