BOBBY BLAND: TOUCH OF THE BLUES (1967)
1) A Touch Of The Blues; 2) Set Me Free; 3) That Did It; 4) Road Of Broken Hearted Men; 5) Sweet Loving; 6) Driftin' Blues; 7) Sweet Lips Of Joy; 8) Sad Feeling; 9) Shoes; 10) One Horse Town.
Since there was no reason to change the formula of Soul Of The Man — unless Bobby wanted to go psychedelic or baroque-pop, which he most certainly did not — this is a rather faithful follow-up, without any noticeable innovations and, therefore, a little less exciting from a reviewer's point of view. Two of the songs are from «outside» sources — ʽThat Did Itʼ, a leisurely blues shuffle contributed by Dave Clark, and a cover of the old standard ʽDriftin' Bluesʼ; everything else is credited to our old acquaintance «Deadric Malone», and whether or not Don Robey was using anonymous outside contractors this time, the songs are not particularly interesting or memorable.
ʽShoesʼ is kind of a strange number, as it echoes ʽSunnyʼ in its vocal arrangements and no less than Procol Harum's ʽConquistadorʼ in one of its bass lines. However, it is clumsily written, and the brass and chimes overdubs produce a confused, chaotic feeling — almost as if some deadbeat took the near-perfect structure of ʽSunnyʼ, twisted it far enough to avoid a plagiarism suit, and ended up producing an only semi-functional entity. Not even Bobby can do a lot with it, because this sort of soul-pop approach is not in his style.
The real highlights, therefore, are probably the title track, a moody chunk of dark blues-soul where Bobby's pleading / growling, whooping female harmonies, and some tasteful jazzy guitar licks yield an excellent combination; ʽSad Feelingʼ, which builds up towards a frenzied James Brown-ian chorus through thick brass swagger and slow funky guitar; and ʽOne Horse Townʼ, which is essentially more of the same, but a little more upbeat.
Overall, repeated listenings are rewarding — in actuality, almost each track has some nifty lead guitar work, even if the guitar almost never gets the spotlight to itself, and in terms of production, the dialog between guitar and brass may really be enhanced here, compared to the standard of the previous year. Add to this the complete lack of sappy ballads (most of the sentimentality here is expressed in upbeat, danceable pop form, as on ʽSweet Lips Of Joyʼ), and it all makes for thirty more swell minutes of a Bobby "Blue" Bland experience that you will never ever forget... while it keeps playing in your player, that is. Thumbs up.