Bobbie Gentry

The Delta Sweete/Local Gentry

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Australia's Raven Records knows how to deliver the reissue goods to be sure. This packaging of Bobbie Gentry's second and third albums, Delta Sweete and Local Gentry may not have been as successful as their predecessor, Ode to Billie Joe, but how could they have been? If they didn't sell near as well, they certainly were more adventurous. Banking on Ode to Billie Joe's success, Delta Sweete, released in March of 1968, was a concept album based on modern life in the Deep South. A lot of emphasis was put on the unique sound of Gentry's guitar and her unique singing and phrasing styles. Gentry wrote eight of the album's 12 tracks, with "Okalona River Bottom Blues" using the same basic cadence as her smash single's; the track is accented by a beautiful, sophisticated horn chart and some breathy strings. Likewise her reading of Mose Allison's "Parchman Farm Blues" brings out the brass and strings in full jazz, big band fashion. The way it fades into Gentry's own "Mornin' Glory," with its high lonesome harmonica and shimmering strings and bells, is a forgotten '60s pop classic. "Sermon" is a fine southern take on Neil Diamond's "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show" with a smoking lead trumpet part. Needless to say, the album didn't sell enough to chart in the Billboard Top 100. Local Gentry, issued in October of the same year -- just a few weeks after the previous album failed to chart, according to the liner notes. Recorded in swinging London, it featured five Gentry originals including "Sweete Peony," "Ace Insurance Man," and "Sittin' Pretty"; only the first of these really reflects Gentry's Southern identity. There are a pair of Lennon and McCartney covers, including a weird take on "Fool on the Hill," that is a clearly a case of the management letting producer and arranger Shorty Rogers run amok. "Eleanor Rigby" is done nearly samba style with double-timed but muted drums and a hyperactive bassline. This set also failed on the marketplace. There are three bonus cuts included here, the best of which is a refreshing read on "Stormy." While Ode to Billie Joe these aren't, they are in their own way far more satisfying as albums.

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