American blue-eyed soul and jazz-inflected singer-songwriter Bobby Caldwell remains justifiably best known for his sparkling 1978 hit single "What You Won't Do for Love." However, I'd like to think I'm not the only rube who genuinely believed - up until this very evening upon researching Caldwell's impressive career- that this artist is African-American. I'm still not sure I believe this guy is as utterly Caucasian as he clearly is in the photo to the right, and that statement is meant not as an insensitive insult but only as testament to the singer's remarkably soulful, pliable tenor.
Caldwell continued his eclectic hitmaking career well into the '80s, even if he would never again match the success of the aforementioned track. Still, 1980's "To Know What You've Got" furthers the singer's versatile blend of jazz a la Al Jarreau with a Boz Scaggs-oriented grasp of highly accessible soft rock. The nearly flawless '80s smoothness of the track's production prevents this easily recommendable song from matching the genuine R&B/soul feel of his first record's signature tune. However, this cross-genre approach seems plenty intentional, as Caldwell played many of the instruments himself and thus injected a wide-reaching eclecticism into much of his sophomore LP Cat in the Hat. Crooner Gregory Abbott would ultimately pool the same kind of multi-faceted talent into his 1986 chart-topper "Shake You Down," but Caldwell served as an important pioneer for artists who transcend the strictures of traditional skin color identification of their music. For a wide variety of reasons, then, this is well worth seeking out.
- Sample or download "To Know What You've Got" here.
- Compare prices on Bobby Caldwell CDs here.
- Top Soft Rock/Adult Contemporary Artists of the '80s
- Top R&B Artists of the '80s
Album Cover Image Courtesy of Atlantic