In the mythical 1980s if you needed somebody to fiddle on your track Bobby Valentino was your ‘go-to guy’. With his Clark Gable looks and his jazz moustache (I realise that inserting the word jazz before a great number of words can create a myriad of euphemisms, but in this case all we’re talking about is a ‘tache in the style of Django Reinhardt’s), Bobby and his fiddle graced a truckload of songs from the era. The Bluebells, Red Box, The men they couldn’t hang, Nick Lowe and his cowboy outfit, Billy Bragg, Big County and the Style Council were just a few of the artists that called upon Bobby’s considerable talents.
Our cassette today is Bobby’s 1990 release, ‘You’re in the groove, Jackson’. Well to the fore are Bobby’s trademark fiddling and what I believe is a warm, distinctive baritone (as we’ve already established, my knowledge of musical theory is limited, with the high point of my own musical career being a spell playing the tuba in my school brass band, which didn’t require a great deal of musical ability. At least not the way I played it).
Impressive tracks abound here and I enjoyed re-listening to this an awful lot more than I presumed I would. I have a very shaky theory that you can always judge an album by its track number 7. In today’s case this particular spot is occupied by the Gary Clark co-written ‘Guaran-damn-tee’ and a very high quality representative of the album it turns out to be. If you ever have the opportunity to hear the Gary Clark version (included in demo form on his ‘Freefloating’ CD single) then I recommend that you grab it with both hands.
There’s a great intelligence about the song writing too, with ‘A way with women’ , ‘The man who invented jazz’ and ‘Expected in Texas’ all cropping up again like old friends on this re-listen. The first of these casually dropping in the fantastic word ‘ilk’ with abandon and the last sounding like something that Hank Williams forgot to record.
History (and a court case) have shown that Bobby also co-wrote one of the pop classics of our times – ‘Young at heart’ - first recorded without violin by Bananarama on their ‘Deep sea skiving’ album, then subsequently in ‘violined-up’ form by The Bluebells.
Label – Big Life
Year - 1990