Here’s an idea for the next big jukebox musical: the various illicit romantic entanglements of the residents of a small town in the American south, circa 1975. The musical backdrop for this tragicomedy would be a fine selection of vintage 1970s cheating songs straight out of the soul and country genres. Some of the tunes on the soul side of the equation would include, but not be limited to, the Soul Children’s “The Other Woman”, Shirley Brown’s “Woman to Woman”, Barbara Mason’s answer song, “From His Woman to You”, and more than half the songs on Bobby Patterson’s 1972 album, It’s Just a Matter of Time.
Wait, you say you’ve never heard of Bobby Patterson or It’s Just a Matter of Time? Well, it’s time you did, and thanks to a just-released reissue – which includes the album’s first-ever vinyl reissue – now you can.
Bobby Patterson is the ultimate journeyman soul artist. Based in Dallas, Texas, Patterson began releasing singles during the 1960s. The singles weren’t hits, but they allowed Patterson to learn all about the music industry, leading to a career that has included songwriting, production, promotion, label ownership, and radio work.
Patterson’s musical versatility can be heard all over It’s Just a Matter of Time, which demonstrates his knack for writing catchy songs and his appealing vocals. Sharp production and playing combine with the great songs and singing to make It’s Just a Matter of Time a minor classic of ’70s soul.
Please note that “minor” isn’t a bad word here. During the early 1970s, artists like Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, and others were redefining “soul” with each new release. It’s Just a Matter of Time wasn’t innovative like that, and maybe that’s why it didn’t rocket up the charts, or maybe there were other reasons. However, It’s Just a Matter of Time is a wonderful compendium of soul styles from funky workouts to pretty ballads to socially conscious anthems to mildly psychedelic soul-rock, all tied together by Patterson’s personality and sharp musicianship.
Patterson opens the album with “If You Took a Survey”, a song that suggests that if you did take a survey, you’d discover that every man involved in a relationship was slipping around with one or more other women and that women weren’t much better at being faithful.
Besides being a fine, funky opener, “If You Took a Survey” sets Patterson up to expound on various cheating situations throughout the rest of the album. Sometimes, the narrator feels remorseful when rumors turn out to be false, as on “Take Time to Know the Truth”. Sometimes, the guy is oblivious to the woman knowing all about his faithlessness, as on “She Don’t Have to See You (to See Through You)”. It’s a song whose country-soul excellence was so apparent to Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy that he covered it on one of the Golden Smog albums.
On the blues-inflected “It Takes Two to Do Wrong”, a couple argues over whether a witnessed event was an act of infidelity or a sexual assault. Lyrics like, “you jumped up and said he was taking advantage of you / but from the sounds that you were making / you were doing what you wanted to do” might sound provocative now, but such lyrics may have very well escaped notice in 1972.
Elsewhere, Patterson offers cheerful advice to guys who think they’re players (“Make Sure You Can Handle It”) and asks, “How Do Spell Love?” (answer: “M-O-N-E-Y”).
It’s Just a Matter of Time isn’t all about the foibles of romance and sex though. “I Get My Groove from You” is a delightful love song that might remind listeners of some combination of the Delfonics, the Stylistics, and the Chi-Lites, without sounding overly derivative of any of them. Meanwhile, Patterson expresses idealism in the breezy “Recipe for Peace”, while also noting warily that “This Whole Funky World is a Ghetto” on the album’s psych-rock closing track.
Two caveats about It’s Just a Matter of Time. This has strictly been a review of the music contained on the album, not the vinyl record itself. But hopefully, the vinyl sounds fantastic, as the music deserves it. While this is being called a reissue of It’s Just a Matter of Time, it would appear from online photos of the original album cover that the tracklisting is slightly different from that of the original album. A song on the original, “Quiet! Do Not Disturb”, does not appear on the reissue, which contains two songs – “Take Time to Know the Truth” and “It Takes Two to Do Wrong” — that were not on the original album.
Since many people will be hearing It’s Just a Matter of Time for the first time, this song discrepancy is not an issue; in fact, the infidelity theme is even more explicit on the reissue. However, original fans of the album, if any happen to be out there, ought to know that what they’re getting now is slightly different from what they might remember.
But these are tiny details. Anyone who loves 1970s soul music needs to hear It’s Just a Matter of Time, and maybe even dig a little deeper into Patterson’s discography, which stretches back to that series of small-label singles Patterson recorded in the 1960s, through to at least 2014, when he released I Got More Soul! – clearly, truth in album titling.