01. Somebody Tell Me 2:17
02. Somewhere In Between 3:41
03. One Turn You're In One Turn You're Out 4:09
04. More Than Enough Rain 5:50
05. I May Not Have Enough Time 3:08
06. It Can't Be Turned Around 2:20
07. Brother's Keeper 3:25
08. Trouble Is A Sometimes Thing 3:47
09. Cold Wind Howling In My Heart 3:35
10. Shake Down Blues 3:07
11. Walkin' On A Highway 5:05
Backing Vocals – The Sweet Inspirations
Bass – David Hood
Drums, Percussion – Roger Hawkins
Keyboards – Barry Beckett (tracks: A2, A4 to B5)
Organ – Richard Tee (tracks: A1)
Piano – George Soule (tracks: A3)
Slide Guitar, Lead Guitar – Eddie Hinton
Tenor Saxophone – Hubert Laws, King Curtis
Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone – Trevor Lawrence
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Frank W. Wess
Trombone – Garnett Brown
Trumpet – Joe Newman
Vocals, Guitar, Percussion – Bobby Lance
Recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, Muscle Shoals, Alabama & at Atlantic Recording Studio, New York, N.Y.
Special thanks to: Mark Meyerson, King Curtis, Leo Edwards, Tom Dowd & the whole Atlantic Staff.
Check the liner notes of an album by an artist that doesn’t primarily write their own material, and the credits will be teeming with the names of the people responsible for penning the songs. Sometimes these names will be familiar: fellow performers, star producers, or the rare songwriter or writing team that has earned enough hits to be well-known in their own right. Much of the time, however, the names will be more obscure, listing writers who may have worked steadily for years turning out album tracks and B-sides, or recording with minor artists rather than stars. If they’re very lucky, they might even manage to punctuate their career with a hit or two.
Such is the case of Bobby Lance, a Brooklyn native who started writing songs with his older sister Fran Robins (17 years his senior) while still a teenager in the late ’50s. Most of their material was doled out to little-known doo-wop and girl group outfits, but the duo scored big when Aretha Franklin took their song “The House That Jack Built” to the Top 10 on both the pop and R&B charts in 1968. The hit granted Lance the opportunity to record two albums for Atlantic Records, 1971’s First Peace (released on the Cotillion imprint).
Lance’s debut, 1971’s First Peace, was made with the full backing of the Atlantic machine, featuring a lineup of musicians familiar to anyone who’s studied the liner notes of the label’s classic soul albums of the era. The Swampers, house band for Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, serves as Lance’s core group, while legendary saxophonist King Curtis leads the horn section, and the gospel group the Sweet Inspirations provides the backing vocals. Lance, for his part, leads with a gutsy, Southern-inflected voice of surprising range and intensity, well-suited for the soulful ballads and bluesy rockers comprising the album.
“More Than Enough Rain” is by far the best-known song on either of Lance’s LPs, due to the rumor that Duane Allman plays slide guitar on the track. (Bill Kopp’s liner notes for this reissue presents it as fact, but it’s apparently still a source of debate for avid Allman Brothers fans.) The six-minute psych-blues rocker is a bit of an outlier, however. More typical of First Peace is opening track “Somebody Tell Me,” a mid-tempo R&B groover that mixes blues boilerplate (“My mama had me on a block of wood / in an old broken-down shack”) with vaguely hippie sentiments (“everybody helps each other, yeah”).
First Peace sometimes feels weighed down with Lance’s insistence on piling on the dramatics and “soulful” signifiers, but it’s also packed with enough gems to demonstrate why he managed to be in demand by not one, but two of the most important record labels of the era. (See below.) The underwritten melody line and tired “I’m a man, you can’t hold me down” lyrics of “Somewhere in Between” are more than made up for by its thundering, desperate chorus, which singlehandedly propels the song to the top of the pack. “One Turn You’re In One Turn You’re Out” and “Trouble is a Sometimes Thing” are radio-friendly ballads that could have been R&B hits (though perhaps in cover versions), while the moody atmosphere and tense arrangement of “Shake Down Blues” lends the song a directness largely lacking from rest of the album.