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Bobby Caldwell’s second album, Cat In The Hat, from 1980, is one of his greatest moments and another masterwork of soulful sophistication. Featuring the eternal “Open Your Eyes”, brilliantly sampled by J Dilla for Common’s “The Light”, it’s about as essential as records get. Like its eponymous predecessor, it’s been out of print for far too long. To finally release the hugely-anticipated reissue is one of our sincerely proudest moments.
Whilst Ned Doheny is known in Japan as “Mr California”, native New Yorker Bobby Caldwell has always been “Mr AOR” to his Far-Eastern friends. His distinct charm is an irresistible blend of soul, jazz, and pop influences. He possessed phenomenal songwriting prowess, smooth vocal performances, was both a great soul guitarist and dextrous keyboard player and known for genius chord progressions. It all added up to a multi-layered brilliance entering the studio, and the singular sound he landed on was laced with soulful, sweeping strings and funky horns, touching lightly on disco, while allowing his supple voice to carry the stunning tracks he’d crafted.
Right from the off, it’s easy to tell that Cat In The Hat is a deeply special record. It’s fantastically produced and incredibly well-rounded, carving its own lane with deep soul, warm jazz and a stunning vocal delivery that really helped Bobby reach out to some big new audiences at the time. Goosebumps at the ready for the rolling power-piano funk of ""Coming Down From Love"", opening up the album with a track as good as anything Steely Dan or The Doobies ever crafted, with a vocal performance from the heavens. Pumping AOR wonder “Wrong Or Right” is up there with the slick, classy rhythms of prime Ned Doheny whilst the cool, skipping soul of guitar-drenched “To Know What You’ve Got” is a funky ballad par excellence, with elemental traces of “What A Fool Believes”. No bad thing. Closing out Side A, the folk-funk of “You Promised Me” is a bright, soulful strut with a wonderful vocal coda that just builds. Sensational.
The delicate bounce and falsetto self-harmonising of “It’s Over” offers a truly delightful introduction to Side B, and serves as a great precursor to what follows. Bobby’s dynamite ""Open Your Eyes"" is likely the reason you’re all here. As if he needed it, the eternal J Dilla further immortalised Caldwell in the hip-hop canon with his production of Common’s epochal “The Light,” which heavily samples the magical “Open Your Eyes.” On a post paying tribute to Bobby in March 2023, Questlove claimed that he “got word Brother Bobby loved it”. Bobby’s original has seen new life even more recently from the likes of Dwele and Kendrick Lamar and deservingly so, as its insistent drums and staccato piano created a modern-soul classic. You’d think that would be hard to follow, wouldn’t you? Not so, when you’re Bobby Caldwell. Indeed, the horn-drenched stepper “Mother Of Creation” is absolutely ace, and, whisper it, possibly the album’s finest track, all funky piano and guitars with horn lines to die for. Exquisite ballad “I Don’t Want To Lose Your Love” rounds out the album beautifully.
Bobby sadly passed away on 23rd March 2023, after a long struggle with mitochondrial damage and oxidative stress, due to an adverse effect from a fluoroquinolone antibiotic. The reissue of Cat In The Hat will be available on vinyl across the globe, ensuring that fans of his incomparable talent – and soul music enthusiasts worldwide – can radiate in the deep beauty of this seminal album. Meticulously remastered and cut by both Simon Francis and Cicely Balston respectively, it has been pressed to the highest possibly quality at Record Industry in Holland.
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