AT THE BEGINNING of "Only Survivor," Bobby Womack lists his passed-away pals and peers, including Janis Joplin, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson. Womack is, literally, a soul survivor whose three decades of music- making have been capped by three outstanding '80s albums, "The Poet," "The Poet II" and, now, "So Many Rivers."
Womack's resurgence as a performer has solidified his reputation as one of the genre's outstanding songwriters, and "So Many Rivers" is chock full of memorable tunes.
"I Wish He Didn't Trust Me," the current single, is a supple, guilt-ridden ballad about being in love with a best friend's wife ("It's not that she leads me on / I got there all by myself") that fairly drips with agony. Womack explores love's permutations elsewhere as well. On "Got to Be With You Tonight," he evokes a bluesy rawness in pondering a reconciliation. "Let Me Kiss You Where It Hurts" is not the risque premise its title would suggest, but a ballad that's half-cabaret, half-gospel and all solace. On these songs in particular, Womack's gritty voice and emotional expansiveness recall soul's golden era.
"Only Survivor," a haunting remembrance written by brother and sister-in-law Cecil and Linda Womack, rides over muffled trap drums and almost country-ish piano to eulogize the singers and the songs that have been stilled. The only weak song on the album is a stiff, quirky version of Curtis Mayfield's "Gypsy Woman." But Womack knows enough to ride out on the upbeat spirit of Sam Cooke's "Where It's At," showing that they don't need to make 'em like they used to as long as the originals are still around.
Angela Bofill has a wonderful, soulful voice, but on her new album, "Tell Me Tomorrow," she's at the mercy of producer George Duke and 18 different songwriters. Not surprisingly, Bofill is less of a presence than Duke's techno-funkish production. With the exception of the ballad "Still in Love" and the title song, this is just so much more AOR product -- average on the radio.
BOBBY WOMACK -- "So Many Rivers" (MCA 5617);
ANGELA BOFILL -- "Tell Me Tomorrow" (Arista AL8- 8396); both appearing Sunday at the Warner Theater.