How do you follow up o the biggest album of 1967? If you’re Bobbie Gentry you don’t sit on the impressive laurels born of her best-selling debut “Ode to Billie Joe”, which displaced the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band from its 15-week reign at the top of the US Billboard Top LP’s chart. You release ‘The Delta Sweete,’ a concept album based on life in contemporary Deep South.
Released in February 1968, barely six months after Gentry’s debut LP, ‘The Delta Sweete’ may not have contained anything as career-defining as the song “Ode to Billie Joe,” but it represented a definite step forward in its musical ambition: A multi-faceted album, where each track blurred, dreamlike, into the next, the songs evoked the melancholy adolescent world of Gentry’s childhood in Chickasaw County while further deepening her fascination with loss, illusion and the often comic absurdity of the conventions of everyday life. Even the album’s name was pure Gentry, the “Sweete” in the title punning on both Gentry’s southern belle good looks (a pretty girl in the South might be referred to as a sweete) and the album’s musical song structure. The artwork also poetically evoked the music it contained, featuring a double exposure of a contemplative black and white image of Gentry in tight close-up, superimposed onto a color photo of a run-down shack taken on her grandparents’ farm where she grew up.
On July 31, Capitol/UMe will release an expanded edition of The ‘Delta Sweete’ on 2CD and deluxe 2LP vinyl. The expanded CD edition features a new stereo mix of the album (sourced directly from the original four-track and eight-track tapes) by Andrew Batt, the GRAMMY®-nominated producer/compiler behind The Girl From Chickasaw County, alongside the original mono mix making its debut on CD. There are a total of 10 bonus tracks to treasure, including a previously unreleased original demo, “The Way I Do,” and a special instrumental version of “Okolona River Bottom Band” featuring the great Shorty Rogers on bass trumpet. The deluxe vinyl is the first official repress of the album since 1972 and features the new stereo mix on LP1 and the 10 bonus tracks on LP2.
Listen to the unreleased “The Way I Do” below,