Liner Note Author: Bill Kopp.
Recording information: Atlantic Recording Studios, New York, NY; Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, Muscle Shoals, AL.
Arranger: Bob Lance.
Real Gone's 2015 two-fer combines Bobby Lance's 1971 album First Peace and its 1972 sequel Rollin' Man on one CD. Lance was a soul songwriter -- he penned several R&B hits, including Aretha Franklin's "The House That Jack Built" -- so it's not a surprise that these two albums are anchored in soul, but they're progressive roots records encompassing all the different funky sounds emanating from the South in the early '70s. First Peace, in particular, seems steeped in the South, as it was partially recorded at Muscle Shoals and features a horn section led by King Curtis and backing vocals by the Sweet Inspirations. Duane Allman also shows up on "More Than Enough Rain," enlivening it with his signature slide, but the focus remains on the thick, heady gumbo of blues, soul, and rock, a combination that sometimes gets undercut by such showbiz schmaltz as the closing "Walkin' on a Highway." Lance, who wrote every song here in collaboration with his partner and sister Fran Robins, is a sharp writer and possesses an appealing gruff, gravelly voice, so there is a focal point and a sturdy structure to First Peace. Nevertheless, the real charm of the album is its overall mood: it's a nicely weathered, casually funky slice of soulful rock from an era where that blend was common. Rollin' Man, recorded in New York just a year later, was cut from the same cloth but it's a straighter affair, hitting the rock rhythms a bit harder, keeping the grooves linear and ever so slightly ratcheting up that smidgen of showbiz that lurked on the edges of First Peace. Naturally, the latter surfaces on the ballads (and also the hippie-dippie "Tribute to a Woman") but it's usually drowned out by the effective Allman Brothers nod "John the Rollin' Man" and an overdose of driving boogie. Lance handles these curves admirably and it's a nice bit of early-'70s Southern rock, although it slightly pales next to the seamless Southern stew of First Peace. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine