It’s true to say that most of the major rock’n’roll and R&B names from the 1950s have had the majority of their work digitised by now – many of them several times over. It’s always nice, therefore, to be able to bring you something relatively unknown by someone who’s anything but. And this month it’s a real pleasure to premiere the complete King recordings of the Bay Area’s best loved R&B rocker, Mr “Do You Wanna Dance” himself, the one and only Bobby Freeman.
Bobby joined King in 1960 and stayed until 1961, recording a total of 18 sides under Syd Nathan’s personal supervision. For reasons best known to Syd, he issued only one 45 during that time – the Top 40 hit ‘(I Do The) Shimmy Shimmy’ – and left the other tracks in the can for some years. In fact, no further King material was issued until Bobby had signed to Autumn Records and had hits with ‘S-W-I-M’ and ‘C’mon And Swim’, at which point King issued two more 45s and a stupendously rare album called “The Lovable Style Of Bobby Freeman”. Neither the singles nor the album sold, leaving several more tracks unissued.
For some reason, the golden age of vinyl reissues left this material completely undisturbed. “Give My Heart A Break” marks the first occasion of its reissue (and, in several cases, its issue) in a package with appeal for all fans of Bobby’s early work, and of his Josie recordings in particular.
Recorded in King’s studios, with the accompaniment of the label’s exceptional house band, the tracks demonstrate every facet of Bobby’s talent. Many of the songs had been previously recorded by other King artists, but in the likes of ‘What Can I Do’, ‘Somebody, Somewhere (Hear My Plea)’, ‘Good, Good Lovin’’, ‘Please, Please, Please’ and ‘Fever’ our man proves himself to be more than a match for Donnie Elbert, James Brown and Little Willie John.
Freeman’s talents as a balladeer are also beautifully demonstrated by the previously unissued ‘Please Stay By Me’ and Bobby’s personal favourite ‘You Don’t Understand’ – and even though he doesn’t actually remember recording the doo wop standard ‘Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight’, the performance itself is highly memorable. An added bonus for anyone who has any of this material on vinyl is that the majority of the issued tracks were faded or edited for single and album release. Here we’ve let them run for as long as Bobby’s singing on the tape, in some cases up to 45 seconds longer than any previously issued version.
Beautifully illustrated with a full set of label shots and a selection of previously unpublished full colour publicity shots from King Records’ own archives, this excellent compilation comes to you with the full approval and co-operation of Bobby himself. He’s as proud of these recordings as he is of any he’s made through a long and, happily, still ongoing career and is delighted that they are at last seeing issue on CD. So are we!
By Tony Rounce