With this, the fourth in the Bob Gibson Legacy series, the stalwart folkie entered a bit of a new phase, touting more in the way of a full backing band rather than the usual duo / trio / quartet configurations normal to his ouevre. In that, something was gained and something lost. The original release date is 1984, and Gibson had been through a lot. It shows, and there's a bone-weary wistfulness imbuing the record that's only rarely evident beforehand. The guy had missd the train a number of times, cheated of his rightful place by Fate and Fortune, dames no one wants to mess with, and here seems reconciled with that.
There'd always been a bit of Ray Stevens in Gibson. It emerges more fully here, not to mention the temporary admixture of Jimmy Buffet (Tequila Sheila), both tending to adjust him to a fuller populist sense rather than the uniquely borderland folk normal to his wont. Annie Hills was retained from the last release and, though Paxton's absent, her presence instills Uptown with a better sense of the past, affecting an Emmylou Harris-ish backing role, sweet and fragile.
Gibson's individual voice shines through clearly in cuts like Lookin' for You, a return to the old days leavened with a touch or two of modernity (the uncredited flute accompaniment is nice indeed, straddling antiquity with lightly chambered jazz). Thankfully, too, the guy picked up the banjo again, adding to his 12-string mainstay, and if the CD title sounds a bit Tom Waits-ish, then the Tom Cattin' Time proves to indeed be vaguely Waits-esque, back alley grinning, dusty, scuffed, and melancholy.
Listening to this album, though Gibson was the most pleased with it above his other work, one gets the feel of impending change and in a fashion not interpreble. There are Brian Wilson elements, as well as a bit of the better Manilow, some Springsteen, Billy Joel, and various other folk-and-pop-to-mainstream successes, though none so dominative that his imprint is marred. There's also an air of indecisiveness, so I have to suspect that Gibson knew what he was really shooting for, and Uptown represented a firm step in that direction rather than a solid achievement.
[For an extensive historical intro to Gibson's place in the folk firmament, see the review for Funky in the Country, here.]
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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