Click on the song titles above for lyrics and songwriting credits
In August 1969 Bobbie released Touch ‘Em With Love her 4th solo album; different from its predecessors, it marked a transition away from largely self-penned collections of regional songs supplemented by sympathetically chosen cover versions by attempting to re-position her as a blue eyed soul singer over a selection of songs where only two of the albums 10 tracks were originals. Recorded in Nashville and produced by Kelso Herston, the result is something of a mixed bag – The first side works well: Bobbie delivers wonderful renditions of Greyhound Goin’ Somewhere (written for her by Michael Martin Murphy and Bill Dorsey) John Hartford’s Natural To Be Gone and Touch ‘Em With Love. The clipped Southern Fried funk of the title track made for a great lead single, even though it inexplicably failed to chart. Her own compositions were equally successful on the wistful folk of Seasons Come Seasons Go which showed a new side to Bobbie’s songwriting and the gospel-inspired Glory Hallelujah, How They’ll Sing which put her right back in Chickasaw County and wouldn’t have sounded out of place on any of her first three albums.
The second side is much less successful, it gets off to a good start with a spirited take of I Wouldn’t Be Surprised, but versions of Where’s the Playground Johnny and You’ve Made Me So Very Happy are merely adequate. Bobbie’s rendition of Son Of A Preacher Man also feels uninspired; it’s a song which should work for her but oddly doesent, and she sounds uncomfortable and atypically strained on breakout hit I’ll Never Fall In Love Again.
Whilst critically acclaimed at the time, Touch ‘Em With Love is perhaps her least interesting album, but this was not a barrier to the LP’s success, as it became her highest charting album in the UK, where the single of Bacharach and David’s I’ll Never Fall In Love Again gave her a surprise number one hit. This success created a distinct middle of the road persona for her in the public imagination that persists to this day and has clouded Bobbie’s achievements as a songwriter.
In 2000 a cd compilation called Ode to Bobbie Gentry contained a couple of previously unreleased recordings, although they were not listed as such on the sleeve. One of these Stormy written by Buddy Buie and James Cobb was recorded for an abandoned jazz album just prior to the Touch ‘Em With Love sessions. In 2007 a further outtake from these sessions was issued on the cd compilation The Best Of The Capital Years which was an acoustic performance of the Bacharach and David song The Windows of The World; superior to either of her other recordings by the duo its remarkable this wasn’t issued at the time.