BOBBY BLAND: CALL ON ME / THAT'S THE WAY LOVE IS (1963)
1) Call On Me; 2) The Feeling Is Gone; 3) Honky Tonk; 4) Cry, Lover, Cry; 5) Wishing Well; 6) Share Your Love With Me; 7) That's The Way Love Is; 8) Care For Me; 9) No Sweeter Girl; 10) Bobby's Blues; 11) Ain't It A Good Thing; 12) Queen For A Day.
Going down a little bit here, as the hits start to slowly merge with the filler and the arrangements start getting a bit samier and the moods get mushier — ʽWishing Wellʼ and ʽBobby's Bluesʼ are the toughest numbers on here, but also the oldest, going all the way back to the 1950s and, consequently, quite out of tune with newer, better produced material. On most of that material, however, Bobby now has to compete with Clyde McPhatter and Ben E. King — ʽCall On Meʼ is basically his ʽStand By Meʼ, although the song is a bit too cuddly and playful to rank among the great soul masterpieces of the era. The horns have a nice run, though.
At least two of the songs here are in some way associated with The Band. ʽShare Your Love With Meʼ was covered on Moondog Matinee — in a version that rivaled the soulful original quite well (Richard Manuel certainly had just the right amount of soul in his voice to match Bobby's, if not quite the right amount of technique); and ʽHonky Tonkʼ they used to do in their early days as «Levon & The Hawks». However, this time around that's about it: most of the songs failed to become household names, including ʽThat's The Way Love Isʼ which, unfortunately, faded out of sight as the Whitfield/Strong by the same name far eclipsed its fame in 1967.
Bobby's singing is beyond reproach — at this point, he would be beyond reproach even singing phone numbers from his notebook — but the vibe throughout is centered around mellow, «innocent» twisting and shuffling and mainly provided by horns. When there is at least some guitar and keyboard involvement, as on ʽAin't It A Good Thingʼ, it works very well; at other times, it gets monotonous, or even soporific.
Especially because there just seems to be too many blues ballads, not enough «blues blues». «Darker» numbers include ʽThe Feeling Is Goneʼ, with the album's grimmest bassline and gloomiest vocals — and the two old outtakes from the 1950s, possibly thrown on at the last moment to add just a pinch of grit to all the sweetness, but to no avail: Call On Me clearly states that Bobby made his choice — possibly in the overall context of the «mellowing» moods of 1963, not yet shaken by the Invasion — and the choice is «family-friendly». That said, if we have to have «family-friendly» from 1963, I'd rather take it from Bobby Bland than any random teen idol from the same epoch — this guy, at least, manages to stay well-grounded even on the most syrupy numbers.