Our first invite to the Womack family party.
Daryl Easlea 2009
Linda and Cecil Womack's Love Wars was a breath of fresh air when it was released in 1983. At a time when soul was increasingly reliant on drum machines and synthesisers, here was an album that was more reminiscent of early 70s hippie-rock and 60s R&B.
Former Valentinos member Cecil Womack was the younger brother of soul legend Bobby, while his wife, Linda, was the daughter of Sam Cooke. To add flavour to the family saga, Bobby had married Cooke’s widow, Barbara, three months after the soul legend had been shot and killed in 1964. Which, had the relationship stayed together, would have made Bobby the stepfather-in-law to his brother. Linda (who’d been writing since she was 11) and Cecil became in-house writers for Philadelphia International Records in the 70s, penning material such as Love TKO for Teddy Pendergrass.
Subtitled ‘The Composers’, debut album Love Wars acted as a showcase for the duo’s writing. Produced by Stewart Levine (who’d made his name with Hugh Masekela and was just about to achieve commercial pop success with Simply Red), the album is an understated antidote to the excesses of 80s soul.
And it swung. With their variety of family members assisting them, Love Wars is warm and inclusive. The gospel-infused title track set out their musical template: a subtle use of machines and keyboards overlaid with acoustic guitars and genuinely soulful vocals.
There is grit in the duets (Baby I'm Scared of You); preacher-style introductions (Express Myself) and a surfeit of sincerity (Catch and Don’t Look Back). There was also tribute to the Rolling Stones who had set up Cecil and Bobby Womack well by covering their It’s All Over Now in the 60s. Linda’s version of Angie may diffuse some of Mick Jagger’s despair, but reinstates its sweetness.
Love Wars is like a large family party. And with all family get-togethers it wasn’t necessarily all about a knees-up, but also touching moments of reflection and a few heated arguments. And, as it was the first time we were all invited over to Womack and Womack’s, it remains the best.