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Monday, May 20, 2013

Bobby Bland: Come Fly With Me


1) Come Fly With Me; 2) Lady Lonely; 3) Night Games; 4) To Be Friends; 5) I'm Just Your Man; 6) Love To See You Smile; 7) You Can Count On Me; 8) This Bitter Earth; 9) Ain't God Something.

Well, apparently, someone thought that Bobby «Bland» was getting a bit too «acid» for a time that called for more and more mindless entertainment loaded with positive emotions. So ABC Re­cords called in a bunch of corporate songwriters, most of whom are a complete mystery to me (R&B stalwart Tyrone Davis is the only name I recognize on one of the credits), and saddled Bobby with a set that put his lonely, depressed, soulful persona in the trash bin — calling on the «ladies' man» persona. Oh well. At least it ain't disco, and at least nobody is forcing him to switch to the falsetto register.

The record is professional enough not to sound awful, and Bobby certainly has enough qualifica­tions to play the ladies' man convincingly — in fact, I'd go farther than that and say that the title track does have an uplifting funk-pop hook, and that its guitar / brass / flute / chimes / strings ar­rangement (no effort spared, so it seems) is very well done. Nor can I deny the relative catchiness and even occasional seductiveness of several other songs on here — for instance, the sexy purr of "if you feel the need, go ahead and cry" of the female backup on ʽLady Lonelyʼ, or the anthemic chorus of ʽLove To See You Smileʼ, which could almost pass for sincerity, if only it weren't so utterly dated by its late-1970s formalities.

And yet, no matter how slick, overproduced, or interchangeable one might have found Bobby's major efforts of the decade, when the man was in «tragic» mode, he was really on — demanding nothing but the smokiest from his backing band and playing the broken-hearted card for all it could be worth. In this here happy-sappy mode, though, no matter how much professionalism he keeps demanding from his backers, the songs just don't hit hard enough to merit a comeback — just one more of those albums that is okay while it lasts, then forgotten in a flash. Maybe the title track and ʽLove To See You Smileʼ are worth salvaging for anthology packages. But as for the rest, even the one lonesome gospel number, saved for last (with a somewhat sacrilegious title — doesn't ʽAin't God Somethingʼ sound just a bit... inappropriate?), feels more like a local newsreel (he was nailed to the cross and all that) than a moment of inspiration. In other words, the balance between «soul» and «craft» is completely upset in favour of the latter. No wonder, then, that the album has never been released on CD — from this point on, Bobby's records are becoming in­creasingly hard to find anywhere except for Ebay and used vinyl bins, and there is nothing co­incidental in this period being marked off by Come Fly With Me.

1 comment:

  1. Part of the increasing scarcity of Bland's records past this period has to do with his label, ABC, going tits up in the summer of '78. All of ABC's biggest selling current and past catalog acts (B.B. King, Steely Dan, Mamas & Papas, James Gang, Steppenwolf) all ended up being reissued on MCA, after that company absorbed ABC in 1980. It's the reason Steely Dan's "Gaucho" was delayed for two years. Bland was evidently not considered worth keeping on by MCA, and his recording career unfortunately became erratic and scarce as a result.