Keith Barrow

Keith Barrow

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Keith Barrow's self-titled 1977 debut album was a pretty typical slice of Philadelphia sweet soul, showcasing the singer's rich upper-register (and sometimes falsetto) vocals. If it came kind of late in the game for Philly soul's heyday, it deserved some credit for not inserting gratuitous nods to disco, instead focusing on fairly conventional song-based romantic soul. There were some reputable names involved in the record, with top Philly soul sessionman Bobby Eli serving as producer at Sigma Sound Studios, and co-writing some of the songs with longtime Philly rocker/blue-eyed soulster Len Barry. Barrow himself wrote just one of the songs, the ballad "Teach Me (It's Something About Love)," which had already appeared on Blue Magic's 1976 album Mystic Dragons. Barrow's wide-ranging voice is appealing, and slightly reminiscent of other soul singers adept at handling the high notes, like Eddie Kendricks. "A World of Lonely People," the sole stab at almost prototypical, sweeping '70s soul social consciousness, makes a nice change from the menu of love songs. So does "You Don't Know How Hard It Is to Make It," which also has a funkier edge than most of the cuts. But it's an average album overall, without much in the way of significant, breaking-from-the-pack talent. [The 2011 CD reissue on Big Break adds a full-length version of "Precious" as a bonus track, along with liner notes featuring an interview with Bobby Eli.]