Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
This is such an intriguing release! I had never heard of Bob Frank before I got this package. I am glad this was sent to me for review. Bob Frank was a great songwriter and his music was perfect for the late 60s and early 70s. In a time when people like Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot, Cat Stevens, and John Denver were at the top of the charts, Bob Frank would have been an incredible compliment to those artists. Bob sang about everything including drugs, bugs, and vagrants. His writing had an incredible feeling to it. Bob was able to get down to brass tacks when describing any subject and write about it in a way that hadn’t been written before. Bob Frank was picked up by Vanguard Records in the early 70’s when Vanguard was a really big deal.
The relationship went south when Bob realized that the label wasn’t being completely honest with him. It seems executives told Bob that he had veto power over the album and that anything he wasn’t comfortable with, he could over rule. Unfortunately, this was not the case and didn’t sit well with Bob. This conflict came to a confluence one night in New York City and Max’s Kansas City. Max’s was a very famous music club at that time with the who’s who of alternative music playing there. Artists such as Iggy Pop, David Bowie, The New York Dolls, and the Velvet Underground were regulars. Bob was scheduled to do a musical showcase playing live versions of the songs on his Vanguard release. Because of the acrimony and broken promises, Bob decided not to play those songs and played new songs he was working on. When an exec from Vanguard intervened and try to get Bob to play the songs on the album, Bob retorted, ” If they want to hear those songs, tell them to go buy the fucking album.” If you are trying to make it in the business, that’s probably the worst thing you can say and it pretty much ended the relationship between Bob Frank and Vanguard.
When Bob was speaking of the story years later in the documentary, he described the events in a very matter of fact and unapologetic way. The cavalier attitude that made his song writing so great is the same thing that essentially killed his career. How is that for irony? Bob toured for a while after the Vanguard deal feel apart and eventually settled in the Bay Area where he remained for the rest of his life. The documentary has a great flow to it. Great stories and great music fill the 75 minutes.
Over the years, people began to discover Bob’s music and Bob became somewhat of a cult hero with a fervent fan base. Bob continued to write and record in the 80s and 90s as a personal pursuit. The legend of Bob Frank kept growing and even increased after Bob’s untimely death in 2019. This release is a stunning collection of Bob’s music over time and will hopefully increase the interest in a songwriter that had the musical and writing chops of one of the greats.
Buy Within A Few Degrees here