Monday, 3 February 2014

Review: Hank Mobley - Reach Out

‘Reach Out’, one of Hank Mobleys final ever sessions, is one of a number of records toward the end of the sixties that unfortunately highlights his depressing decline due to various circumstances, before his eventual and complete retirement. One of just a few times that Mobley would move away from hard bop, he instead here opts for a mainstream approach, both testing and saddling himself with gentle bop, soul-jazz and covers of contemporary pop songs. As such, it’s probably the most overtly commercial outing of all-time for Mobley and, not uncoincidentally, one of his worst.

The band, made up of players as strong as Woody Shaw, George Benson, Lamont Johnson, Bob Cranshaw and Billiy Higgins, all sound hemmed in (and even bored) by the sessions goal of appealing to the wider pop audience, and none of them are able to really make a distinctive personal stamp on the proceedings. The Four Tops ‘Reach Out (I’ll Be There)’, though a stone-cold classic, here is absolutely horrific and ranks as one of Mobleys worst ever, where no-one sounds sure what’s going on and everyone gives the impression of only just barely holding it together.

‘Goin’ Out Of My Head’ (covered by almost everyone at the time) is better, but largely sounds phoned in - as does pretty much everything else here. Mobley himself is also an oddly small presence here too, feeling more like an anonymous hired gun than a leader. He puts in a half-good heart-in-it performance just once, on one of his originals, but it’s doubtful anyone noticed it, sounding as it does completely forgettable.

Bland, inoffensive and tiring, it’s best avoided as it’d be hard to find anyone who would derive pleasure from listening to this.


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