BOBBY BLAND: BLUES YOU CAN USE (1987)
1) Get Your Money Where You Spend Your Time; 2) Spending My Life With You; 3) Our First Blues Song; 4) Restless Feelin's; 5) 24 Hours A Day; 6) I've Got A Problem; 7) Let's Part As Friends; 8) For The Last Time; 9) There's No Easy Way To Say Goodbye.
It should probably be mentioned that, since 1985, Bobby Bland had been signed to Malaco Records, probably the largest and most fashion-independent Southern label that saw its mission in preserving the old ways — and that, although the move did not bring him a lot of financial stability, it certainly helped him recover and keep his integrity after all those strange MCA records with stiff models on the sleeves had nearly destroyed it. Thus, even if the Malaco house band is not the best there is, or could be (although, in 1987, who can really tell?), it is a house band, and these late Eighties' records of Bobby's sound as respectable as they could at the time. The electronic keyboards are dull, the horns are mechanistic, and the rhythm section uninventive, but this is blues, soul, and R&B music done the good old way, in styles that feel natural for Bobby. That is no big reason to ever use this kind of blues, but it is reason enough not to feel ashamed or sorry for the guy. Except when he keeps snorting, that is.
The variety is not too bad here, from the old upbeat, fast-tempo 12-bar blues-rock formula (ʽ24 Hours A Dayʼ) to funky R&B with rambling guitars and horns (ʽGet Your Moneyʼ) to old-style soul with a touch of flute (ʽRestless Feelin'sʼ) to slow blues-de-luxe (ʽI've Got A Problemʼ) — and, of course, plenty of torchy bluesy balladry for the old lady fans, culminating in ʽThere's No Easy Way To Say Goodbyeʼ, a song that clearly hints at the inescapable: this guy is not going away any time soon. Alas, as usual, there are no curious insights to be gained from the songs; the best that they can amount to is to simply sound decent.
The problem is somehow connected, I suppose, to the fact that most of Bobby's songwriters here are completely unknown — this is all derivative, clichéd hack material, without any sense of humor or attempts at individual melodic twists. Ted Jarrett, the songwriter star of «Nashville R&B», is the only guy to have at least a bit of information available on him (he contributes the bouncy ʽ24 Hours A Dayʼ, the album's most fun, but still completely generic number), but who is Larry Addison? Who is Robert A. Johnson? (Thank God for the «A.», or one could have thought the unthinkable). Who are all these people and why do they have careers in songwriting? At this point, it would have been far more pleasant if Bobby just stuck to old chestnuts — heck, even an album of Sinatra covers would be preferable.
Check "Blues You Can Use" (MP3) on Amazon