Bobby Goldsboro

Summer (The First Time)

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Bobby Goldsboro was much more than a one-hit artist -- "Honey" tended to overwhelm everything else he did, but as this album cut four years later reminds listeners, he did generate some thoroughly enjoyable LPs interspersed with the hits that made it onto the radio. "Summer (The First Time)" marked the close of the most successful phase of his recording career -- it's a mini-drama/romance about a young man's coming of age, worthy of a screenplay (a lot like "Honey," come to think of it), and exemplifies one side of Goldsboro's work. But for the other, more lighthearted side, there's ample material here, and most of it is first-rate: the bouncy and upbeat "Marlena," the rocking "Mississippi Delta Queen," and a nicely laid-back rendition of "I Can See Clearly Now." The album alternates between those lighter numbers and more serious narrative songs, including "He's a Part of Us," "Killing Me Softly with Her Song" (oddly, a gender-switching cover of a song originally written about Don McLean, an artist who has also tended to be defined by a single song in a long and productive career), and the nostalgia-laden country number "The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore." Goldsboro and the album switch gears effortlessly, and the record is all the more entertaining and impressive for it; only the closing track, "If'n I Was God" from the contemporary feature film The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, has a slightly tacked-on feel, but even it is welcome -- in the absence of a full score by Goldsboro -- in the interest of completeness (and owing to the fact that it's a pretty good song as soundtrack numbers go on period subjects from this era of filmmaking). The production is first-rate smooth pop/rock with a country flavor, and the whole album marked a fine way to end his relationship with United Artists on a distinct creative high note. And it's still worth owning 35 years later.

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