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Monday, February 25, 2013

Bobby Bland: Here's The Man!!!


1) 36-22-36; 2) You're The One (That I Adore); 3) Turn On Your Love Light; 4) Who Will The Next Fool Be; 5) You're Worth It All; 6) Blues In The Night; 7) Your Friends; 8) Ain't That Lovin' You; 9) Jelly Jelly Jelly; 10) Twis­tin' Up The Road; 11) Stormy Monday Blues.

This quick follow-up to Two Steps is not as universally lauded or included in any «golden fund» anthologies — in fact, it is not even available as such on CD, and has to be re-cobbled together from larger Duke Records collections — however, quality-wise, it is maybe only half a notch be­low Two Steps, and only because the instrumental focus is slightly shifted from individual ins­truments to «big band flavor», with a Vegasy touch to some of the numbers that wasn't there be­fore. Also, there was really no need to remake ʽFurther On Up The Roadʼ as ʽTwistin' Up The Roadʼ — as if there was no other way to let us know the chronological setting of the record. You can hardly twist to the re-make anyway: it gets stuck somewhere midway between gritty blues-rock and dance entertainment.

But this is the one that has ʽTurn On Your Lovelightʼ on it, a number we usually know from Pig­pen's classic 20-minute workouts on Grateful Dead concerts — and no matter how much we re­spect the Grateful Dead, the two-and-a-half minute original cannot be beat: Pigpen is no Bobby Bland when it comes to winding yourself up in a gospel-soul frenzy, and the song's big selling point is Joe Scott's original brass arrangement, combining boogie discipline with New Orleanian excitement (there is an echo of ʽSaintsʼ in there somewhere).

This is also the one that has the definitive version of ʽStormy Mondayʼ on it — well, possibly the second definitive after T-Bone Walker's original recording, but it was this one that must have in­spired everybody from the Allman Brothers to Clapton: Bobby gets in character with such verve and authenticity as T-Bone never could (not being much of a great singer), and Wayne Bennett's lead guitar playing is every bit as good, and probably several bits better, than Walker's — he gives the song a laid-back, jazzy vibe with just the faintest, subtlest traces of anxiety and paranoia, and in between the two of them, a classic soulful update on a pioneering electric blues classic is produced. If you are sick and tired of the recent ten millionth cover of ʽStormy Mondayʼ recorded by yet another generic blues outfit, put yourself in the context of 1962 and it may be easier to un­derstand why the song has inspired such an annoyingly massive legacy.

Other recognizable tunes include Billy Eckstine's ʽJelly, Jellyʼ (later also appropriated by the All­mans for Brothers And Sisters), done in a somewhat «loungey» fashion; Charlie Rich's ʽWho Will The Next Fool Be?ʼ; and a version of ʽBlues In The Nightʼ that is no better or worse than the legions of versions of ʽBlues In The Nightʼ recorded over the years. However, none of these are as much fun as is ʽ36-22-36ʼ, where Bobby's backers yell out the measurements with such force, you'd think the sincerity of his love confessions depended on it in a direct proportion. (Not that there'd be anything surprising about it).

The album only has 11 tracks: as you re-cobble the sequencing from various compilations, it would make sense to expand it to 12 by not forgetting ʽHow Does A Cheatin' Woman Feelʼ, a great, but forgotten B-side from the same year with yet another fine vocal/guitar duet from Bobby and Wayne — denser and moodier than on ʽStormy Mondayʼ, and adding the much needed extra darkness and de­pression to a record whose only flaw is a small excess of sentimentalism for a supposedly «blues» album. Oh sure, it inherits the «urban blues» tradition rather than the «Delta blues» one, but still, there has to be a good balance between the happy Bobby and the unhappy Bobby. Restore this balance with ʽCheatin' Womanʼ, and that's a surefire thumbs up for you.

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