Bobbie Gentry might not be a household name these days, but in 1967 she took the world by storm. Her debut release of Ode To Billie Joe on Capitol Records topped the Billboard Top 100 for four weeks. It was the start of an illustrious career, with six solo studio albums and her own BBC television series. In the 70’s she had success with her own Las Vegas show, but slowly retreated from the music business. She made her final public appearance at the Academy of Country Music Awards on April 30, 1982. She was 40 years old at this point, and has never recorded, performed or done interviews since.
The Girl From Chickasaw County: The Complete Capitol Masters is an 8-disc box set retrospective compilation of her recording career. As well as the six studio albums, it also contains the album she made of duets with country artist Glen Campbell. In addition, 75 previously unreleased tracks add to an impressive tracklisting. These include demos, alternate takes and live recordings from her BBC TV series.
Before the release of this boxset, Bobbie Gentry’s back catalogue suffered neglect in the modern digital CD age. Whilst many budget priced compilations and ‘Best Ofs’ flooded the market, her studio albums received no love. EMI (who distributed Capitol Records) only really focused on her debut album which featured Ode To Billie Joe. The Australian record label Raven had issued some ‘2 for 1’ CD releases, but the mastering on them was nothing to write home about. These are difficult to obtain in other territories, where imports are often scarce.
You've Made Me So Very Happy
Deluxe box sets often disappoint. Overpriced, poor packaging, or just a lack of thought put into them. The Girl From Chickasaw County: The Complete Capitol Masters never strays close to any of these things. It comes in a beautifully packaged sturdy 10″ box that houses a stylish book, and CDs held in gatefold designs. The box front boasts a newly commissioned piece of artwork depicting Bobbie, designed by David Downton. The 84 page book included features an essay from compiler Andrew Batt, and previously unseen photos of Bobbie.
In addition, and more importantly, the sound quality and mastering of the music contained is of the highest quality. As previously mentioned, included here are the albums Ode To Billie Joe, The Delta Sweete, Local Gentry, Touch ‘Em With Love, Fancy and Patchwork. Also included is the self titled album made in collaboration with Glen Campbell. But that only scratches the surface of the contents that this set showcases. Rare B-sides, foreign language recordings and many more outtakes and demos are in abundance here. The crowning glory are the demos Bobbie made for a jazz album that would never the light of day.
This Girl's In Love With You
After the relative commercial failure of The Delta Sweete and Local Gentry, Bobbie & Capitol searched for a new direction. Therefore during February and March 1969, Bobbie went into the studio and laid down 8 mostly acoustic tracks. These were predominately laid-back recordings of classic and contemprary jazz tunes. Highlights include a cover of Billie Holiday’s God Bless The Child and an intimate version of the Bacharach & David classic This Girl’s In Love With You. However they eventually abandoned this project, with these recordings languishing in Capitol’s vaults until this release.
If that isn’t enough for you, they even throw in a whole disc of Live At The BBC. In conclusion, there are more musical gems here than I could begin to describe. Therefore the best way for me to do so is present some of them in a YouTube playlist.
1. This Girl’s In Love With You (previously unreleased)
2. Seasons Come, Seasons Go (demo)
3. Touch ‘Em With Love (alternate stereo take)
4. Where’s The Playground Johnny? (from Touch ‘Em With Love)
5. Greyhound Going Somewhere (from Touch ‘Em With Love)
6. Penduli Pendulum (from The Delta Sweete)
7. Mornin’ Glory (from The Delta Sweete)
8. Papa Won’t You Let Me Go To Town With You (from Ode To Billie Joe)
9. Mississippi Delta (from Ode To Billie Joe)
10. Smoke (outtake from Patchwork)
11. Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head (alternate take)
12. Circle ‘Round The Sun (outtake from Fancy)
13. Scarlet Ribbons (recorded for The Christmas Sound Of Music)
14. Apartment 21 (rare single release)
15. In The Ghetto (outtake from Touch ‘Em With Love)
16. The Windows Of The World (previously unreleased)
17. Fancy (from Fancy)
18. He Made A Woman Out Of Me (from Touch ‘Em With Love)
19. Rainmaker (from Touch ‘Em With Love)
Ode To Billie Joe
And lastly to finish off, let us journey back to that magical moment where Bobbie’s career started. The popularity of Ode To Billie Joe never went away. Nine years later, Warner Bros. built a screenplay based on the song’s narrative. They changed the name of the film slightly to Ode To Billy Joe. Bobbie even re-recorded the song for it’s theme, peaking at No. 65 on the Billboard charts.