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Monday, June 24, 2013

Bobby Bland: Portrait Of The Blues


1) Ain't No Love For Sale; 2) Hurtin' Love; 3) These Are The Things That A Woman Needs; 4) I Can Take You To Heaven Tonight; 5) The Last One To Know; 6) Just Take My Love; 7) I Just Won't Be Your Fool Anymore; 8) She's Puttin' Something In My Food; 9) When Hearts Grow Cold; 10) Let Love Have Its Way.

Just as I was winding myself up into the brain-wrecking procedure of writing something «origi­nal» on Bobby's fifth or sixth Malaco album, news came in that Bobby passed away on June 23rd, 2013 — nothing to be particularly sorry about, since the man seems to have lived a long and gene­rally satisfying, well-deserved life that most of us could only envy. It would seem natural to dedicate this review to his memory, but then, like all of his late period records, this isn't a parti­cularly outstanding album to deserve a «specially dedicated» review. Rather, let us just hope this entire set of Bobby Bland reviews somehow helps to keep that memory alive.

Anyway, Portrait Of The Blues sounds almost completely the same way as Midnight Run. There are two relative highlights, placed at the very start. ʽAin't No Love For Saleʼ is a moody throwback to the days of ʽAin't No Love In The Heart Of The Cityʼ (the title of the latter is even chanted in the background, just in case somebody happened to miss the stylistic link), with a bit more tension than usual, generated not only by Bobby's vocals, but also by some pretty exquisite Clapton-esque guitar work (not sure who exactly is responsible — the liner notes list about four or five different guitarists, none of whom are all that familiar). Then ʽHurtin' Loveʼ completely switches the mood from desperate to optimistic, and the lead instrument switches to organ from guitar — an equally dexterous part. No melodic inventions whatsoever, just good vibes.

From there on, the album slows down a bit, loosens up, and becomes the usual always-nice, never-grabby sequence of blues ballads and lite funk, only shifting gears once on ʽShe's Puttin' Something In My Foodʼ (slow blues-de-luxe that sounds like every other blues-de-luxe number ever recorded, but the song title and the misogynist sentiments do look funny wedged in between all the romantic libations elsewhere).

As usual, most of the titles are «written» by Bobby's Malaco sidemen (quotation marks indicate that the actual writing has mostly been confined to the lyrics, and even these mainly consist of rearranging pre-available sets of blues idioms, in the good old folk tradition), and once again they decide to cut down on the covers — in every other respect, arrangements and production do not differ from Midnight Run one iota.

Check "Portrait Of The Blues" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Portrait Of The Blues" (MP3) on Amazon

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