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Monday, July 22, 2013

Bobby Bland: Memphis Monday Morning


1) I'm Bobby B; 2) I Don't Want No Kickin' In My Stall; 3) There's A Rat Loose In My House; 4) The Truth Will Set You Free; 5) Memphis Monday Morning; 6) I'm Glad; 7) My Baby Is The Only One; 8) I Hate Missin' You; 9) You Left Me With The Blues; 10) Lookin' For Some Tush.

Very little unpredictable stuff here, either. The punch is in Bobby's age — he cut this at the age of 69, and he still snorts it out the same way he did thirty years ago. In fact, at this point he even allows himself a bit of straightforward swagger, opening the album with the uptempo cut ʽI'm Bobby Bʼ, written and performed in the been-there-done-that-licked-'em-all manner that is so ty­pical of old school R&B artists, but, let us admit that honestly, had rarely, if ever, appeared pre­viously on a Bobby B record. So if, at 69, he finally yields to the temptation of calling himself the greatest, let him. Anybody who does not turn to liquid shit at that age deserves a little self-flattery, and Memphis Monday Morning has the man going as strong as ever.

The songs do tend to drag — particularly the title track, creeping at a snail's pace for almost nine minutes, not to mention that its late evening vibe, lounge piano and sunset trumpet romanticism included, does not particularly well agree with the word «morning» in the title. Some of the gene­ric blues-de-luxe numbers, like ʽThere's A Rat Loose In My Houseʼ, also go on for absurdly long time periods, although it could be said that Bobby's band, after all these years, simply gels toge­ther so well that it makes them reluctant to stop.

But on the positive side, the whole album has but one blues ballad (ʽTruth Will Set You Freeʼ), and it is a good one, with sparse, but clever brass arrangements and an atmosphere that seems totally lifted off from some early Solomon Burke torch song. In fact, if possible, the entirety of Memphis Monday Morning sounds more retro and oblivious to «modern blues standards» than any previously released Malaco recording — which is great news for Bobby, even if it does sur­mise surreptitiously rewriting old classics: ʽMy Baby Is The Only Oneʼ, for instance, lifts its main vocal / instrumental melody directly from Sam Cooke's ʽTwistin' The Night Awayʼ. But there is no way we could use this a pretext for incrimination: at this point, Bobby B. has nothing left to prove, nor do his resident songwriters.

That said, the last two tracks of the album seem like last-minute additions that do try to prove something new. ʽYou Left Me With The Bluesʼ switches the mood from «old school R&B» to «new school R&B», with programmed beats, looped funky leads, synthesizers (which were pre­viously dormant), and even a few forced «ughs!» from the man. It isn't nauseatingly bad, but it does spoil the overall feeling a bit. But the real surprise is the short and surprisingly kick-ass (hard rock riffage and all) cover of ZZ Top's ʽTushʼ — a style that Bobby B. had never before approached in his whole life, and for a 69-year old guy, he tackles it with more gusto than could be expected. So why didn't this guy try on some authentic rock'n'roll shoes decades ago? Or, at the very least, offered his services as lead vocalist for Grand Funk Railroad?..

Check "Memphis Monday Morning" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Memphis Monday Morning" (MP3) on Amazon

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