Bobby Cole – A Point of View (Omnivore Recordings)
Frank Sinatra once called him his favorite “saloon singer.”
Bobby Cole never became a household name. Yet, the singer, pianist and songwriter caught the attention of not only The Chairman of the Board, but also Ms. Judy Garland, who tapped Cole to arrange her short-lived TV show, and then some live performances.
A Point of View is an obscure album from mid-sixties, finally getting a proper release from the fine folks at Omnivore. And, it’s an amazing collection of supper-club style music that’s sure to delight any fan of the genre. Even more impressive is that everything here was written by Cole himself.
His original compositions definitely reflect his experiences. The album opens with the frenetic “Status Quo,” as he sings “On through the night / through the smoke and the noise / keeping the pace / while we’re losing our poise” – it’s obvious he’s seen this dance between men and women from years of playing in clubs.
You can see why Sinatra liked Cole so much, he’s got a swagger to him that especially is apparent in the spoken rap that begins “Lover Boy.” Cole has a magnetic voice, his raspy tenor draws you into his compositions. Yet, there are times when he almost sounds like his voice is going, it’s so gravely.
There’s diversity here too. He sings of adultery in a sultry way in “The Name of the Game is Trouble,” then inserts some jazz changes into the wisdom of “You Can’t Build a Life on a Look.” He goes tender for “But It’s Spring,” then increases the temperature again with “Heat,” where he’s helped on vocals by Kathy Kelly. Once again, the mood softens with “You Could Hear a Pin Drop,” then goes Bossa Nova with “Change of Scene.”
Perhaps the best track of the bunch is “No Difference at All.” It’s the ultimate kiss off to a former lover. “She’s like pink champagne / and you’re like beer / you’re like scratchy old corduroy / she’s cashmere.”
The 12 songs that originally appeared on the album are augmented by 13 additional tracks. Randy Poe’s liner notes say that they’re not sure if these are outtakes from this album, or perhaps songs attempted for a followup. Of the bonus material, the cascading “Never Ask the Hour,” the sad, “How the Lonely Spend Their Time,” and the straight-forward, “I Never Saw the Shadows,” stand out from the rest.
I think the best thing about A Point of View from the Bobby Cole is that it sounds fresh. Let’s be honest, we don’t get many new entries into the “supper club” genre these days. I would call this a fine discovery. —Tony Peters