By Barry Gilbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


August 2, 2005

Bobby Purify
"Better to Have It"
Proper Records

If the name Bobby Purify makes you smile all over and start humming the classic 1966 soul ballad "I'm Your Puppet" by James and Bobby Purify, you're right -- and wrong.

Purify, aka Ben Moore, has been Bobby Purify for more than 30 years, but he wasn't the original Bobby Purify, and he didn't sing on "Puppet." In fact, he was the third Bobby, and none of them was actually James' brother.

Moore, whose voice is touched by age but still smoky, evocative and soulful, has recorded and toured under both names. He once scored a Grammy nomination for best gospel album and continued working until going blind in 1998.

Ray Charles helped encourage Purify back into the studio, and Muscle Shoals R&B legend Dan Penn, who co-wrote "Puppet" as well as the classic ballad "Dark End of the Street," signed on to produce. And Penn brought with him the famed Muscle Shoals players: "Puppet" co-writer Spooner Oldham on keyboards, David Hood on bass and Jimmie Johnson on guitar. Add Memphis guitarist Reggie Young, trumpeter Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns and 12 songs co-written by Penn, and you've got some serious soul credibility.

All of this, however, doesn't quite add up to perfection. The CD is probably a couple of smooth ballads too long, sports some clichéd lyrics and doesn't catch fire often enough to surpass soul comebacks such as Solomon Burke's recently and James Carr's a decade ago.

Still, it does have many pleasures, including the one song written by Purify. "What's Old to You" drips with a great vocal and the guitar lines, organ washes and horn arrangements of classic soul records: "You call me an old man/say you're gonna set me on a shelf/stop at the mirror and take a good look at yourself/what's old to you gonna be new to someone else."

Other highlights include "Better to Have It" ("and not need it/than to need it/and not have it"), the up-tempo and funky "Somebody's Gotta Do It" ("lovin' her's an all night thing/but somebody's got to do it") and "The Pond," a swampy tale from the Tony Joe White/Clarence Carter wing of Southern soul that advises "it's a frog-eat-frog world."

And in the fine ballad "You Make Me Dig," Purify sings: "You're so cool in an old-school kind of way."

Same to you, Bobby. Same to you.