The Anthology (1958-1975)

Bobby Sheen

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The Anthology (1958-1975) Review

by Richie Unterberger

Though Bobby Sheen is not a household name even among serious soul collectors, you might well have heard him at least once or twice, as he was the "Bobby" in one of Phil Spector's secondary acts, Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans. While that was the only project that brought him chart success (albeit fleeting), he had a lengthy and interesting career that included numerous obscure solo records in various soul styles, as well as a stint in the R&B group the Robins. This 24-track compilation is extremely wide-ranging, including late-'50s/early-'60s sides with the Robins; a couple Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans tracks (including the Top Ten hit on which he sang lead, "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah"); and solo tracks from rare 45s he cut between the mid-'60s and mid-'70s. For all the dedication involved in its compilation, however (including a superbly detailed and illustrated 20-page booklet of liner notes), it doesn't convince listeners that Sheen was more than an acceptable soul journeyman, searching like so many others for the song or two that might lift him above that status. He tried his hand at several different approaches without establishing a strong identity, whether extremely Clyde McPhatter-influenced tunes in his early career, frivolous doo wop (the Ding Dongs' "Ding Dong [Saw Wood Mountain]"), Smokey Robinson-influenced upbeat soul ("Dr. Love"), mildly funky sweet soul (his 1973 Warner Bros. singles), a Philly soul-like ballad (1975's "Love Stealing"), and even a blatant "Rockin' Robin" imitation (the Robins' "A Little Bird Told Me"). It's the production, not his voice, that distinguishes the best tracks, like "The Shelter of Your Arms," which has a lush uptown soul melodrama more in keeping with 1962-1964 than its 1967 release date. The Phil Spector period is lightly represented, and it's odd that a few of the more interesting-sounding tracks mentioned in the liner notes (such as a 1962 Spector-produced single, "How Many Nights [How Many Days]," and the 1967 single "I Shook the World," co-written by Jackie DeShannon) aren't on the compilation.