Bobbie Gentry


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Fancy is a wild ride through all the contradictions that are Bobbie Gentry. After her breakthrough smash, "Ode to Billy Joe," with its haunted guitar figure and cipher meaning, the Mississippi singer/songwriter became the embodiment of backwoods in the eyes of the American public. But on Fancy, Gentry told the truth of what she aspired to. The title track is a "Billie Joe"-type story with a similar guitar figure; it also has a host of West Coast horns telling an unapologetic rags-to-riches story without regrets that mirrors Gentry's own. But it only begins here. From here, Gentry, assisted or perhaps directed by producer Rick Hall, cuts a pair of Bacharach/David numbers ("Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" and "I'll Never Fall in Love Again"), James Taylor's "Something in the Way He (sic) Moves," Leon Russell's "Delta Man" (sic), Nilsson's "Rainmaker," Rudy Clark's "If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody," Laura Nyro's "Wedding Bell Blues," and a few others with full strings, horns, orchestras, and glockenspiels for accompaniment -- along with a honky tonk piano, drum kit, and electric bass. What it makes for is even more of a mystery than "Ode to Billie Joe." Gentry's voice, with its smoke-tinged husky contralto, is ill-suited to this material. But that in itself is what makes this such a fascinating listen. None of it works, yet as a result, it's kind of a shambolic masterpiece. Not for the weak, but a compelling experience if you can make it through.

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