BOBBY BLAND: SAD STREET (1995)
1) Double Trouble; 2) Sad Street; 3) God Bless The Child; 4) Tonight's The Night; 5) My Heart's Been Broken Again; 6) I've Got A Twenty Room House; 7) Mind Your Own Business; 8) I Wanna Tell You About The Blues; 9) I Had A Dream Last Night; 10) Let's Have Some Fun.
And here is the news. First, Bobby covers ʽGod Bless The Childʼ. The song is capable of yielding to the man, yet I wonder just how adequately he could get into it at the moment — Billie Holiday had written it just as she was getting out (tentatively) of financial straits, whereas Bobby's well-being had not generally been called into problem for about thirty years or so. As good as the song is, this reading is completely perfunctory, and I'd rather see Bobby do perfunctory readings of less personal numbers.
For that matter, his other cover choice — of Rod Stewart's bedroom anthem ʽTonight's The Nightʼ — is far more appropriate, even if the old man does feel the need to change the "let me come inside" line to something less provocative ("let your lovelight shine" or something like that, I already forgot), and even if the song is just as gauche here and now as it used to be when Rod The No Longer Mod used it to help solve the demographic problem. But that's Bobby, all right.
Next, it is really all about Bobby Bland and his odd team of late-period songwriters to take the name of an old blues classic about poverty and rejection (ʽDouble Troubleʼ) and apply it to something more morally ambiguous: "I've got double trouble between my woman and my wife / My wife runs my pocketbook and my woman is running my life". It's a decent enough, slow-running, nostalgically recorded piece of blues-de-luxe, but somehow these new-fangled attempts at taking century-old lyrical clichés and reinventing them seem a little corny these days, don't they?
Maybe not quite as corny as the title track, though — the album's attempt at a Significant Social Statement: seven minutes of somewhat uncertain complaining about how "the streets used to be filled with love, but all you hear about now is blood". Considering that Bobby Bland, the troubadour of broken hearts and carnal passions, had very rarely taken to heart the problems of society at large, this particular stab at a «grass-was-greener» sermon is a failure, despite some impressive ingredients (such as a grim wah-wah lead line crawling along those sad streets, sometimes threatening to erupt in a poisonous solo but never capitalizing on the promise). Somehow I doubt that the streets of Bobby's childhood were filled with that much more love than wherever he was spending his advanced years in 1995 — but then again, who knows. Maybe it's just his way of expressing dissatisfaction on the illegal immigration issue.
Finally, the really odd one out on this album is ʽI Had A Dream Last Nightʼ — from the title, one would never guess that the song is a thoroughly nostalgic disco number, replete with disco strings and disco back vocals à la 1977. The band seems so happy with being able to establish such a perfect facsimile, they forget to switch off the tape when the song is over and just keep on grooving for an extra two or three minutes. Nowhere near a great number, of course, but enough to give the reviewer an opportunity to add one more paragraph.
All of which, in the end, amounts to no less than five songs that merit a special mention — making Sad Street a record-breaking album in Bobby Bland's post-1970s career, but still not enough to guide it over the «great for fans, useless for everybody else» threshold.
Check "Sad Street" (MP3) on Amazon